CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy golfer Brock Barnhart whet his state title appetite as a freshman.
He capped his inaugural varsity season with a state runner-up finish. Just a taste of success that came with contending wasn’t enough to satisfy him and neither were the ones that followed.
The hunger for a state championship has only grown.
“When I got second freshman year, it definitely made the state title more desirable the years after,” Barnhart said. “I think the way I’ve placed the last two years it is the biggest thing I want to get done this season. For me, it’s a must.”
Barnhart will attempt to set the bar high from the start, opening the Class 4A boys’ golf season with the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet on Thursday at St. Andrew’s Golf Course, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
“Brock has really high expectations for himself,” Kennedy Coach Mike Green said. “I think he’s one of the top players in the state.”
The Super Meet serves as the first of three rounds to determine MVC divisional honors. Barnhart tied for third in this meet last year, claiming MVC Valley Athlete of the Year for golf when it was all said and done.
“There will be some pressure on me to shoot well,” Barnhart said. “With the way my game has been lately, I don’t think it will be that hard to go low.”
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The focus will be continuing a strong summer of competition. Barnhart devoted numerous hours and traveled many miles to test his game against tough fields. He played tournaments in Texas, Indiana and Missouri, in addition to local events. The defending CRANDIC medalist concluded his summer with an open division title at the Rotary Pribyl.
“It was a really good summer,” Barnhart said. “I placed high in a lot of big tournaments.
“The biggest reason for that is my short game. I’ve been able to get up and down multiple times.”
Barnhart said he wasn’t as effective around the green last season. He said he is better chipping and scrambling around the green, which has allowed him to shoot under par. During Wednesday’s round, Barnhart holed a shot from 40 yards away from the pin.
“I think his iron play has gotten a lot better (and) that is where he has improved the most,” Green said. “His irons have been pretty good.”
The Iowa State signee has been a leader on Kennedy’s scorecards the last three seasons. This year, he has worked to become a vocal leader to help push and better his teammates.
“Hopefully, the younger kids follow his lead,” Green said. “He works extremely hard at what he wants to do. He wants to do this for a living. He has spent a lot of time and hopefully that really rubs off on the kids.”
Barnhart was part of a group of accomplished golfers who played against one another and pushed each other to be better. The group included Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Ian Johnston, Cedar Rapids Washington duo Connor Neighbors and Alex Slattery and Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Brad Karpick, who have graduated with some playing for college programs.
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“It was nice to have players like that to play against,” Barnhart said. “Now that they’re gone, I feel like I am the one person that can go low. It’s just a mental game of still playing my round and not worrying about other players. Just do what I need to do.”
Barnhart’s career has been filled with honors and medals. In addition to his runner-up finish, he tied for fifth at state as a sophomore. He was 17th in a rain-shortened tournament a year ago.
The focus is to close with a feat that has been elusive, so far.
“He wants to win a state title,” Green said. “I know that is a big goal of his. He has the ability to do that. It’s just a matter of how well he deals with the pressure that he puts on himself.”
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