MANCHESTER — Benton Community suffered through in cold, windy and wet conditions for most of the day.
Then, the Bobcats were summoned out in the elements one more time. They tolerated it since it meant taking pictures while holding a district title banner.
Benton earned a trip to the state golf meet for the first time in more than 30 years, winning the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A district meet Friday at Pin Oak Links. The Bobcats shot 315, topping runner-up DeWitt Central by six, and Tyler Eggert led the way with 3-over 74 for runner-up medalist honors.
“Unbelievable day and unbelievable accomplishment,” Benton Coach Jeremy Suiter said. “I’m super proud of all the guys.
“I’ve been here 10 years and have been working toward this. It’s actually come true. The hard work has paid off.”
The Bobcats advance to the state tournament May 26-27 at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore. They will make their first state appearance as a team since 1986.
“It’s been huge,” Eggert said. “It’s been our goal all along. We knew we had the potential. Getting there is a great feeling.”
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Morning rain forced a 45-minute delay and overcast skies hung over a strong wind that barely let temperatures crack 50 degrees, resembling an early season meet more than the spring postseason.
The Bobcats placed three in the top seven. Senior Landen Pace tied for third with 77 and junior Spencer Touro’s 78 tied for fifth. Qualifying rounds in less than ideal conditions and a home course that is prone to strong winds prepared them for Friday.
“We get used to a lot of wind,” Eggert said. “To me and the rest of our team, it was kind of an advantage, going into (Friday) knowing the weather wasn’t going to be that great.
“(Suiter) lets us qualify in the rain, so it gets us used to meet play. It’s good.”
Those conditions helped Eggert card one of three birdies. Eggert was battling par early and then benefited from a little luck when his tee shot stuck on the green.
“It’s kind of a tricky hole over the water,” Eggert said. “It’s kind of intimidating. With the wind, what I wanted to miss turned into a really good shot. It was nice to get the momentum going and be confident in my play to carry out throughout the day.”
Eggert also birdied two par-5 holes to close the front and back nine. He avoided big numbers, tallying 10 pars.
“I scrambled for a lot of pars,” Eggert said. “That’s a skill to have in golf, being able to scramble.
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“I’ve been saying right now is a good time to get hot in our golf game. Individually I’ve been able to do that and as a team we’ve been able to do that.”
Eggert led Benton as sectional medalist as well. Suiter said he hadn’t cracked 80 until that meet and has provided a strong 1-2 punch with Pace, who tied for 10th at the 2016 state meet. Not bad for someone who played soccer as a sophomore and has been on the team for just three seasons.
“Something clicked,” Suiter said. “He’s been hitting the ball unbelievable. It’s been huge to get him and Landen together, putting up great scores.”
Pace was consistent, avoiding anything worse than a bogey. Touro matched Eggert’s birdie on the 18th. Sophomore Nate Ettleman rounded out the team score with 86, earning birdie on the third hole. Ettleman is part of a sophomore trio that Suiter said has supported the top trio all season.
“Each round they seem to step up,” Suiter said. “They always come through.”
The Bobcats will be joined by West Delaware’s Trent Shaw and Anamosa’s Cole Sander. Both shot 78, tying for fifth, and were the top finishers outside of qualifying teams. Shaw, who tied with Pace for 10th at state last year, had three birdies on the back nine. Sander birdied the par-4 No. 16 hole.
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