CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Prairie cooked up some extra fun on the golf course with friendly competition.
The contest started when Hawks Coach Erik Columbus found a rubber frying pan during play at Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course in Waterloo. The strange find transformed into a coveted traveling trophy, going to the Prairie player with the low round each meet.
“It’s awesome,” said Hawks senior Carson Slezak, who currently holds it. “We just started doing that and I love it. I think it’s great that we have it.
“We don’t get to keep it but as long as you’re shooting the low round for Prairie you get to keep it because you were sizzling for the day.”
Prairie also leads all area teams with a 160.3 combined adjusted team average this season, which is good for seventh among Class 4A programs. The Hawks have won three events this year, including Monday’s quad hosted by Waterloo West.
Columbus was searching for a player’s ball in the rough on the fifth hole Monday when he spotted the pan. What started out as an oddity became a game to drive the players.
“I have no idea how it got on a golf course,” Columbus said with a laugh. “It was just on the side of the road there, They’re gunning for the pan, which has been fun.”
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Slezak and Isaac Meyer tied for 37 that day, but Slezak had a team-best 79 Tuesday at Cedar Falls’ Tiger Invitational at Beaver Hills Country Club.
“He’s got the frying pan,” Columbus said. “He wants to hang on to that all year.”
Slezak’s improvement has been indicative of the entire team. He didn’t see the varsity lineup until this season and is second on the team with a 79.3 18-hole average, trailing only freshman Tanner Wachtl’s 78.1. Slezak said his biggest gain was mental. His goal has always been to help the team to the state meet, but he lacked the right frame of mind. He focused on confidence and a consistent, simple swing.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve had the potential and talent to play varsity,” Slezak said. “In golf, it’s always a mental game and my mental game was not there at all. I didn’t have any confidence in my swing. I’d get nervous all the time and I wouldn’t hit a good shot. Over the summer, I said I want to change something about that because it’s my senior year,”
Columbus noted the entire team devoted more time to play during the offseason. It was the first time he noticed every varsity and junior varsity golfer competed in the Pribyl tournament. Slezak said they played in numerous summer tournaments.
“We’ve pushed ourselves to the limit to play against some of the best players in the state,” Slezak said. “We got a bunch of experience from going to those tournaments, competing with good players and learning.”
The result has been major improvements. Sophomore Payton Burns has cut almost 10 strokes off his 18-hole average from last season. Seniors Carson Smith, Isaac Meyer and Justin Valde are all about six strokes better.
“I saw how hard they worked in the summer,” Columbus said. “It’s rare when you see guys jumping this much from year to year.
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“It is a testament to how hard they worked in the summer, because there is no magic secret for getting better at golf.”
Nile Petersen paces Washington
Cedar Rapids Washington’s Nile Petersen helped the Warriors to a third-place finish Tuesday in the Tiger Invitational at Cedar Falls’ Beaver Hills Country Club. The junior fired 75 to tie for third and the team posted 320, coming in behind host Cedar Falls and runner-up Waukee.
Kyle Neighbors shot 80, Joe Giblin had an 81 and Andrew Freeman added an 84 to round out the Warriors score.
Iowa City teams return
With the Iowa City Community School District’s implementation of a hybrid learning model Monday, extracurricular activities at Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty and Iowa City West will resume.
The second and final round of the Mississippi Valley Conference divisional meets will be held Monday. City High and Liberty will be in the MVC Mississippi meet at Thunder Hills Golf and Country Club in Peosta. West is in the MVC Valley at The Meadows in Dubuque.
Unfortunately, since they missed the first divisional, players and teams are not eligible for all-conference honors.
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