Notre Dame's Litzelfelner wins Class 3 state championship

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
State Golf Qualifier - Notre Dame Regional High School - Jack Litzelfelner (Laura Simon)

Notre Dame freshman Jack Litzelfelner turned a great freshman golf season into a spectacular one Tuesday.

Slight of physical stature, Litzelfelner stood tall at the Class 3 state golf tournament at Sedalia Country Club in Sedalia, Mo., by winning the individual state championship.

Litzelfelner, who entered the second round tied for second, two strokes off the lead, fired his second straight 2-over-par 72 to overtake first-day leader Ethan Luecke of Warrenton.

His two-day total of 144 nipped both Luecke, a senior, and fellow freshman Andrew Brackbill Lilly of MICDS by one stroke.

His finish also helped the Bulldogs to second place, which was their highest-ever team finish. Notre Dame's previous best showing was fifth place, which it accomplished the past two years.

Notre Dame, like Litzelfelner, started the day two shots off the lead and was just as consistent. The Bulldogs posted a 310 team total for the second straight day but dropped another shot to eventual champion MICDS, which finished with a winning two-day total of 617 (308-309).

Pembroke Hill was a distant third at 632 in the nine-team field.

"He's done it all season long," Notre Dame coach Jerry Grim said about Litzelfelner. "He's been medalist in more than half the meets and everything we've been in. He thrives on the pressure, and he held up today. He was looking forward to playing that other little freshman."

Litzelfelner was paired with Luecke and Lilly in the day's final group.

Grim said Lilly was the only player smaller in stature than the 5-foot-3, 125-pound Litzelfelner in the 89-player field.

"They were the two smallest guys up there, and it come down to those two," Grim said. "That was a great match today. Those two little freshmen battled it out all day long. Jack was down at the turn and he came back and beat him."

The biggest obstacle appeared to be Luecke, who shot 1-under on the front to open up a three-shot lead at the turn on Litzelfelner, who had two birdies in covering the front nine at even-par 35.

"He was playing really good, and I didn't know if I was going to catch him," said Litzelfelner, who bogeyed No. 10 to fall four shots behind Luecke and one behind Lilly.

Luecke began to stumble on the back, and Litzelfelner closed the gap to two shots after 14 holes.

"He didn't have a big hole," Litzelfelner said about Luecke. "I was just inching up on him every hole."

Litzelfelner pulled even on the par-3 15th, sending a 4-iron into the wind within 6 feet on the uphill hole that was playing about 185 yards. He sank the putt for birdie while Luecke bogeyed.

Litzelfelner, who never had a score worse than a bogey over his two rounds, took his first lead with a par at the par-3 17th when Luecke bogeyed. He then hung on with a tap-in for a par 5 on the 18th.

"I had 15-footer for birdie to win by two shots, and I just lagged it up there to about 8 inches," said Litzelfelner, who was unsure how the competition outside his group had scored. "I kind of thought someone (in another group) would maybe come in the lower 70s, but I had a feeling that is was going to be close when I came in with 72."

Litzelfelner is an accomplished junior golfer, who has competed nationally before beginning his high school career.

"This is probably one of the biggest ones," Litzelfelner said about the win.

While it was a personal triumph for Litzelfelner, it was just the second competition the Bulldogs didn't win this season.

"I think we're a little upset that we didn't win," Litzelfelner said. "We still feel good how we played."

Junior Brady Dixon bettered his first-round score by three stroke with a 76 to finish in a tie for 17th with a 155 total, missing all-state status by one stroke. Senior Cody Cox sliced eight strokes off his first round with a 79 to tie for 52nd at 166. Nick Cantoni shot 83 to round out Notre Dame's team score Tuesday. Cantoni, a junior, tied for 41st with a 163 total. Jon Renner, a sophomore who contributed a 79 to the team score Monday, finished 82nd at 176.

"It's the best a Notre Dame team has ever done, but I think everyone is a little disappointed," Grim said. "We thought we could do it and just missed it by three strokes."

Team -- 1. MICDS 617, 2. Notre Dame 620, 3. Pembroke Hill 632, 4. West Plains 644, 5. St. Charles West 647, 6. Sullivan 652, 7 (t). Westminster 653, 7 (t). Lutheran South 653, 9. Excelsior Springs 657

Class 1

St. Vincent junior Levi Gotto shot a 7-over-par 79 in the second round and finished tied for third at Silo Ridge Golf Course in Bolivar, Mo.

Gotto, who finished 15th as a junior to earn all-state, started the day in fourth place after an opening-round 78, which put him two shots behind eventual champion Trevor Cronin of Barat Academy.

Cronin also shot a 79 on Tuesday but finished one shot ahead of teammate Sean Weber, who had the day's low round of 75 to finish at 156. Gotto was next at 157, which tied him with Derek Lane Rohlfsen of Tarkio.

Saxony Lutheran senior Collin Sprandel tied for 11th place to also gain all-state honors, which went to the top 15 finishers. Sprandel's second-day 81 was a four-shot improvement over his opening round and left him at 166.

Advance freshman Brian Whitson entered the day in fifth place after an opening 79, but he dropped into a tie for 19th with a second-round 92 (171 total).

St. Vincent senior Kelly Welker, the lone girl in the field, improved nine shots on her opening round with an 85 and tied for 39th (179 total).

Class 4

Freshman Kobe Franklin (82-80) led Central with a two-day total of 162 to finish tied for 51st at the par-72 Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield, Mo.. Junior Travis Simmons tied for 54th (76-87--163), and sophomore Luke Kinder tied for 67th (79-89--168).

Rockhurst's Patrick Byrne (76-70) and Vianney's Matthew Mueller (72-74) tied for medalist at 146.

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