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Notre Dame golfers captures sectional crown, earn trip to state tourney
Notre Dame golfers had their moments of both ball and soul searching at the Class 3 sectional golf tournament Thursday at Dalhousie Golf Club.
Bulldogs junior Jake Seabaugh had an auspicious start to his round with a double bogey. Fellow junior Gunnar Knudtson flailed three times from knee-deep grass behind the par-4 ninth green as he assembled a snowman -- quadruple-bogey 8 -- on a 70-degree spring day. Sophomore Cody Cox struggled with knee-deep grass in front of the par-5 15th green, needing three strokes to extricate himself and posting a triple-bogey 8.
And then there was Class 3 District 1 medalist Brady Dixon, who was knee deep in bogeys on the front nine. Dixon looked more like the freshman that he is than a district champion when he made the turn in 10-over-par 46. He was in need of a 31 on the back nine to match his district score of 77 that he shot a week earlier at Crown Pointe Golf Club in Farmington, Mo.
"We'd give a lot to go back and play one or two holes, that's for sure," Knudtson said.
Despite the tribulations, Notre Dame stayed true to its Bulldog pedigree.
They were tenacious, and most importantly, in a pack near the top of the leaderboard.
With Knudtson leading the way with a 79, Notre Dame shot a 326 team total and topped the six teams in the field with a 13-stroke victory, securing a spot in the Class 3 state tournament at Silo Ridge Golf Course in Bolivar, Mo. Cox (80) was one stroke behind Knudtson, while Seabaugh finished with an 83 and Dixon gathered himself on his final nine to shoot 84.
"The kids had some bad holes today just like everybody else, but they come back from bad holes and score well," Notre Dame coach Jerry Grim said. "They just bounce back. They're very resilient and they feed off each other, and that's a good thing."
St. Francis Borgia (339) gained the sectional's second and final team berth for the state tournament, finishing a stroke ahead of Hillsboro, which also qualified by placing four players among the top 12 individuals not on the top two teams.
That list also included Evan Deere (81) and Ben Murray (82) of Sikeston, as well as Dexter's Cody Stevens (83), Brennen Justice (85) and Logan Robey (89).
Owensville senior Cy Moritz claimed the medalist honor with a 5-over-par 77, but the Bulldogs were the only team to place four players in the top 13. The gap from Knudtson, who tied for second with Borgia's Bryce Dolan and Hillsboro's Jake Prince, to Dixon was just five shots. The Bulldogs didn't need the 86 turned in by junior Tyler Arpin, who would have qualified individually were he not on the winning team.
Grim has grown accustomed to the tight grouping of scores, which have come in random order throughout the season.
"Brady Dixon won the district, and this time it was Gunnar [leading the team]," Grim said. "And Cody has been there. Tyler Arpin has been there. Jake's been there. It all just depends on the day."
Notre Dame won the District 1 title by 20 strokes over Sikeston, and it again finished 20 strokes ahead of its district runner-up Thursday.
"We had confidence, but you still have to go out there and get your job done, and we did today," Knudtson said. "We'd like to have a couple of holes back to do over again, but it's what it is."
"We all grounded through it and kept going," Seabaugh said.
Knudtson followed his quadruple bogey with a 2-over-par 38 on the back.
Grim said his golfers' familiarity with the perils of Dalhousie helped them overcome the difficult moments.
"The kids know how the course plays," Grim said. "I think it's a big advantage. This course will eat you up. It's one of the best in the state, if not the [best]."
Cox was among the tournament leaders at 4-over par as he headed to the 15th tee. His standing took a hit when his second shot found a hazard-like area that separates a divided fairway just in front of the green. The triple bogey was followed by bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17.
"It wasn't the score I was looking for, playing that good," Cox said. "But I'll take it. Whatever gets us on to state."
It was redemption for Cox, who double-bogeyed the final hole in last year's district tournament and fell one shot short of qualifying individually for state with four teammates, which included Arpin, Knudtson and Seabaugh.
"I just wanted to get there this year," Cox said.
"We're excited to take Cody this year," Seabaugh said with a laugh. "We missed him last year."
Dixon was coming off what he called the best 18 holes he played this year. He shot even par over the back nine to finish as medalist.
He had another strong back nine Thursday, shooting 2-over-par 38 after going 10-over-par on the front.
"I'm glad I didn't quit and glad I didn't let back and just kept grinding it out," said Dixon, who said he struggled with his approach shots. "I knew I had to finish strong to have any hope of qualifying."
Dixon, who said he hit all but two fairways and had only one three putt on the day, had eight pars and a double bogey on the back nine.
"Freshman year, it's a pretty big thing," Dixon said. "It's what I've been looking forward to all year. I showed up to school the first day of the year and automatically I was looking forward to golf season. It's just one of those things I've always liked."
The round also capped a long week for Dixon, who has been staying with Seabaugh since Monday due to rising floodwaters in his hometown of Mounds, Ill.
Dixon said his home is not flooded and that he plans to return today or Saturday.
"It's just the area around there. I can't get back there," Dixon said.
It hasn't been all adversity for Dixon, who said he normally has an 1 1/2 hour bus ride to school in the morning.
"I've been able to get up a little later in the morning to get to school," Dixon said. "Whenever I'm at home I have to get up at 5:30, and sleeping over here, the first day I woke up at 7:15 and it was the best feeling."
The time normally spent driving has been put to productive use with the sectional tournament at hand.
"I've been out here the last couple of days and got a good feel for the course and a good feel for the greens," Dixon said. "I've just had fun."
The entire squad will be taking up quarters in Bolivar, Mo., on May 16 and 17.
Grim will be taking a full squad to the state tournament rather than last year's four individual qualifiers. He's optimistic about a team that should remain intact next season.
"Last year we finished sixth with just four players, so we're looking forward to it," Grim said.
Class 3 sectional
at Dalhousie Golf Club
Team -- Notre Dame 326, St. Francis Borgia 339, Hillsboro 340, Sikeston 346, Sullivan 362, Dexter 359
Notre Dame -- Gunnar Knudtson 79, Cody Cox 80, Jake Seabaugh 83, Brady Dixon 84, Tyler Arpin 87
Borgia -- Bryce Dolan 79, William Marquart 82, Alex Buschman 85, Andrew McClure 93 Alexander Kennick 96
Individual state qualifiers
(Top 12 and ties)
Cy Moritz, Owensville 77
Jake Prince, Hillsboro 79
Cody Philpot, Sullivan 80
Evan Deere, Sikeston 81
Ben Murray, Sikeston 82
Drew Armstrong, Sullivan 83
Cody Stevens, Dexter 83
Tyler Ludwig, Hillsboro 85
Brennen Justice, Dexter 85
Robert Bolhofner, Hillsboro 87
Matt Gordon, St. Clair 89
Logan Robey, Dexter 89
Timothy Woods, Hillsboro 89
Brock Hampton, Festus 89