Xavier's Matt Neumeyer comes back and helps Saints to district golf title

Neumeyer earns medalist honor returning from injury; C.R. Washington, C.R. Prairie, C.R. Kennedy's Barnhart also advance

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Matt Neumeyer came back for Cedar Rapids Xavier.

Interestingly, it was his back that kept him out of the Saints’ starting lineup.

In his first competition in almost two months, Neumeyer was surprisingly impressive in his return. He fired an even-par 70 for medalist honors and Xavier claimed the team title at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 4A district golf meet Tuesday at Elmcrest Country Club. Xavier shot 312, topping runner-up Cedar Rapids Washington by six.

Last season, Neumeyer missed the postseason with the same injury suffered near the end of the regular season.

“It means a lot,” Neumeyer said. “I just wanted to help get our team to state. Luckily, we did that. We even won today. It feels good.”

Neumeyer hasn’t played an 18-hole round since the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet to open the season on Aug. 10. He was even limited in practice, working on putting and managing just two nine-hole practice rounds.

The decision to plug him into the postseason lineup was made about a week and a half earlier, according to Neumeyer.

“I figured I’d just play,” Neumeyer said. “If I play well, I play well or I’ll just try to have a good time out here.”

Neumeyer was a second-team all-conference performer his freshman and sophomore seasons. He has experience and is familiar with Elmcrest. Xavier Coach Tim O’Brien had faith in Neumeyer despite the layoff.

“He can get the ball in the hole,” O’Brien said. “I was confident he could put up something in the 70s. He exceeded expectations. That is an excellent round.”

Neumeyer opened with a birdie on the par-3 17th hole, but then suffered a rash of bogeys as he started the front nine. He was able to bounce back, carding 37 on the front and using birdies on both par-5 holes on the back for a 33.

“I had a few holes where I had a bad stretch,” Neumeyer said. “I wasn’t expecting a whole lot which made it easier to brush those off. Once I got to the back, I made a couple more birdies.”

Putting was the one thing he could focus on while sidelined. The work paid dividends. He tallied 28 total putts and just 13 on the back nine.

“It was all right because I’ve been working on putting for the last three months,” Neumeyer said. “That was the thing that went perfect for me today. I made a lot of putts.”

Neumeyer said his back became sore late in the round. He was determined to fight through it and finish strong, avoiding anything higher than a four on the back.

O’Brien witnessed the long drive that led to Neumeyer’s last birdie. It was then he felt comfortable with how he had performed.

“I’m absolutely pleased for him,” Neumeyer said. “Just that he could tee it up, regardless of what he shot. I was happy he was able to play.”

The Saints were more than a one-man team. Two-time MVC Divisional Athlete of the Year Brad Karpick shot 76. Junior Nick Recker carded an 80, while Ryan Keating and Dan Bailey each had 86 for Xavier, which advances to state after a year hiatus.

“The thing is you can’t overlook the guys that grinded it out all season,” O’Brien said. “Their varsity experience is shining through. They each have a tremendous work ethic.”

Washington earned its fourth state berth since 2013, qualifying for the third straight year. The Warriors finished fifth and sixth at state the last two seasons.

“I’m just thrilled we’re going,” Washington Coach Dennis Goettel said. “This is a team that just got better and better. They have worked really hard.”

Connor Neighbors led the way with a 1-over 71, tying Dubuque Wahlert’s Craig Collins for runner-up medalist. Neighbors also shot 2-unde 33 on the back.

Senior Alex Slattery has teamed with Neighbors to power Washington this season. Slattery followed with a 74. Ben Skogman added an 88, but the Warriors’ No. 6 golfer Will Sturms provided a crucial 85.

“This was the first time in two years that our sixth score counted,” Goettel said. “Will Sturms 85 was terrific.”

Wahlert finished a Mississippi Valley Conference sweep. The Golden Eagles edged Pleasant Valley for the third berth. Both teams tied at 322 and best fifth-player score. The decisive tiebreaker was best sixth-player score that Wahlert won by a stroke (90-91).

At the district hosted by Cedar Falls at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course, Cedar Rapids Prairie claimed its first state meet team berth in program history. The Hawks placed third with 315, edging Linn-Mar by a stroke.

Ian Johnston shot 75 to finish seventh. Teammate Sam Lockhart tied for eighth with 76. Griff Clark and Jared Tjemeland shot 82 apiece to round out Prairie’s score. Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Brock Barnhart returns to the state meet, earning an individual berth finishing sixth with 74.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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