Kansas City Kansas Community College's golf team rebounded from its worst round of the 2016 NJCAA Division II national golf tournament with its best round for the Blue Devils' third highest finish ever.
Seventh at the halfway mark, the Blue Devils fell all the way to 11th with a third round four-man total of 314 before knocking 20 strokes off that score on the final round with a 294 total and 1215 for the four-day tournament and a ninth place finish.
In the national tournament for the 22nd time, the ninth place finish is only the third time the Blue Devils have finished in the Top 10. The Blue Devils had an all-time best Division II finish last year when they finished fifth and were sixth in the 1995 Division I tournament when Robert Russell captured the national championship with an eagle on the final hole.
"We were seventh going into the third round and I think felt we needed to make something happen and try to throw in some birdies and got in wrong places," said Coach Gary Shrader. "Plus the pin placements were pretty difficult. So that night I told them a Top 10 finish for a bunch of Kansas kids against a bunch of international players would be pretty good and they went out and did it."
Four KCKCC golfers turned in their best performances in the final round in the tournament played on the par 72 Black Course at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Ind.
Olathe East sophomore Zach Spencer and Hesston freshman Matt Thayne were each one-over-par at 73 in the final round while Newton sophomore Dalton Ayres and Derby freshman Jeremy Dunham were both two over at 74.
Spencer finished in a tie for 37th at 76-75-78-73-302, Ayres deadlocked for 47th at 75-77-79-74-305 and Dunham shared 52nd with a 77-74-81-74-306. Thayne tied for 72nd at 85-75-80-73-313 with SM Northwest sophomore Colton Allen another stroke back in 76th with a 78-81-77-78-314.
South Mountain Community College of Phoenix, Ariz., easily pulled away to win the championship, finishing 14 under par with a 1138 total. Kirkwood (Iowa) and Tyler (Tex.) deadlocked for third at 1158 in the 20-team tournament.
Shooting their best round of the tournament, the KCKCC golf team of (from left Matt Thayne, Jeremy Dunham, Dalton Ayres, Colton Allen and Zach Spencer finished ninth in the NJCAA Division II national golf tournament, only the third Top 10 finish ever. (KCKCC Photo by Gary Shrader)