The Sacred Heart Gremlins begin their quest for a state boys golf championship next week, and Smith-Cotton senior Jacob Burkholder shoots for a spot in the state tournament for the first time since his freshman season.
The Gremlins bring back everyone from a team that finished second in the Class 1 state tournament in 2009 and will begin defense of their District 6 championship on Monday at Clinton Country Club.
The Gremlins’ toughest competition figures to be Tipton, only two years removed from a state championship, and Drexel.
Tipton beat the Gremlins by one stroke on its home course, but the Gremlins beat Tipton by 29 in the Sacred Heart Invitational at Sedalia Country Club.
Drexel carded a 344 to win the Lincoln Invitational, two shots better than Tipton’s Sacred Heart Invitational score.
Sacred Heart won last year’s district with a 353, beating second-place Tipton by three shots. Drexel was third with 377.
Buddy Dill, of Lincoln, and Jared Dey, of Sacred Heart, are the front-runners for the individual district championship. However, any other Sacred Heart player is capable of carding a low score.
Josh Sadler, of Windsor, was last season’s District 6 champion with a 76. The final qualifier shot a 97.
Each player from the district-winning team plus the next 10 best scores from nonqualifying teams advance to state.
Burkholder had a strong regular season with Smith-Cotton this season, placing in the top 10 in several big tournaments.
The senior qualified as a freshman for the Class 4 state tourney but ran into tough competition in district play the past two seasons.
This year’s district tournament at Old Hawthorne Golf Course in Columbia should be equally tough.
Burkholder tied for third in S-C’s tournament as well as the Columbia classic. He tied for seventh in the Helias tournament. All three tournaments featured multiple district teams.
Burkholder’s chances of reaching state took a shot in the final two weeks of the season. He missed his team’s final two matches because of a torn meniscus in his knee that he suffered April 21 in the Osage National Invitational.
He has been cleared to play in Thursday’s district tournament, according to S-C coach B.J. Curry. How the injury will affect his play is a mystery.
Taylor Cox, of Hickman, who shared the Class 4 state championship last spring, and Wilson Sundvold, of Rock Bridge, appear to be the favorites for the individual championship.
Sundvold has won four tournaments this season, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune, and tied for eighth at state in 2009.
Other players in the mix for a state qualification are Clayton Melville and Dylan Watts, both of Camdenton; Cruz Buchanan, of Hickman; Tyler Blattell and Brett Chaffin, both of Lebanon; Will Baylor and David Drewniak, both of Rolla; and Hunter Parrish, of Washington.
Drewniak won last year’s district title with a 73. Parrish was second with 74. Last year’s final qualifier carded an 83.
Rock Bridge is the clear-cut favorite to win the district championship with Hickman and Washington in the mix.