Prep Sports

Cedar Rapids Washington's Connor Neighbors closes strong for MVC divisional medalist honors

Senior finishes with 3 straight birdies to win MVC Mississippi divisional

CEDAR RAPIDS — As Blake from the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” eloquently said it, “Coffee is for closers.”

If the same lesson applies to the golf course, Cedar Rapids Washington’s Connor Neighbors can fill up on his favorite blend.

Neighbors ended with three straight birdies, firing a 5-under 58 for medalist honors at the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division boys’ golf meet Monday at Airport National. He finished one stroke ahead of runner-up Ian Johnston, of Cedar Rapids Prairie.

Neighbors posted identical scores of 29 on the front and the back.

“I finished strong,” said Neighbors, last year’s MVC Valley Player of the Year. “A lot of it was I hit some pretty good wedge shots ... I felt good rolling the ball. It led to a lot of success with putts.”

Neighbors carded six birdies but it was the lone bogey that provided a spark with three holes remaining. He bogeyed the par-3 No. 15 and then caught fire, including a near miss for a hole-in-one.

Neighbors tee shot on the 16th hole landed a foot short of the hole and bounced in the cup before being spit back out, resting about a foot away for birdie.

“I was shocked it didn’t go in,” said Neighbors, whose only ace came on the fifth hole in a non-competitive round at Elmcrest Country Club. “I would have had my second.”

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Airport’s short and wide-open layout is different from most courses, putting a premium on the short game. With little to no wind to impact his approach shots, Neighbors played aggressively and it paid dividends.

“You could basically hit it at the flag on most holes,” Neighbors said. “It played pretty soft, so it was a lot easier to score, but the greens were tricky.”

The greens and hole placement are always a challenge at Airport. Neighbors managed them well, needing just 26 putts. The key was to stay below the hole for uphill putts.

“He works on everything,” Washington Coach Dennis Goettel said. “I know he’s concentrated on his putting and he had a very low total (Monday).

“These are tough greens. You have to have a good short game here or it will eat you up. I think he did a really good job with his putter.”

Neighbors played in an impressive threesome with Johnston and Cedar Falls’ Ben Bermel. The trio combined to shoot 11-under, including Bermel’s 2-under 61 for fourth place. Each made six birdies. They play in the same summer tournaments and push each other to get better.

“It’s about being the best you can be and having fun, too,” Johnston said. “It’s just a great atmosphere to be around with two great guys.”

Johnston matched Neighbors with 29 on the front and capped the day with a birdie. He held a stroke lead before the final three holes.

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“He just played so well those last three holes,” Johnston said. “Not much I can do about that. He just played so well. It’s really good for him.”

Cedar Falls won the team race with 253, boasting three of the top five individuals. Trevor Heinen was third with 60 and Jack Moody was fifth with 63.

Prairie placed third on its home course, shooting 265. The Hawks received 66 from Jared Tjelmeland and Collin and Alec Brockmeyer added 69 and 71, respectively.

Cedar Rapids Xavier was third with 268, edging Washington by one. The Saints were paced by Dan Bailey’s 64.

Boys' golf: MVC Mississippi Divisional

At Airport National

(par 63)

Teams – 1 . Cedar Falls 253, 2. C.R. Prairie 265, 3. C.R. Xavier 268, 4. C.R. Washington 269, 5. Western Dubuque 284, 6. Dubuque Senior 288, 7. Iowa City High 296.

Individuals – 1. Connor Neighbors (CRW), 58, 2. Ian Johnston (CRP), 59, 3. Trevor Heinen (CF), 60, 4. Ben Bermel (CF), 61, 5. Jack Moody (CF), 63.

PRAIRIE (265): Johnston 59, Jared Tjelmeland 66, Collin Brockmeyer 69, Alec Brockmeyer 71.

XAVIER (268): Dan Bailey 64, Michael Glavan 66, Max Henderson 69, Nick Recker 69.

WASHINGTON (269): Neighbors 58, Nile Petersen 68, Kyle Neighbors 71, Whit Haefner 72, Joseph Tauber 72.

CITY HIGH (296): Luke Edwards 70, Campbell Johnson 74, Levi Sherod 75, Reece Hayden 77.

MVC Mississippi Division Standings

(Through two rounds)

Teams — 1. Cedar Falls 295-253—548, 2. C.R. Xavier 322-268—590, 3. C.R. Washington 322-269—591, 4. C.R. Prairie 339-265—604, 5. Western Dubuque 339-284—623, 6. Dubuque Senior 359-288—647, 7. Iowa City High 352-296—648.

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Individuals — 1. C. Neighbors (CRW), 72-58—130, 2. Johnston (CRP), 74-59—133, 3. Heinen (CF), 74-60—134, 4. Bermel (CF), 74-61—135, 5. Moody (CF), 73-63—136.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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