Tuesday’s severe weather knocked down seven trees at Northwood Country Club, including one that landed in the middle of hole No. 6’s fairway.
That forced plans for Thursday’s MAIS Class 4A state golf tournament to be altered slightly, as the teams would have to play the back nine twice instead of the full 18.
“We didn’t know until the day before, so after that we went to go play the day before and had to get used to it again,” Raiders junior Ross Polizzi said. “It was definitely an adjustment not being able to play the front nine, because I feel like it’s the harder side, the more complicated side as far as the mental part of it.”
But the Raiders took the change in stride, shooting 308 as a team to place first at the state tournament Thursday, securing Lamar’s fifth straight state championship in golf. Head coach Kyle Carpenter said he was grateful for both Northwood’s maintenance and food and beverage teams for working hard to get the back nine ready for the tournament, and it was rewarding to see it all culminate in another title for Lamar.
“They were so excited,” Carpenter said. “For me, it was more of a relief-type feeling. All you want them to do is succeed. You feel like a second father when you’re with them every day for three months. You just want to see them play well, and to see them do that as a team and finally win the state championship, that’s really what you want, because that’s been the goal all year.”
Moving to a twice back-nine round at Northwood may have worked to Lamar’s advantage.
“For our team personally, out of the six of us, four are really long players, so with there being three par 5s on the back nine and playing six par 5s total just really helped,” said senior Ben Bryan, who shot 77. “We just capitalized when we got the chance to do it.”
Sophomore Brady Lagendyk, who shot 78, said not much about Thursday was different than a normal round on the full 18 other than the tee shots. The biggest challenge may have been dealing with the expectations that came with having won four straight, but it’s something he and his teammates embrace.
“We definitely feel a little bit of pressure just because everyone is coming for us, but knowing that they all want to beat us has given us good motivation to keep the streak going,” Lagendyk said.
The championship was especially sweet after last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I felt bad for the seniors last year who didn’t get to win during their senior year,” Carpenter said. “To have the two seniors close it out their last year was huge, and it was definitely special to come back a year later and still win it.”
Said Bryan, “We were looking forward to it last year when we had a really special group of guys. Honestly, we were the favorite to win state last year, and it was kind of disappointing not getting to play last year and missing out on all that stuff, so it felt great to be back.”
Polizzi said it felt just as good winning this year as it did when he was a freshman, especially after 2020’s cancelation.
“Not being able to do it last year was unfortunate for us,” said Polizzi, who shot 74 Thursday. “It was tough for me because I hadn’t even played in a tournament (last) year because of baseball, so I never even got to play in a golf tournament my sophomore year. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go out there and have fun with them and compete for a state title kind of hurt, so it’s a great feeling to be able to do that with my teammates (this year).”
For Carpenter, it was Lamar’s first state title with him coaching the team. He moved to Meridian in early 2020 to take over as Northwood’s golf professional, and he never got a chance to coach them a full season last year due to the pandemic.
“I guess you can only go downhill from here,” Carpenter said with a chuckle. “It was fun. It was a great season. I’m really proud of them. I was hard on them all year long because I knew this was the goal.”
Looking ahead, Lagendyk said he feels good about next spring when some of the younger players will be a year older and more experienced.
“I’m pretty confident about our chances,” Lagendyk said of possibly winning six in a row. “We have a lot of younger guys coming up that have a lot of potential. Kellan Kerley and Aydan Cooper have both been working hard, and I’m excited to see them grow over the next few years.”
Lamar’s other three finishers included Connor Larkin, who shot 79; Will Thames, who shot 84; and Kerley, who shot 89.