Prep Sports

Cedar Rapids Washington eyes fourth straight state golf berth

Tough field opens district play Monday at Hunters Ridge

Cedar Rapids Washington's Nile Petersen putts during a tournament earlier this season. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Washington's Nile Petersen putts during a tournament earlier this season. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Washington owns a modest state golf streak.

The Warriors will have their hands full if they want to keep it intact.

Washington has qualified for the Class 4A state golf meet three straight seasons and will attempt to make it four in a row when district competition begins Monday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course in Marion. The Warriors are one of three programs ranked in the top 10 and part of the six in the top 21 teams in the state.

The field includes Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty, Iowa City West and host Linn-Mar. Highly-ranked Marshalltown and Pleasant Valley are among the 13-team qualifier.

“We are going to do our best,” Goettel said. “I hope that’s enough. It’s going to be very competitive.”

Washington has advanced to the state meet in four of the last five seasons. Another berth would mean four consecutive appearances for Connor Neighbors. Goettel said that is a rare accomplishment for the Warriors, but admitted coaches think of that more than the players.

“I know he’s very focused,” Goettel said of Neighbors. “We haven’t been obsessed with it, but getting back to state has been a goal.”

Neighbors, who placed seventh at state last season and tied for 10th in 2016, leads the way with a 71.29 18-average, ranking third among players with more than one recorded round. Freshman Nile Petersen comes in at 78.43. Kyle Neighbors and Whit Haefner give the Warriors four solid scores around 80 or better.

“I think Connor, Nile, Whit and Kyle are playing as well as they have all season,” said Goettel, also noting the improved play of Joseph Tauber and Ben Skogman. “I hope they can stay there.”

Washington ranks seventh in 18-hole average and 10th in combined adjusted average. Marshalltown is fourth and seventh, respectively. Pleasant Valley is ninth and sixth. Prairie is ranked as high as 14th, the Lions are 19th for both and Kennedy is on the cusp of the top 20.

Each have top individuals like Prairie’s Ian Johnston, who tied for 12th at state last year and leads the state with a 70.43 18-hole average. Kennedy’s Brock Barnhart, a 2016 state runner-up with two top-five finishes, is fourth in combined adjusted average. Linn-Mar is looking for a fourth state berth in the last five seasons after a year hiatus and has Dillon Burr, the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet medalist.

“Each one has a star,” Goettel said. “That helps you, if others can come through.”

Prairie qualified for the state meet for the first time last season. It started the season with a return trip in sight.

“Go to state again is kind of our plan,” Johnston said before the season. “Try being really good and that’s what I hope we can do. Getting (the team) to state is my main goal.”

Three other districts are scheduled for Tuesday. Cedar Rapids Xavier and Western Dubuque will travel to Dubuque for a qualifier at The Meadows Golf Club. The field will include all three Dubuque schools, Davenport and Waterloo public schools, Bettendorf, Cedar Falls, Clinton and North Scott.

“It will be a challenge,” Xavier Coach Tim O’Brien said. “There are a half dozen teams that could advance.

“We have to go play well.”

The top three teams and best two individuals and ties not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament Oct. 5-6 at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville.

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

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