PLATTE CITY — Smithville and Kearney joined the rest of the Blue Division of the Greater Kansas City Suburban Conference on Monday, April 22, at Shiloh Springs Golf course in Platte City for the conference championships.
The Warriors had the most consistent play of the event with all five golfers finishing in the top 10, resulting in Smithville capturing the team title in its first season competing in the conference. With a score of 329, Smithville won by 25 strokes over Platte County.
Smithville was led by freshman Andrew Conrad, who scored a 79 on the par 71 course to take second place overall. Junior Nick Nielsen finished one stroke behind Conrad in a tie with Platte County’s Logan Hessemyer for third.
Right behind Nielsen was sophomore Eric Holmes, who claimed fifth with an 81. Junior Cameron Oesterle and senior Trace Walters round out the top 10 with ninth- and 10th-place finishes.
The only athlete to best Conrad was Kearney senior Payne Gallagher, who scored a 76 for the individual title. Although Gallagher claimed the individual crown, the Bulldogs finished fourth as a team with a score of 365, which was below coach Tim Marshall’s expectations.
“I was a little disappointed with the score being a 365,” Marshall said. “We did not shoot as well as we hoped, but I was good to see Payne get his second straight conference championship.”
Part of the struggles for the Bulldogs was the inexperience on the roster outside of Gallagher. The remaining four varsity players consist of three sophomores and a freshman. With so many young players, the upside is where they will head in the years to come.
Gallagher has been the leader all season for Kearney and his play at the conference championship is just another example of that.
“Payne has been consistent all year,” assistant coach Dillon Starzl said. “He has improved his lag putting over the last couple of weeks and if he continues to putt well I see a state run in his future.”
While Payne continues to tweak his game, the rest of the team has been steadily working on improvements throughout the season. Starzl said the team has been focused a lot on the short game recently and has shown signs of improvement over that last few weeks.
With a rescheduled match, Kearney won’t have a lot of time to make adjustments before district play begins Monday, April 29.
“We have a busy week this week with a match on Wednesday and a make up match on Thursday,” Starzl said. “We also have the Richmond Invitational on Friday. So we don’t have much time to work on things before Monday but hopefully we can play well and build our confidence with our play throughout this week into Monday.”