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Sports in Kansas: 2019 Girls State Golf Preview

Caney Valley won their 3A regional last Tuesday.
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Oct 21, 2019

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3-2-1A

Wendy and Ron Oyler are Caney Valley graduates. Ron, currently the Caney grade school principal, has served at the school for 16 years. Wendy, who is the library/computers director, has been back at Caney for 15 years.

The two have co-coached the unique Bullpup golf program since Wendy returned to CV. For the first season, the Oylers coached their daughter, Shayla, then a senior. She went on to collegiate golf, notably at Oklahoma Wesleyan.

Ron believes Caney Valley is “maybe the only one” in Kansas that has a junior high golf program in addition to the high school team. Caney Valley did end the junior team for a couple of years, but the Bullpups talked the board into keeping the program alive, although in-house.

“We didn’t go to tournaments,” Ron said. “They let us have them for three or four weeks just to go out and play, and we had a tournament at home just for those kids. Then, girls started having more and more success.”

The board gave permission for the junior high players to attend tournaments. Since then, Caney has always had a junior high team. Many girls play for the Oylers, who coach both squads, for six years.

The junior high program has helped Caney, located on the border just 20 miles from Bartlesville, Okla., emerge as a longtime Class 3-2-1A state power. The Bullpups were Class 4A the first several years under the Oylers and had trouble qualifying out of regionals for state.

Then, Caney Valley dropped down to 3-2-1A and took second in regionals. Since then, the Bullpups have captured 10 straight regional titles, including last week at the Uniontown regional. Caney Valley won the state championship from ’14-16. Along with a ’83 boys’ sand greens championship, those are only team titles for any sport in school history.

Last year, Caney Valley took third behind Syracuse and Goodland. Those three teams finished at least 52 shots clear of the field. However, Caney graduated Hannah Hedges and Elizabeth Rogers, each whom finished in the top-nine at state. Junior Bailey Price took 15th for all-state honors. Kalyn Rodgers graduated after a 27th place finish, and junior Kloie Clegg tied for 34th. Lyndon Nunneley also graduated after a 51st place finish.

The Oylers have grown close to many players, and went on a cruise to Cozumel and Progeso last Spring Break with the four seniors. Three of the seniors’ families attended, too. The idea came from the ’18 state tournament that was snowing, cold and rainy.

The team was on the driving range, and Wendy told the team to imagine themselves on a cruise. Two of the girls turned around and said, “Let’s go.” Wendy talked to the parents, who agreed.

“We love the game anyway,” Ron said. “But the type of kids we work with of course are just really good kids. Generally, they are high achievers, and it’s just been fun for us. We have had great relationships with kids.”

Price and Clegg, now seniors, have led a squad that has surprised the Oylers. Price has played for Caney since junior high, and Clegg started her freshman year.

On Monday and Tuesday, Caney Valley travels to Salina Municipal for the 3-2-1A state tournament. Kansas has returned to the two-day, 36-hole state tournament. Ron called Goodland, with its senior-laden team, the state favorite. Goodland, led by three-time all-stater Kerrigan Rudolph, posted a 359 to win the Hugoton regional.

It marked the lowest regional score of any of the four sites. Stanton County’s Rylie Cook shot a minus-2 at regional and is the defending state champion. Additionally, Lawrence-Bishop Seabury’s Faith Hedges, TMP senior Haleigh Spray, Plainville freshman Corbyn Marquess and Colby senior Brielle Bange are state title contenders. Hedges won the title in ’16.

At Woodland Hills in Fort Scott (Uniontown Regional) in windy and not ideal conditions, Price shot a 92 and earned medalist honors, four shots ahead of the field and second place Zelpa Estes of Fredonia (96). Brianna Green of Frontenac has played solid all year and took third at 99 to lead the Raiders squad who took second to Caney in the regional. Clegg took fourth with a 103, and sophomore Ava Freisberg tied for fifth at 106. Freisberg was the alternate at state in ’18 and has improved her short game, though the Oylers believe she can play better.

Sophomore Emma Hockett, freshmen Talynn Thornton and Saige Scott round out the team. Hockett played one year in junior high, though wasn’t on the high school team as a freshman. She played all summer long before this fall, including on weekends and where CV would have tournaments. This year marks the first time Caney Valley has had freshmen with such a big impact.

“Emma probably developing as quickly as she did was a big difference,” Ron said. “It allows us to let the freshmen kind of develop at their own pace. But this was the first year in a long time that we thought this could be a rebuilding year. But Bailey has done a great job of teaching them how they work, and they are getting their expectations up.”

The Oylers heavily focus on the mental aspect of golf, notably overcoming tough holes and tough shots. At end of practice, CV will have chipping or putting contests and deal with challenging situations, like chipping out of or over sand traps. Caney Valley splits the course into three-hole chunks and has the players focus on averaging a 15 for three holes.

“If they have an eight during that, and have say a 19 for three holes, we always tell them that a par-3 is coming, that a birdie may be coming, and it all averages out,” Ron said. “So even if they get a 10 and have a 20 for three holes, they can do the math and figure out that it is still recoverable.”

Caney Valley has had girls finish in the top-four individually at state. However, CV’s depth has helped the Bullpups enjoy their best state success.

“We usually win at the four, five and six slot, so with what we lack at the very top, we make up kind of across the board, so we don’t have just one option,” Ron said. “And that comes from the fact that we just don’t blow up very often. We did a couple of times this year.”

However, those blowups were in part because of Caney’s challenging schedule. The Oylers wanted to get the Bullpups ready for two-day state, and CV played five 18-hole tournaments in eight days. Caney Valley struggled by the last couple of tournaments.

At regionals, though, CV shot a 412, 23 shots better than runner-up Frontenac in challenging conditions. Ron believed the schedule “paid off.”

“They just hung in there,” he said.

During normal practice, CV practices at the Caney Golf Club, also known as the “Home of the Dome.” Established in 1929, the course is 2.5 miles outside of Caney and has nine sloped bent grass greens. Around 40 years ago, CV transitioned from sand to grass greens.

“They mounded them up, and someone had told them they would settle flat, and they never settled, so they wound up being domed,” Ron said. “And it takes a particular style of game to play them. A lot of bump and runs. You don’t really go for the center of the green ever, and then it affects how you play when you go to other courses. It’s not easy to play on them.”

Later in the season, CV tries to play everything but putting at the Caney Club. They also travel to either Coffeyville, located 19 miles east on US-166, or Bartlesville.

“They will usually let us on to just do some chipping and putting,” Wendy said.

For the ’15 state title team, the Caney Golf Club greens died, and the Bullpups went to Coffeyville everyday to use the driving range and play up to the greens. CV putted every other day.

The Bullpups ended up shooting 372 at state and had their best year; Ron said the team’s short game “was really good.” That year, Paige Price earned second as the Bullpups had four in the top-15.

In ’16, CV placed four in the top-20 with Price fourth, Jayd Bentley eighth, Kendra Gardner tie 15th, and Hedges 20th.

In ’14, Kendra’s sister, Cortney, finished as state runner-up to lead CV’s first title team. Price and Bentley played on all three state title squads and collegiately for a short time at Kansas Wesleyan.

The Gardner sisters were among the very few CV players that had a golf background. The two played a lot of golf. Both were multiple time all-state players.

In ’13, Caney Valley took second and brought everyone back the next fall. Desiree Nelson, who was tenth at state in ’14, was a talented basketball player who showed a strong work ethic and had the girls practice harder. Wendy said the ’14 team “kind of set the tone” with quality practices.

“Really changed the culture there,” Ron said. “And it had a lasting impact, because once you get that established, the other girls see it and kind of fall in line.”

Caney Valley tries to have two players per class. This season, Caney Valley has two seniors, two sophomores and two freshmen, along with an impressive seventh and eighth grader.

However, the Bullpups took a rare fourth place finish, which was outside of placing. After the fourth place, Ron told the girls in the van ride home CV hadn’t not medaled in a tournament in “seven or eight” years.

“It got real silent,” Ron said. “That may seem harsh, but I think they need to understand that that’s not the culture. The culture is we win, and when we don’t win, something happened. And we kind of caused that I think by playing so much in a row, but you still don’t want them to get comfortable. … Winning is fun. If you lose and if you have done your best and tried your hardest, that’s one thing.”

However, Caney Valley won four tournaments in a row, including the impressive showing at regionals.

“We hate to say they have exceeded their expectations, because we don’t ever want them to ever think we didn’t think they could do it,” Ron said. “But you just never know when they are that inexperienced, and they don’t understand. But we saw the light come on (at regionals).”

Regional Results in 3A

Hugoton Regional: Champion Rylie Cook – Johnson Stanton County (72), 2. Brielle Bange Colby (74) 3. Kerrigan Rudolph – Goodland (79). Teams: 1. Goodland 359 2. Colby 362 3. Cimarron 404.

Jeff West Regional: Champion- Faith Hedges – Bishop Seabury (73), 2. Jaymeson Lindstrom – Silver Lake (87) 3. Laci Davenport – Osage City (90). Teams: 1. Silver Lake 388 2. Jefferson West 410 3. Osage City 417

Russell Regional: Champion Haleigh Spray – Thomas More Prep (90) 2. Corbyn Marquess – Plainville (91) 3. Jalyn Turner – Cheney (96). Teams- 1. Plainville 435 2. TMP 436 3. Cheney 452

Uniontown Regional: Champion: Bailey Price – Caney Valley (92) 2. Zelpha Estes – Fredonia (96) 3. Brianna Green – Frontenac (99). Teams- 1. Caney Valley 412, 2. Frontenac 435 3. Colgan 446.

Class 4A – changes at the top

While Class 5A has virtually everyone back, 4A has seen some significant changes.

Topeka Hayden is the two-time defending state champion. The top-three finishers were all juniors in 2018: Trinity Academy’s Hanna Hawks, Andale’s Morgan Brasser, and Trinity Academy’s Madison Slayton. Hawks, who has committed to KU, shot minus-3 and won by seven shots.

Hayden graduated its top three golfers, though junior Jensen Heideman is back she tied for 13th. Heideman tied for ninth at regionals and was the team’s second-best scorer.

Hayden, though, took second in its regional by 36 shots to host Winfield. Slayton has transferred to Andover. Trinity Academy did not qualify for state, and Hawks did not compete in the regional for Trinity.

Brasser won her own regional by 10 shots. Andale finished two shots behind Buhler for the regional lead.

Hesston golf course is the host site.

Andale Regional Results: Champion- Morgan Brasser - Andale (77) 2. Haley Miller – Buhler (87), 3. Abby Donovan – Concordia (91). Team- 1. Buhler 388 2. Andale 390 3. Concordia 451

Anderson County Regional Results: Champion- Morgan Brusven – Tonganoxie (86) 2. Gracyn Nutsch – Wamego (88) 3. Kelly Lonker (Wamego) 90. Teams 1. Wamego 367 2. Tongie 381 3. Anderson Co. 405

Fort Scott Regional Results: Champion: Lauren Madison – Fort Scott (85) 2. Jerlyn Kustanborter – Chanute (90) 3. Bailey Werner – Independence (93). Teams 1. Chanute 425 2. Fort Scott 462 3. Girard 501

Winfield Regional Results: Champion- Elly Bertholf – Winfield (90) 2. Payton Ginter – Wellington (93) 3. Haley Karolevitz – Hayden (96). Teams- 1. Winfield 394 2. Hayden 430 3. Circle 430

Class 5A – Aquinas the favorite; virtually all of 2018’s top golfers back

In 2007, St. Thomas Aquinas captured the Class 6-5A state championship. The following year, girls’ golf split 6A and 5A. Since then, Aquinas or Kapaun has won every title. Kapaun captured four in a row from ’13-16, and Aquinas has won the last two.

Last year, Aquinas won by seven shots over Andover, which finished at 331. Andover’s Tiffany Chan shot a 76 and was the medalist by one shot over Aquinas’ Maggie King. St. James Academy’s Allison Comer, Aquinas’ Brooke King and Pittsburg’s Samantha Maceli all shot 78. All those golfers are back as the top-11 and 17 of top-18 were non-seniors. The tournament is at Emporia’s Municipal Golf Course.

For regionals, Aquinas won the De Soto regional by 11 shots over Blue Valley Southwest and 17 ahead of St. James. Maggie King took first, while BVSW’s Hillary Currier was second, Comer third, Brooke King fourth and Maceli tied for seventh.

Andover’s Madison Slayton – who transferred from Trinity - won the Salina Municipal regional by nine shots. Slayton won the ’16 4A state championship. Slayton had gone to Andover before high school. Chan tied for ninth. The Trojans captured the regional title by 11 shots and should pose a strong threat to Aquinas.

De Soto Regional Results: Champion: Maggie King – Aquinas (73), 2. Hillary Currier – BV Southest (74), 3. Allison Comer – St. James (75). Teams- 1. Aquinas -324, 2. BV Southwest 335 3. St. James 341.

Maize Regional Results: Champion Lexie Ridder – Maize (82) 2. Alexa Garrett – Kapaun (84) 3. Britney Wessley – Maize South (85). Teams- 1. Kapaun 355, 2. Carroll 383, 3. Maize 387

Salina South Regional Results: Champion- Madison Slayton-  Andover (72) 2. Nina Frees – Salina South (81), 3. Sophia Garrison – Hays (82). Teams 1. Andover 329 2. Hays 340 3. Salina South 345

Topeka Seaman Regional Results: Champion- Shauna Lee – Andover Central (77), 2. Lois Deeter – Seaman (81), 3. Drue Davis – Emporia (95) . Teams 1. Seaman 394, 2. Andover Central 406 3. Emporia 417

Class 6A – Mill Valley back as favorite

Mill Valley is the defending state champion with a four-shot win over Shawnee Mission East and nine shots ahead of Washburn Rural. Blue Valley West freshman Julia Misemer won a playoff against Mill Valley’s Sarah Lawson, who has since graduated. Mill Valley’s Libby Green was third as a freshman. Hutchinson’s Carey Park is the host site.

Host Mill Valley won the regional at Sunflower Hills by 43 shots. Mill Valley finished 1-2-4-7 at regionals with senior Hannah Davie, Green, and juniors Megan Haymaker, and Ava Van Inwegen. Davie and Green were at least seven shots clear of the field. Misemer shot minus-2 at the Shawnee Mission East regional and won by four shots.

Mill Valley Regional Results: Champion- Hannah Davie – Mill Valley (77), 2. Libby Green – Mill Valley (80), 3. Victoria Klausener – Olathe NW (87). Teams- 1. Mill Valley (342) 2. Olathe Northwest (385), 3. Olathe East (407)

SM East Regional: Champion- Julia Misemer – BV West (70), 2. Hope Robinett – SM East (74), 3. Tess Roman – SM East (75). Teams- 1. SM East (308) 2. Blue Valley (354) 3. BV North (374)

Washburn Rural Regional: Champion Madelyn Luttjohann – Washburn Rural (81), 2. Cassidy McMaster – Washburn Rural (81), 3. Kaitlyn Crough – Washburn Rural (84). Teams- 1. Washburn Rural (332), Free State (381) 3. Manhattan (382).

Wichita Southeast Regional: Champion- Alyssa McMillen – Garden City (81), 2. Grace Yi – Garden City (86), 3. Zoey Lee – Wichita East (87). Teams- 1. Garden City (359) 2. Derby (427) 3. Dodge City (441).