Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s conference title hopes appeared to be dissipating.
The Cougars drifted further away from Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division leader Linn-Mar with one meet left in the competition to determine team champions and all-conference honors.
Unfazed by the growing deficit, Kennedy fired 305 in the final round Monday at Dubuque Country Club to capture the MVC Mississippi team championship. Josh White carded a 2-under 68 for medalist honors, helping the Cougars post a three-round total of 932 and claim their first divisional crown in five seasons by 13 strokes.
“That was nice,” Kennedy Coach Mike Green said about the comeback. “We played really, really well.”
The Cougars stumbled in the second round at Jones Golf Course as Linn-Mar increased its lead to 11. They broke it down to the basics. The top four golfers had to make up three shots on their Lions counterparts. With Iowa State commit Brock Barnhart’s ability to shoot low, they needed three scores at or around 80.
Barnhart shot 76, Brady Shea added 79 and A.J. Corkery and Gannon Hall came in at 82 apiece.
“We knew we have it in us,” White said. “We just knew to play smart. Just shoot the best score on each hole and get out of there.”
The course presented a challenge of an old-style tight course with narrow fairways and small and quick greens. The Cougars managed it well and conditions allowed them to play boldly.
“The course was really soft,” Green said. “As soft as they (greens) were, kids could attack pins a little more. They could be more aggressive on their putts at the start of the day.”
Kennedy had the divisional title in sight from the start of practice. Barnhart and White earned first-team honors, while Hall, Corkery and Shea were second-team performers.
“It is a huge deal,” White said. “We’ve been thinking about it all year. It was one of the goals.”
White posted his best round of the season, matching Barnhart’s 68 earlier this season. He maintained a simple mental approach, avoiding recent issues.
“It felt really good,” White said. “I took the advice from my family and coaches and just stopped thinking so much. I just tried to clear my mind before every shot.”
The biggest impact was on his putter. He relied on instinct a little more and it paid dividends.
“I trusted the feeling I got from the green and looking at it from behind the ball,” White said. “Coach Green says putt like you don’t care, so I did.”
The performance comes at a good time with district at Hunters Ridge Golf Course on Monday. Kennedy received a boost from the divisional and will attempt to earn its first state berth since placing fourth in 2014.
“Moving forward it has to give the guys confidence,” Green said. “Let them understand that we have a chance to do something this year we haven’t had a chance to do for a while.”
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Golfers will only have a few days to prepare after qualifying for the Class 4A state golf meet. District meets begin Monday with two more slated for Tuesday.
The top three teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams will advance to the state meet at Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City on Oct. 11-12.
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