116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Not one-trick ponies. No one-hit wonders here.
No longer content with being part of the field as Cedar Rapids Prairie tries to make this state golf thing a habit.
“It’s kind of funny when you say ‘back-to-back’ because it sounds like we’ve been going all the time,” Columbus said with a laugh. “It’s a pretty big deal. It’s not like we’re just not happy to be here. This year, it’s obviously is nice, but we’re thinking let’s place high.”
The Hawks earned consecutive Class 4A boys’ state golf appearances for the first time in program history and are making their third trip in the last five seasons. The two-round event at Beaver Hills Country Club in Cedar Falls begins with the first round Friday at 10:30 a.m. The final round starts Saturday at 9 a.m.
Prairie and Cedar Rapids Kennedy are the only Gazette area team qualifiers, while Cedar Rapids Washington’s Nile Petersen, Linn-Mar’s Caden Postma and Western Dubuque’s Brock Wilson advanced individually. The Hawks claimed their berth with a third-place finish in the Burlington district.
“This is huge,” Prairie junior Payton Burns said. “Last year, we knew going into the season we had a good team. The (junior varsity) squad was winning every meet. We knew we had a great team coming back and it would be close to the same.
“We have just been putting in the work and it’s really paid off.”
The Hawks have embraced a “business as usual” approach to this weekend. They plan to treat it like any other meet, which has served them well thus far.
“Now, we can just focus on 36 (holes) here,” Columbus said before Prairie’s walk through at Beaver Hills Thursday afternoon. “We’ll play our game like we usually do. We won’t do anything different.”
Similar to a year ago, the Hawks had four new starters this season. Tanner Wachtl and Burns were the only two with state experience back. The rest had barely any varsity rounds under their belts. Nick Schaff, Ashton Carmer, Jace Rickertsen and Bryson Steuhm have contributed, helping the Hawks improve their team average by eight strokes from 2020.
“Our four guys this year have stepped in,” Columbus said. “They’ve performed beyond our expectations.
“These guys were plucking at JV last year and worked all summer. Tanner and Payton took their game up a notch, too. One through six, they earned the trip.”
Prairie made its first state trip in 2017. The bar has been raised, especially after last year’s finish. The Hawks are no longer satisfied with reaching the last competition, ranking in the top six most of the season. The goal is to finish as well as possible and then turn attention to another berth in 2022.
“It’s exciting to see what happens next year, too, but the focus is on this year,” Burns said. “We’re here to try to win a state championship. Our goal is to come in low both days and do something good.
“We’re relaxed and feel good. This is a course we’ve played a few times. We’re ready to take care of business.”
Kennedy, the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division champion, returned to the state meet after a year hiatus. The Cougars have been one of the top 4A teams, including a couple wins over heavily-favored Cedar Falls.
Brother tandem, Gannon and Reid Hall, lead the way for Kennedy, which is second in the state with a 152.39 combined adjusted average. Reid has a team-best 73.98 18-hole adjusted average, while Gannon comes in at 76.48.
“I think state is an easier tournament to play well,” Kennedy Coach Mike Green said after the team’s runner-up district finish. “District is a lot more stressful. Now, you get to state and you get to play golf and have fun.”
Petersen returns to state after a runner-up medalist showing in 2019. He placed third at the district held at Thunder Hills Country Club in Peosta and ranks 11th with a 37.27 combined adjusted average.
When: First round begins Friday at 10:30 a.m. Second round is Saturday at 9 a.m.
Area team qualifiers: Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie
Area individual qualifiers: Nile Peterson, sr., Cedar Rapids Washington; Caden Postma, jr., Linn-Mar; Brock Wilson, fr., Western Dubuque
Tickets: $10 per person per day; Available at https://www.iahsaa.org/tickets/