116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Brayden Almquist’s favorite sport is golf.
Even though he played hockey since he was 3 years old and spent many hours on a baseball diamond, the game he didn’t start playing seriously until his freshman year at Vinton-Shellsburg enthralls him.
“Golf, by far, is my favorite sport,” Almquist said. “I don’t know what it is about it but I can go out there and practice all day and never get tired of it.”
The passion has powered the Vinton-Shellsburg senior to a successful final campaign, ranking among the state’s Class 3A scoring leaders and earning medalist honors at last week’s sectional.
Almquist will attempt to claim his first state berth at the 3A district Thursday at Flint Hills Golf Course in Burlington.
“It’s great to come out and play again, especially my senior year,” Almquist said. “After not having a season last year, I played a lot to improve my game to where it is right now.
“I’m coming into this district meet with a positive attitude. Just going out there and having fun is my main goal.”
His golf career almost ended before he even made it to the tee. Almquist had only golfed a handful of times with his dad and brothers. Doubt almost prevented him from discovering his preferred activity.
“My freshman year I was skeptical about going out,” Almquist said. “I was questioning whether to go to that first golf meeting, but ended up wanting to do it. The few times I did play I had a blast.”
Almquist has been impressive this season. He sits eighth or better in 3A for six scoring categories. His 73.67 18-hole average is third. Almquist is fifth in 18-hole adjusted average (76.82) and sixth for combined adjusted average (38.76).
He won a sectional title, shooting 74 and edging Monticello’s Ty Kehoe in a playoff.
Vinton-Shellsburg Coach Chad Pettyjohn had high expectations for Almquist, but the play has surpassed all of them.
“The most amazing thing is not only has he been going low (but) he’s doing it consistently,” Pettyjohn said. “I expected consistent golf out of him, but he’s going low. It’s been fun to watch.
“He’s a great leader. He’s a great teammate. I’m very happy for him.”
Offseason dedication has contributed to improvement that saw him post a 33 nine-hole low at Wildcat. Pettyjohn said he witnesses Almquist on the range or playing rounds constantly, going by himself, with family or current and former teammates.
“He just likes to be around the game,” Pettyjohn said. “A lot of kids will put time in playing holes. A lot of kids will put a lot of time in on the range because everybody likes to hit the ball and hit the ball.
“He also puts a lot of time in chipping. He’ll spend 30 minutes after practice when other people are heading home or to the range, sitting there with the wedge trying different shots.”
Almquist has improved his short game, displaying a knack to get up and down from any spot with ease. He also focused on adding distance and accuracy to put himself in better position on approaches.
“If you can put the ball in the fairway off the tee, you’re in a great spot,” Almquist said. “Just getting the ball in the fairway is huge. Just trying to work on my putting and getting that down to an average less than two putts per hole. It has really helped me get to where I am at, right now.”
Individuals and teams will attempt to qualify for the 3A state meet at Elmwood Country Club in Marshalltown. Almquist would prefer company, advancing as a team after the Vikings’ sectional runner-up finish to Monticello.
“I would take both,” said Almquist, who plans to play for a club team while studying engineering at Iowa State in the fall. “Honestly, if we went as a team that would be insane. I couldn’t even imagine how much fun that would be.”