Kansas City Kansas Community College's golfers proved to be the toughest of the tough in NJCAA Division II regional tournament play.
Playing at Sycamore Ridge, one of the state's toughest courses made even more difficult by the weather, the Blue Devils blew away the field in earning a berth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament for the 10th time in Gary Shrader's 16 years as head coach.
An all-time best fifth in last year's national tournament, the Blue Devils swept the first three places in medalist competition in winning the 54-hole tourney by 36 shots with a 954 total. Coffeyville was second (990) followed by Allen County (1014) and Independence (1067).
Just as they did in finishing fifth in the nation last year, the Blue Devils did it with an all-Kansas lineup. Sophomore Colton Allen of SM Northwest took medalist honors with all three rounds in the 70's (73-78-76) for a 227 total.
Olathe East sophomore Zach Spencer took runnerup honors (78-79-81-238) with freshman Jeremy Durham of Derby overcoming seven out-of-bound shots on the opening round to take third (89-78-79–244). Freshman Matt Thayne of Hesston (86-84-81-251) and sophomore Dalton Ayres of Newton (85-84-83-252) rounded out the KCKCC scoring.
"You talk about Colbert Hills and Sycamore Ridge, which was designed by Jim Colbert, as being two of the toughest courses in the state and then you play Sycamore Ridge at 7,000 yards in the wind and wet because of rain the day before, it's really tough," said Shrader.
So tough that there were only two rounds in the 70's the first day. "I was really concerned after the first few holes because we had guys already four or five over," said Shrader. "I was wondering if it was going to be that way all day but Colton Allen really played steady golf, especially with a lot of pressure because we had guys behind him going high."
The regional championship advances KCKCC to the NJCAA Division II championship May 24-27 at Swan Lake, Ind., which is located about 40 south of South Bend.
PHOTO IDENT (regional champs)
A KCKCC golf team made up of (from left) Matt Thayne, Dalton Ayres, Colton Allen, Jeremy Dunham and Zach Spencer will be competing in the NJCAA Division II national tournament after winning the regional championship by 36 shots. (KCKCC Photo)