A group of gutty Kansas kids plus one from Kansas City Kansas Community College did something no one thought possible Tuesday – knocking off a couple of Oklahoma golf powers to earn a berth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
Trailing a Murray State team made up totally of international players by 11 shots after one round, the Blue Devils surged to a one-shot lead after two rounds Monday and then held off the Aggies by two shots on Tuesday in the District F tournament played at The Club at Indian Springs in Broken Arrow, Okla.
A perennial national power, Tyler Junior College out of Tyler, Tex., won the tournament with an 880 total on three sub-300 rounds while KCKCC edged Murray State 302-303 Tuesday for a 902 total. Murray State was third at 904 with Seminole State fourth at 914 after shooting the final day's lowest round of 293. Allen County was fifth (980) and Coffeyville sixth (994).
"Unbelievable," KCKCC Coach Gary Shrader said of the final round. "We'd go ahead by a stroke and then they'd go ahead, it was that way all day long. It was an incredibly tough golf course, 190 and 220-yard par 3's; 440-yard par 4's; legitimate three-shot par 5's so not a lot of opportunities for birdies."
While the scores of only four golfers are counted each round, all five Blue Devils played key roles in the win. Sophomore Bobby Armstrong of Wichita Bishop Carroll led the way, finishing third with a 219 total on rounds of 74, 73 and 74 with Micah Morris fifth (76-73-75-225). The lone non-Kansan, Morris grew up in Guthrie, Okla., but has lived in Kansas City, Kan., the last four years.
Evin Wheaton, a freshman from Leavenworth Immaculata, tied for 24th (83-84-76-243) but played a huge role in the Blue Devil win. His 4-over par 76 in the final round was three shots better than Bauer's 79 and provided the three shots that was the difference between second and third. "A total team effort," said Shrader.
The second place finish sends KCKCC to the NJCAA Division II national tournament at Glenlakes Golf Club in Foley, Ala., May 22-24. It will be the 23rd appearance for a Blue Devil team in the national tourney. Two years ago, KCKCC finished ninth, the third best finish in history. An all-time best fifth in 2015 with a team made up of all Kansas players living in the Kansas City area, the Blue Devils were also sixth in Division I in 1995, the year Robert Russell won the national tournament with an eagle on the final hole.
This year was especially gratifying because in beating out Murray State, the Blue Devils defeated a team with a seven-player roster made up of two team members from England and one each from Northern England, Belgium, Scotland, Cyprus and Cape Town, South Africa. Ranked third in the nation a year ago, Murray State is located in Tishomingo, Okla.
Rallying from 11 strokes back, the KCKCC team of (from left) Bobby Armstrong, Micah Morris, Zach Miller, Trevor Bauer and Evin Wheaton qualified for the NJCAA national golf tournament for the 23rd time. (KCKCC Photo by Gary Shrader)