Prep Sports

Prairie wins impromptu meet as Cedar Rapids boys' golf teams get sense of normalcy

Tanner Wachtl is medalist with 1-under 62

Cedar Rapids Xavier's Matt Schmit tees off while Cedar Rapids Washington's Nile Peterson (sitting), Cedar Rapids Kennedy
Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Matt Schmit tees off while Cedar Rapids Washington’s Nile Peterson (sitting), Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Gannon Hall (middle left) and Cedar RapIds Prairie’s Peyton Burns (far right) watch during a four-team meet Thursday at Airport National. (K.J. Pilcher/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The start of the Iowa high school fall sports season has been anything but normal.

This is especially true for the Class 4A boys’ golf teams.

The coronavirus pandemic caused some of its notable events, including the normal season opener for many, to be canceled. Then, a rare storm rolled through the Midwest, damaging their courses, canceling more marquee meets and leaving them without places to play or practice. Don’t forget many golfers and coaches suffered personal losses, too.

Competition returned this week. Golf was played again Thursday and with it came a sense of normalcy during the warm, sunny afternoon with a slight breeze that ambled across Airport National Golf Course.

Cedar Rapids Prairie hosted Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Washington and Cedar Rapids Xavier for an impromptu meet to reclaim some of those lost dates in an already short season. The Hawks won the team race, posting a total of 268, led by freshman medalist Tanner Wachtl’s 1-under 62.

Prairie edged Xavier by three and Kennedy by four. The Hawks jumped out to a strong start, despite the unusual circumstances.

“We shot our lowest round ever at Pheasant Ridge on Monday,” Prairie Coach Erik Columbus said of the Hawks’ 309 score that was one stroke shy of first-place Cedar Falls. “Today (Thursday) was a nice encore to that. It was great.”

Wachtl carded five birdies, including consecutive birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 and again on the 10th and 11th holes. His birdie on the 18th hole was the difference, edging Kennedy freshman Reid Hall by one stroke.

Wachtl paced the Hawks for the second straight meet.

“He’s lived down there before,” said Columbus, noting Wachtl’s under par performance. “He has done a good job. He is definitely helping us out.”

Hall provided the excitement of an ace on just his second hole of varsity play. He used a 6-iron off the tee to drop a 170-yard shot. It was his first hole-in-one.

“It was pretty special,” Hall said. “I didn’t think I hit it well. It landed about 10 yards short and it rolled into the hole. It got a really nice bounce.”

For some, Thursday marked the first official organized team activity since being called off the course by sirens, warning of the oncoming derecho Aug. 10.

“We haven’t practiced since half a practice last Monday,” Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Denny Goettel said earlier this week.

So just being back on the course was a positive. Airport National was closed for a few days to clean up from the derecho. The course showed little signs of damage that still mark many of the Metro courses. The round provided some escape. A chance to be a golfer again.

“Hopefully, the boys can put what’s going on in their personal lives in the back of their minds,” Columbus said. “For a couple hours, they can just have the chance to be high school athletes again.”

Not everybody has avoided the rough. Linn-Mar was unable to participate. Many in their program continue to deal with last week’s devastation. Kennedy’s home at Ellis was in shambles and the Cougars are looking to switch to Twin Pines, which is expected to re-open Friday. Xavier still waits its return at St. Andrew’s Golf Club.

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“We were the luckiest team in the Metro,” Columbus said. “We were open early and the others weren’t able to play. We have to feel pretty fortunate in the grand scheme of things.

“We’re happy to be able to do what we do. Airport National has been great. We’re thankful for what they have done.”

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

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