Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Sports

Brock Barnhart, Ellie Braksiek early leaders in Rotary Pribyl golf tournament

Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Xavier seniors will continue golf careers in college

CEDAR RAPIDS — After Day 2 of the 2019 Rotary Pribyl Junior Golf Classic, two area seniors aspiring to play collegiate golf are leading the pack.

Brock Barnhart of Cedar Rapids Kennedy stands at 143 after rounds of 70 and 73, giving him a four-shot lead. Barnhart plans to play at Iowa State next year, which took notice when he was a freshman.

“(I was recruited) after my second-place at state freshman year,” Barnhart said. “I had a great year, and beating a lot of great golfers at the state tournament really caught the attention of Iowa State.”

On the girls’ side, which has only played one round so far, Ellie Braksiek of Cedar Rapids Xavier leads at 79. Unlike Barnhart, Braksiek’s decision isn’t set in stone.

“I get the question every day,” she said.

Although there is mounting pressure, both are going into their final high school season with confidence because of their dedication over the summer.

“I’ve been to Texas, Indiana and Missouri playing big tournaments and finishing well,” Barnhart said.

His next step is to keep improving with the Class 4A boys’ golf season only a week away.

“The biggest thing I want to improve right now is my longer game,” Barnhart said. “If I can get that part of my game figured out, I can shoot very low scores going into the season and many seasons to come.”

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Braksiek has been practicing every day at Elmcrest Country Club, where she and Barnhart are coached by Larry Gladson.

Their futures look bright, and they have goals to match.

Braksiek hopes to beat her fifth-place state finishes as a sophomore and junior, while Barnhart has his eyes set on winning it all.

They still have two more rounds this week before school becomes the main focus, however. Action shifts to Hunters Ridge Golf Course on Wednesday before wrapping up at Elmcrest on Friday.

Barnhart and Braksiek both have teammates in the tournament, and for the area high school coaches, this tournament is the perfect segue into the school year. Many of the coaches show up to watch the progress their players have made since last season.

Denny Goettel, the Cedar Rapids Washington golf coach, went around in a cart Tuesday, clapping for good shots and chatting with kids from all different schools.

“I want them to participate,” Goettel said. “It’s the best high school tournament I know of around. Many high school coaches will take the scores from this tournament when they’re seeing who qualifies for the team.”

Barnhart and Braksiek will have no trouble qualifying for their varsity squads, and they expressed confidence in their ability to finish the tournament strong.

“Everything’s been feeling really good,” Barnhart said. “If I keep it up, I think I’ll be able to win this.”

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