NICL WEST BOYS GOLF: Smith leads field; Mustangs take boys’ championships

GRUNDY CENTER – The only consistent theme for the golf season this spring has been the unpredictable weather.

So it was only fitting that an unexpected team captured the NICL West Division boys conference crown Monday.

Rallying behind a 2-3 finish from Zach Underhill and Drake McKeever, the East Marshall boys golf team topped the field with a tally of 344 to edge host Grundy Center by five at Town & Country Golf Club.

South Tama County’s Kolton Smith fired a six-over 78 to edge Underhill by a stroke, while McKeever and Grundy Center’s Elliot Eggelston each shot an 83. Final playoff results were not available.

“We didn’t expect this,” East Marshall coach Rob Drake said. “Our goal coming into the meet was to try and get into the top three.”

Matching their unlikely run to the title, the Mustangs received a much-needed boost from their fourth and fifth golfers – who rose up to third and fourth for the team.

“Even though (Zach) Johnson didn’t shoot his best today as our No. 2 golfer, our No. 4 and 5 came through,” Drake said.

Max Upah’s 90 and Nate Rosfjord’s 92 helped the Mustangs place their scoring quartet among the top-20. The depth proved critical for a spring that’s limited the opportunities for teams to practice and compete.

“It’s tough for everybody, because you can’t get into a rhythm,” Drake said. “You have rain days so you can’t practice. I bet we’ve lost four or five meets this year.

South Hardin (359) edged South Tama by five strokes and Gladbrook-Reinbeck by seven for third. West Marshall (371), AGWSR (381) and BCLUW (400) rounded out the field.

Smith’s mantra for the day helped him overcome a rough start to claim medalist honors.

“Just keep playing – don’t give up,” said Smith, who finished runner-up at the conference championship a year ago.

The positive approach came in handy for Smith who opened the day with a seven and wasn’t happy with his first-9 score of 40.

“I could have done a lot better today,” Smith said. “My front nine wasn’t that good.”

Still, it was just enough to separate him a competitive field as just four strokes separated 11 golfers in the mix for all-conference honors.

South Hardin’s Eric Mulder took fifth (86), while AGWSR’s Owen Abkes (87) and Grundy Center’s Lane Bangasser claimed the next two spots. Four golfers finished tied for eighth at 89, while another foursome was locked at 90. Final playoff results were not available.

AGWSR, BCLUW, Gladbrook-Reinbeck and Grundy Center return to Town & Country Golf Club Friday for a sectional meet at 10 a.m. East Marshall, South Hardin, and West Marshall head to Waterloo that morning for sectional play at Gates Park Golf Course. Tee time is set for 9 a.m.