After coming up just short a season ago, Norfolk has their sights set on a Class A golf championship when the NSAA state tournament begins tomorrow.
The Panthers lost by four shots last season to Lincoln Southwest in the team race, but most of the usual suspects are back the season to chase another title. Long time Norfolk coach Jerry Cover said the state field is as deep as ever.
“Since we have gone to the stroke differential in districts, it just makes for a great state tournament,” Cover said. “The last three years we have had 11 of the top 12 teams in the state at the tournament. I think that’s what you should try to do, is get the best teams here.”
The Silverhawks clipped Norfolk and Creighton Prep last year with a team score of 612. The Panthers ended at 616 and Prep at 617.
Both Southwest and Norfolk won district titles last week along with Millard West and North Platte. Other top contenders for the team title are Lincoln East, Grand Island, Creighton Prep and Millard North.
“Southwest has four kids back, so they will be the team to beat,” Cover said, downplaying his teams home course advantage. “They beat us here last year. Millard North and Millard West are very deep teams, they probably have the best 4th and 5th guys in the state.
“You look at a team like North Platte, who has everyone back and they had the second lowest team score on the second day at state last year.”
At the Norfolk Invitational on May 5th, the Panthers took a close team race with a 306 total while Millard North and LSW were close behind at 309 and 315, respectively.
“When we started that event a few years ago, we had six schools, now that we host state we have a waiting list,” Cover said. “We think of it now at a little state preview.”
What the Panthers have that no one else does is sophomore Luke Kluver.
The defending champion, Kluver defeated current Iowa golfer Alex Schaake in a playoff last year, Kluver has had one of the best springs in Nebraska prep history. A win this week would make him just the fifth ever two-time champ in Class A history and no golfer has won three titles.
He has won six of his ten events this season and won the district title at Mahoney Golf Club with a 3-under par 67 last week. He also was a conference champion and on May 4th advanced through U.S. Open local qualifying at Lincoln Country Club.
“I have coached for 40 years and had three state champions and many other great players,” Cover said. “He has a chance to be the best of them. He’s got all the talent in the world and always wants to know where he stands in a tournament.
“He’s shot 67 twice this year. He can hit it 300 yards but has the short game and putting to match it.”
Six more medalists return in Class A in what could be the deepest and most balanced field in a long time, including the Panthers Kellen Rossman.
Play in the four classes is spread across four sites on Tuesday and Wednesday. Class B will play at Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln, Class C stays in Kearney but moves to Meadowlark Hills and Class D will again be at Lake Maloney Golf Course south of North Platte where Humphrey St. Francis’ Trevor Kosch returns to defend his title.
Site: Norfolk Country Club
Defending team champion: Lincoln Southwest
Returning medalists: Luke Kluver, Norfolk (defending champion); Nathan Vontz, Lincoln Southwest; Patrick Clare, Lincoln East; Steven Strasheim, Lincoln East; Kellen Rossman, Norfolk; Cade McCallum, Grand Island; Kort Steele, North Platte.
District team champions: Lincoln Southwest, Norfolk, Millard West, North Platte
District individual champions: Josh Bartels, Lincoln Southwest; Kluver; Strasheim; Reece Rhodes, Grand Island
Site: Highlands Golf Course, Lincoln
Defending team champion: McCook
Returning medalists: Brandt Radloff, Blair; Johnathan Hudson, Elkhorn Mt. Michael; Caleb Badura, Aurora; Carson Blecke, Plattsmouth; Nathan Dvorak, Sidney; Tyler Welch, Seward; Alex Kubik, Aurora.
District team champions: Elkhorn, Columbus Lakeview, York, Sidney
District individual champions: Jason Bennett, Elkhorn; Radloff; Badura; Connor Dorman, Sidney
Preview: Will the west bring their scorching district to the east will be the question in Class B. Seven golfers broke 80 in the B-4 district at West Wind in Ogallala and Sidney’s 316 team score was the lowest in the class during district play. Back east, Elkhorn brings balance — the Antlers had all five golfers in the top-10 in the B-1 — and York has been dominant most of the season. The Dukes had three medalists en route to winning the long and windy B-3 at Woodland Hills. Seven returning medalists could all lay claim to a title, with district champs Bennett from Elkhorn and Dorman from Sidney in the race as well as York freshman Reed Malleck, who was third at the B-3 behind Badura and Welch.
Site: Meadowlark Hills Golf Course, Kearney
Defending team champion: Grand Island Central Catholic
Returning medalists: Jordan Greenwood, Kimball; Mason Hale, West Holt; Grant Johnson, Lincoln Lutheran; Tucker Krzycki, Grand Island Central Catholic; Gavin Fox, Grand Island Central Catholic; Eric Stevens, Bridgeport, Ryan Van Ostrand, Lincoln Christian; Jason Petersen, Stanton; Hannah Thiele, Bishop Neumann; Preston Carbaugh, Cambridge (D, 2016); Jake Jones, North Platte St. Patrick’s (D, 2016).
District team champions: Lincoln Lutheran, Oakland-Craig, Hartington Cedar Catholic, Grand Island Central Catholic, Kimball
District individual champions: Johnson; Petersen; Matthew Schaefer, Hartington Cedar Catholic; Fox; Carbaugh.
Preview: Lincoln Lutheran and Kimball appear to the be the best challengers to end Grand Island Central Catholic’s two-year reign in the class. But, the Crusaders — behind Gavin Fox’s 68 in districts — appears posed for a third straight crown after winning by 17 shots a season ago at Kearney Country Club. Lutheran posted a 318 in districts (four medalists) at Crooked Creek, while Kimball — with three medalists all under 80 — had an impressive 315 at Cross Creek in Cambridge to win the C-5.
Site: Lake Maloney Golf Course, North Platte
Defending team champion: Randolph
Returning medalists: Trevor Kosch, Humphrey St. Francis (defending champion); Mason Stubbs, Randolph; Chase Largen, Creighton; Kyon Neal; McPherson County; Dylan Hathorn, Mullen; Jacob Simonsen, Heartland Lutheran; Dillon Gilming, Elm Creek; Andrew Schnoor, Randolph; Sheldon Johnson, Medicine Valley; Mason Hale, West Holt (C, 2016)
District team champions: Heartland, Randolph, West Holt, Alma, Mullen
District individual champions: Simonsen; Brady Brockhaus, Creighton; Hale; Trenton Coleman, Franklin; Koby Walker, Mullen
Preview: Defending champion Randolph will get a stern test from West Holt, who placed seventh in Class C a season ago and won districts on their home course by 74 shots with a team score of 314. That’s not a typo. Four medalists for Randolph as they took the D-2 with a score of 330 at Beemer’s Indian Trails, while West Holt had the top three golfers — Hale, Bryce Kerkman and Edison Fredrick — in the D-3 meet on their home course, with Theodore Stenka a fourth medalist. Humphrey St. Francis’ Trevor Kosch is back to defend his title, though he finished second in the D-2 district behind Creighton’s Brady Brockhaus.