‘A different animal’: Wichita Collegiate freshman runs away with 3A state golf title

No one could catch Collegiate freshman Lunden Esterline this postseason.

While he was inexperienced in high school golf, Esterline has years of high-level experience during the summer as one of the top golfers for his age in the region. That skill was on full display with a clean sweep of postseason titles, concluding with a runaway victory Tuesday to claim the Class 3A individual medalist honors by 10 strokes with a 2-under, 36-hole total of 140.

“The only thing I can tell you after coaching and watching other golfers in our division is that he is just in a completely different league,” Collegiate coach Hans Widener said. “His competitive drive, his experience, his preparation, there’s nobody that works harder on their game than he does. He just has this determination that he is going to hit whatever shot he needs to hit in whatever situation.”

Esterline has won countless junior golf tournaments during the summer, but etching his name as a state champion in his first season of high school golf was a special experience.

“It was a huge win and it feels really good,” Esterline said. “(Past experience) helps a lot with the pressure and keeping calm during the round. You just have to realize that it doesn’t mean everything if you hit one bad shot.”

Bad shots were few and far between on Monday and Tuesday at Salina Municipal, as Esterline’s consistency was unmatched. His 4-under 67 on Monday opened up a six-shot lead. Then, even with a 2-over round of 73 on Tuesday, Esterline widened the lead and finished 10 strokes ahead of runner-up Lane Workman from Santa Fe Trail.

A championship finish wasn’t entirely surprising considering Esterline shot a 7-under 64 and won the second tournament of his career at Crestview Country Club, topping OU-bound Asher Whitaker of Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the process.

Esterline finished out his debut season with a 5-under 66 at Tallgrass Country Club to win the AV-CTL Div. III-IV championship, then a 3-under 69 at Cherry Oaks to claim the gold medal at last week’s Class 3A regional hosted by Cheney.

Collegiate also notched a third-place team finish, led by individual medalists in Esterline and fellow freshman Landon Langston (157, 12th). The team was rounded out by freshman Timmy Ritchie (178), senior Price Johnson (179), sophomore Charlie Gentile (180) and junior Zach Voloch (183).

“He’s just a really strong player all the way around,” Widener said. “He doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game. And the thing that really impressed me the most on Tuesday was how crazy the wind was blowing and how everyone else really struggled, but he just kept steady. He wasn’t trying to go low, he was just trying to make pars. It was amazing to see his confidence at such a young age and how he approached the course. He’s just a different animal to watch play.”

Behind three top-15 finishes, Hesston won its second team title in the last three years. Senior Palmer Welsh notched a seventh-place finish with a score of 154, followed closely by junior Grant Waterson in ninth place with a score of 156 and senior Cooper Frey in 14th place with a score of 159. The team was rounded out by senior Carter Frey (166), sophomore Eli Roth (180) and senior Cade Unruh (181).

The Swathers (312) held a narrow lead over Collegiate (314), Sabetha (316) and Topeka Hayden (319) after Day 1 of the competition. Thanks to strong finishes from Waterson, Welsh and the Frey brothers, Hesston held off a rally from Sabetha to win the team race by four strokes.

Other area state medalists included Kingman junior Kory Meireis (159, 14th) and Trinity Academy sophomore Alex Majors (160, 18th).

McPherson junior wins first tournament to become 4A state champion

Blaise Hoover hadn’t won a golf tournament all season… until Tuesday.

Playing on his home course at Turkey Creek, the McPherson senior won the Class 4A individual medalist honors with a 1-under, 36-hole total of 139 to edge defending champion Anderson Helmer of Circle by two strokes.

Hoover, who is set to play college football for Hutchinson Community College, ended his round with a birdie-eagle finish to rally for a dramatic victory. The eagle on the par-5 No. 9, which featured a 2-iron off the tee and then a 9-iron approach shot within 10 feet, secured the win — without Hoover’s knowledge because he was not playing with the other leaders.

“Turkey Creek is a relatively short course and if you can keep it in play and you can hit it a long way, you’re going to have a big advantage,” McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “Obviously there is home-court advantage in other sports and I would equate playing at Turkey Creek like playing in the Roundhouse for him.”

Hoover was rolling with three birdies in a four-hole stretch to card an even-par score through 13 holes, but a double-bogey on No. 6 and a bogey in No. 7 put him in peril. He was one of just four golfers on the day to birdie No. 8, then played a flawless No. 9 to record the only eagle on the day.

“I’m happy when good things happen to good people,” Kinnamon said. “Blaise has worked really hard and he’s a great student and a great kid, so you love to see those things be rewarded.”

Hoover’s strong finish also helped propel McPherson to a second-place finish in the team standings, 11 strokes behind Wamego, which won its second straight team title. Freshman Hudson Krehbiel (155, 11th) was the other medalist for the Bullpups, who had their team rounded out by senior Owen Pyle (173), sophomore Paxton Ingels (174), senior Cale Dahlstrom (177) and senior Teegan Haines (186).

Led by Helmer’s runner-up finish, Circle edged Bishop Miege by four strokes to claim the third-place team trophy. Sophomore Wyatt Sharp (158, 16th) was the team’s other medalist, while the team score was helped by senior Conner Chadwell (162), junior Logan Martin (169), sophomore Kolton Parrish (172) and senior Logan Nice (193).

Other area medalists included Wellington junior Derek Rausch (155, 11th) and Winfield junior Drew Graham (159, 18th).

Other Wichita-area state golf medalists

At the Class 5A state meet at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Goddard Eisenhower notched a third-place finish in the team standings behind a trio of top-20 individual finishes in senior Carson Wright (149, sixth), senior Tyler Hardtarfer (151, ninth) and sophomore Luke Springer (156, 16th). The team score was rounded out by senior Brody Scafe (160), sophomore Nic Tonnessen (163) and sophomore Jackson Loomis (163). Other area medalists included Andover Central sophomore Colt Farrow (146, fourth), Andover junior Grant Hatzenbuehler (152, 10th), Andover Central senior Cal Schultz (155, 13th), Bishop Carroll sophomore Max Farber (155, 13th), Maize South junior Colten Hoover (157, 18th) and Maize South sophomore Joe Binger (157, 18th).

At the Class 6A state meet at Buffalo Dunes in Dodge City, a pair of Derby seniors in Jaydon Carruthers and Cael Asmann each shot 149 to finish in a tie for 15th place to collect a state medal.

At the Class 2A state meet at Mariah Hills in Dodge City, Garden Plain sophomore Tate Nelson (158, seventh), Hutchinson Trinity junior Lincoln Barnes (163, 11th), Berean Academy senior Mark Entz (165, 13th), Wichita Independent freshman Andrew Nelson (166, 15th), Garden Plain sophomore Max McGregor (167, 17th), Hutchinson Trinity freshman Miles Blaylock (169, 19th) and Hillsboro junior Lincoln Wichert (170, 20th) were all individual medalists.

At the Class 1A state meet at Hesston Golf Course, Hutchinson Central Christian finished runner-up as a team behind medalist performances from freshman Cael Kooiman (146, second), junior Ryland Kooiman (166, 15th) and junior Nathan Reed (166, 15th). Other area medalists included Centre freshman Easton Glessner (161, 12th) and Goessel sophomore Levi Schrag (163, 14th).