Gary Shrader has had a lot of outstanding golf teams in his 18 years as head coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College but the best may come during the 2018-19 season.
"From top to bottom this may be my best group of guys," says Shrader, who has sent nine teams to NJCAA national tournaments along with two or three qualifiers in three other nationals.
Two members of last year's national tournament team, Zach Miller of Greeley, Kan., and Evin Wheaton of Leavenworth Immaculata, and Harry Welsh of Olathe Northwest return to lead the way for the Blue Devils. They will be joined by freshmen Garrett Clark of KCK, Garrett Scott of Sabetha, Aiden McClellan of Tonganoxie, Cameron Riley of Liberal and Bryce Farlin of Maryville, Mo.
The Blue Devils will open their season Friday in the Southwestern Iowa Invitational in Creston. A one-day event, Wheaton and Welsh will be joined by Scott, McClellan and Riley in the opener. Both Clark and Miller will miss the opener to attend the wedding Friday night of former teammate Micah Morris.
All eight of the Blue Devils will be in action Tuesday and Wednesday when they compete in the Ottawa University Invitational at Eagle Bend in Lawrence.
The Ottawa tournament should give Shrader his first in-depth look at his squad. "Almost every day we've had rain or lightning so we've not had a lot of real practice time," says Shrader.
The national tournament veterans, Miller and Wheaton, are expected to lead the way along with the two freshmen Garrett's – Scott and Clark. The battle for the fifth starting spot shapes up between Welsh, an engineering major whose academic studies cut into his practice time, and the freshmen Riley and McClellan.
"I think Clark and Scott will be in the thick of every match and that as a team, we're capable of having five scores in the 70's," says Shrader. "Scott is a lefthander who can take it low while Garrett Clark is capable of going real low. Riley has a lot of exposure from summer tournaments; McClellan has a very good swing. They've all been working hard. The early tournaments are good opportunities for them.
"I think we're skilled enough; whether or not we're mature enough I'm not sure but eventually we will be. We need them to keep the ball in play and leave the driver in the bag when necessary."
The Blue Devils will compete in seven tournaments this fall capped by the KCKCC Fall Invitational at Dub's Dread. The fall schedule will take them to two new courses that are among the best in the Midwest – the Culver Stockton Invitational at Porta Cima at the Lake of the Ozarks and the district preview at Wildhorse Golf Club in Gothenburg, Neb.
2018 KCKCC Fall Golf Schedule
Sept. 7 – Southwestern Iowa, Crestmor GC, Creston
Sept. 11 – Ottawa Invitational, Eagle Bend, Lawrence
Sept. 16-18 – Evangel Invitational, Rivercut, Springfield, Mo.
Sept. 23-25 – Missouri Valley Invitational, Marshall, Mo.
Sept. 30-Oct. 2 – Culver-Stockton Invitational, Porta Cima, Sunrise Beach, Mo.
Oct. 7-9 – District Preview, Wildhorse GC, Gothenburg, Neb.
Oct. 15-16 – KCKCC Invitational, Dub's Dread
The 2018-19 golf squad at Kansas City Kansas Community College will be made up of (from left) Garrett Scott, Zach Miller, Evin Wheaton, Garrett Clark, Harry Welsh, Cameron Riley, Bryce Farlyn and Aidan McClellan. (KCKCC Photo by Gary Shrader)