SM Northwest golf locks up state-tournament berth
Overland Park The Shawnee Mission Northwest golf trio of Blake Allen, Christian Ghilardi and Joe Bultman placed in the top five of the 6A regional Monday at Brookridge Golf Course to help the Cougars finish third overall — securing a team berth to the state tournament.
The Cougars finished three strokes behind champion Blue Valley North, and lost a tiebreaker for second to Shawnee Mission East.
"With these kind of conditions, I was just really happy with how we were able to stay focused and scratch out very solid scores," SM Northwest coach Jim Bamburg said. "It rained all day long. I was happy for the boys, and really proud of the way they just grinded it out."
After finishing as the Sunflower League runner-up Wednesday at Eagle Bend Golf Course in Lawrence, Allen posted another second-place finish Monday at the regional tournament by firing a round of 4-over, 75. Allen edged out Ghilardi and BV North's Josh Pederson in a three-way tiebreaker.
"These types of rounds will make you stronger. They make you better because they make you figure out what it takes to grind out a round," Allen said. "I think me, Christian and Joe could say, 'Yeah, we grinded out this round.' It was not an easy chip and putt kind of game."
Much like his round at the league tournament, Allen caught fire on the back nine. The SM Northwest senior carded bogeys on the first three holes, but did not lose his cool on a wet and chilly day to remain in contention.
"In these conditions, I'll take 1-over par through my last 15. You've got to get comfortable, and those first three holes I wasn't sure whether to go with the umbrella," Allen said. "You've got to settle down and figure out how you're going to go about your round. It was tough. It was a battle all day."
Allen had a long birdie putt on the par-3 13th and then had par saves on the 14th and 17th. Ghilardi — who was in the group behind Allen — said that he felt comfortable with his putter as well. The SM Northwest sophomore needed a couple of holes to settle in just like Allen, but had the same mentality as his teammate to finish with a 75.
"You've got to know that the people ahead of you or behind you are playing bad, too," Ghilardi said. "You're going to have a couple of bad holes, so don't throw a fit if you're having one bad hole. Just keep playing to the finish."
The final finish line for Ghilardi took a while to reach as he nudged Pederson for third on the fifth playoff hole.
"About every inch of him is soaked," Bamburg said. "I think he was just having a hard time feeling his hands. He was still able to grind out a good score even in conditions like this."
Rounding out the Cougars in the top five was Bultman in fifth-place. Bultman was 1-over through the front nine, before shooting 4-over on the back to finish with a round of 77.
"His swing the last few weeks has really, really been solid. It's fun to watch," said Bamburg of Bultman. "I love watching a nice, left-handed swing, and he's got it. With his maturity level, he doesn't act like a freshman on the golf course."
Bultman, Ghilardi and Allen will lead the Cougars into the state tournament on Monday at Manhattan Country Club. The Cougars entered the regional tournament ranked No. 2 in the state, while BV North was No. 1 and SM East was No. 3, so they like their chances as they gear up for a run at the Class 6A title.
"We're obviously expecting to win, and for me, I'm expecting to win, too," Ghilardi said. "As a player, you've got to have your confidence up. I'm playing pretty good golf, and my team is, too."
Clifford leads SM North
Shawnee Mission North senior Colton Clifford paced the Indians with a round of 125. Clifford fired a 62 on the front, before carding a 63 on the back for a consistent round.
The Indians placed eighth in the team standings.