Prep Sports

West Branch ready to earn return to Class 2A boys' state golf meet

Senior state placewinner Ted Bridges leads Bears to Wapello district

Last season’s finish is part of this spring’s motivation for the West Branch boys' golf team.

And West Branch Coach Randy Sexton guesses every preseason goal sheet included the moment the Bears could earn a second straight state berth and improve their eighth-place state performance from a year ago.

West Branch will compete in a Class 2A district meet Friday at Heritage Oaks Golf and Country Club. The Bears qualified with a sectional team title last week, firing a 2A-best 306 at Tipton.

“It’s always been something that they set their goals to try to make it back to state,” Sexton said. “We know we’re certainly capable. Now, it’s just a matter of executing when it matters most.”

West Branch entered the season with an experienced and talented roster. The Bears returned four starters from the state squad and five of their top seven scorers, including Ted Bridges, Brady Lukavsky and Kaleb Sexton. They lead 2A with a 315.71 18-hole team average and are second with a 164.96 combined adjusted average.

“With what we had from last year, we knew we would be a competitive team,” Sexton said. “We knew we had some freshmen coming in that were going to be pushing our varsity kids from last year. We weren’t surprised that we’ve been having some success but it’s probably exceeded our expectations a little bit.”

Seniors have played a key role. Bridges, who placed sixth at the 2018 state meet, leads the way with a 77.29 average per round. Lukavsky and Evan O’Neill have played multiple rounds for a team that can go at least eight deep.

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“We have fantastic seniors,” Sexton said. “They have set the example from day one and have helped the younger guys along with the mental part of golf.”

Bridges was a first-team all-stater as a junior and ranks among the top 10 in 2A scoring. He is in search of his second straight medal. Sexton recalled a comment Bridges made to perfectly describe his golf game.

“He said he plays boring golf,” Sexton said with a laugh. “He was saying he tries to hit fairways, get close to the green and down in two. He doesn’t try to do too much.

“He’s a perfect example of hard work gets rewarded. We’re very pleased with how he has been playing.”

Freshman Dylan Countryman has joined Bridges in the top 10 in 2A. Countryman is second on the team with a 78.43 average, while freshman Brady Knoop is second on the team with a 41.49 combined adjusted average.

Big expectations accompanied Countryman and he has demonstrated poise in play. He avoids panic if he has a bad shot or two.

“He’s mild-mannered,” Sexton said. “He loves the game. He works hard at it and does his thing.”

West Branch will face a tough field with Durant, Mediapolis, Mid-Prairie, Monroe PCM, Tipton, Van Buren, Williamsburg and Wilton. The top two teams will advance to the state tournament May 23-24 at American Legion Golf Course in Marshalltown. The top two individuals, including ties, from non-qualifying teams also will advance.

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”We’re going to battle the best we can,” Sexton said. “We’re going to put our best scores. Hopefully, it’s good enough.”

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

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