Winning takes care of everything, and at the end of a long, rough two days for everyone, not just the Bulldogs, that was the focus of Gallatin’s celebration.
The Bulldogs shook off adverse playing conditions to capture the school’s fourth Class 1 state golf championship and ninth top four state finish overall in the decorated history of the program. Gallatin golfers combined for 339 (matching last season’s best one-day state total) to snatch the title away from defending champion LaPlata, which won a second-place tiebreaker at 346. Greenwood also shot 346 to finish third.
Rain and soggy course conditions cancelled first-day play and turned the 2016 Class 1 MSHSAA Golf Championships into a one-day, winner-take-all tournament. But Gallatin’s boys just went out and did what they’ve done all season long …dug it and plowed their way through 18 holes of golf, this time for the big prize.
“Monday’s weather, in a nutshell, was miserable,” said GHS Golf Coach Chad Sullenger. “The rain never stopped, and the wind blew,” he added. “The golf course started to develop its own little creeks running through the course and there was some ponding on the fairways that made it play a little longer,” he added.
Play was suspended after a three-hour marathon on the front nine while workers squeegeed the greens. “Mentally, it was a grind like no other,” said Sullenger.
Jett Simmons, a fifth place finisher a year ago, led Gallatin with a round of 77 and fourth place finish. Gabe Cole, who moved up 45 places from a year ago, carded an 82 and tied for sixth. Both received all-state honors for their efforts.
Logan Burns shot 90 to tie for 24th place with teammate and lone senior Bradley Rhoades, who also shot 90. Both improved by double digits from a year ago. Wyatt Bird shot 98 for the Bulldogs.
Cole, who often found himself in the #4 spot in Gallatin’s varsity lineup, stepped up big and delivered a clutch performance that very much helped solidify the team’s championship run.
“Golf is a game of a lot of ‘what ifs,'” said Sullenger, who was a member of Gallatin’s last state championship team in 2002. “Gabe really came to play,” he added. “He showed maturity that I had not seen out of him previously this year, and I could tell by talking to him during play that he really wanted to do well. I knew we needed at least one score in the low 80s and Gabe came through with it, and it was huge,” Sullenger stated.
Sullenger talks about coaching in a state championship as opposed to playing in one.
“I will say that it’s more stressful coaching in one because I have no control over what may happen,’ he said. “As a coach, you hope that you’ve prepared the players as best as possible to handle any situation that will arise, and put them in the best position possible to be successful.
A one-day event promised a tight race for the medalist honor. Peyton Needy, Green Ridge, came out of nowhere to beat the field after finishing eighth in his sectional tournament last week. Needy shot 74 to edge Brian Whitson of Advance, who carded a 75 and moved up from third place a year ago. Tony Brandt of Greenwood finished third on Tuesday with a 76.
Ethan Green was the top finisher for seventh place Hamilton. He shot an 83 to tie in 8th place and in doing so matched his state finish of 2015.
— written by Dennis Cox, sports editor for the Gallatin North Missourian