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Simmons plays both state and safety first
Central junior Tim Simmons stood in the fairway of the par-5 18th hole, two strokes off the lead and within striking distance of an eagle that could propel him into a tie for the top spot in the Class 4 District 1 tournament. The giant, welcoming green was possibly within reach.
"I normally have gone for that green to try to get there in two," Simmons said, "but I decided today I was just going to get it in, get a top-five score and get it out of there. I knew that with par or better, I would get a top-five score, so I left wood in the bag today."
Patience prevailed. And that was the theme of the day for Simmons, who steered his way through Dalhousie Golf Club for a 5-over-par 77, good for a third-place finish in the district tournament and a spot in the state tournament for the second straight year.
He will be joined by Central teammate Jack Connell, a senior who earned his first state berth with a 79; and Jackson freshman Tanner Werner, who also shot a 79. Those two players ended up among four tied for eighth place in the 10-team field.
Central placed fourth as a team with a 333 total, 11 shots behind champion Lindbergh. Jackson was sixth at 347.
Simmons covered the first nine holes in 4-over 40. He dropped another stroke before sinking a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 14.
"When that happened, I knew I had a chance of winning," Simmons said. "At 4-over, I thought I had a good chance to go to state, and I knew I had to bear down and try to win the tournament."
Simmons stayed on pace through 15 and 16, getting some information from Connell about how the group ahead was fairing. But Simmons came up short of the green on 17 and settled for bogey, just as Lindbergh's Tommy Wuennenberg birdied 18 to take the lead.
"Seventeen is always a tough hole, and it was playing especially long today," Simmons said. "I couldn't get it up and down, and that was one of the few times today."
Simmons played safe on the 18th, getting to the green in regulation and then missing the birdie putt to settle for third.
"It's a good way to finish off the year, no matter what happens at state," Simmons said.
He has scored better this year -- putting up a 74 at the Poplar Bluff Invitational -- but Simmons rarely has struck the ball better, and it led to his best tournament placement.
"Probably, with fairways and greens hit, this was my best round," Simmons said. "I was a lot more patient today than any tournament this year. I only hit two drivers on the front nine. On the back, I hit a few more but other than that, I was trying to take hybrid and iron and find the fairways. Just hit fairways and greens, and you won't leave yourself too tough of a putt."
Simmons has picked up patience with more experience on the golf course after playing baseball at Central during his freshman year. Simmons' father, Mark Simmons, played for Southeast Missouri State and the Capahas.
"A lot of people think or assume I should be playing baseball like my dad, but he's happy with it," Tim Simmons said.
His father definitely was into Tuesday's action, saying, as Tim prepared to hit on 17, "I think I'm more nervous than he is."
Also happy to have Simmons in the program is veteran coach Dick Wadlington.
"Tim has worked hard all season, and he had an awfully good round," Wadlington said. "He played very smart. He put the ball in the fairway, kept it out of trouble."
Connell, the son of Dalhousie director of golf Jack Connell, found just enough trouble to make things interesting Tuesday.
After missing out on a state berth the last two years by a single stroke each time, Connell put himself in a precarious position with a quadruple-bogey on the par-3 11th hole. He put two balls in the drink on that hole.
"That worried me," Wadlington said, "because you have to work to come back from that."
Said Connell: "I just had to look up and realize, I can't change it now. I have to change it next hole. You can't get mad; it doesn't help. I just knew I had to go out there and play my game and not worry about a score and just think about playing well. I just had to swing better."
Connell, who toured the front nine in 5-over 41 thanks mostly to a triple-bogey on No. 6, found himself at 9-over after the 11th. He immediately birdied 12, and then 15. He followed his bogey on 17 with a birdie on 18.
"[Twelve] was a good starter," Connell said. "It made me feel like it wasn't quite over. I feel good with how I finished."
Said Wadlington: "I was happy for Jack. He's a great kid, and it was time for him to get this opportunity. We're proud of him. You can kind of give up and go through the motions, but he didn't do that. That speaks a lot for his character to stay with it and finish up strong."
Rookie makes cut
Werner made the state meet in his first try, overcoming a rough start to finish in the top 10.
"I just wanted to keep control of myself and not lose it," Werner said of his goals for the district. "If I had a bad hole, just get over it. And I wanted to break 80 because I knew the cutoff would be lower than people thought it would be."
Werner was challenged on his first goal right away. He opened with a triple-bogey and played the rest of the front nine even, with two bogeys and two birdies.
"I just had to regroup," Werner said.
After the 3-over 39 on the front, Werner shot a 40 on the backside with two double-bogeys, a bogey and a birdie.
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:
Team scores -- Lindbergh 322, Poplar Bluff 328 (90), Seckman 328 (103), Central 333, Oakville 336, Jackson 347, Mehlville 373, Fox 382, Northwest 392, Hillsboro 394.
Top individuals (par 72)-- 1, Tommy Wuennenberg (L), 75; 2, Trent Hillis (PB) 76; 3, Tim Simmons (C), 77; 4 (tie), Dylan Saxner (S), 79; Tanner Werner (J), 79; Jack Connell (C), 79; Jon Griffiths (L), 79.
Central -- Tim Simmons 77, Jack Connell 79, Jordan Sheets 88, Cole Viers 89, Cory Fowler 90.
Jackson -- Tanner Werner 79, Joe Shultz 86, Brett Leimbach 91, Todd Heuring 91, Jordan Dale 106.