STATE GOLF: G-R’s Smoldt in striking distance
PANORA – Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Jacob Smoldt put himself into contention to win the Class 1A boys golf championship Friday with a strong opening round at the Iowa Boys State Golf Tournament at Lake Panorama National Golf Course.
But even though Smoldt is sitting tied for fourth heading into day two, the even-keeled Rebel senior knows he just has to play his game.
“I am just going to play golf. Whatever happens, happens. I just need to go out and play my game,” said Smoldt, whose is just two strokes off the pace following a first-round 84. “I am pleased. The course is hard. You get in trouble sometimes. You have to be smart and finish the holes.”
Dunkerton’s Jordan Kubitz will take a one-stroke lead into today’s final round. Kubitz fired a 39-43 for an 82 and is in front of both New London’s Tristan Kadel and Sibley-Ocheydan’s Ty Hanna by one stroke. West Lyon’s Brandon Snyder is currently tied with Smoldt after also carding an 84.
“Jake just has to limit his punch outs and keep the ball straight on the fairway,” Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Chad Bixby said. “His putting was excellent. He knows the greens and knows the course. To come here and shoot an 84 on your first try is pretty good.”
While Smoldt will play for an individual title Saturday, the Grundy Center golf team will look for redemption after firing a 387 as a unit. The Spartans are currently eighth in the eight-team field.
Sibley-Ocheydan leads the race for the title with a 344, while New London carded a 347. West Lyon also has an outside chance at the title following its 359 and Dunkerton turned in a 363.
“It’s a demanding golf course. It’s not one where you can just hit it and go get it,” Grundy Center coach Dennis Dirks said. “You have to play position golf. Some of our shots went astray on us. You throw in the wind factor, and it makes it a tough golf course for 1A golfers.”
The course is very challenging. Lake Panorama National Golf Course is a par-72 course that features five ponds that impact seven holes. And the fairly flat front nine compliments the rolling hills on the back nine.
All in all, it will challenge all levels of golfers. And the scores proved that to be the case Friday as just 17 of the 55 participants shot better than 90. And only five were below an 85.
“This course is pretty tough,” Bixby said. “The greens are fast. There are some two-tier and three-tier greens and there are some spots where you can’t be long. There are fairways that are pretty narrow. You have to hit some decently straight balls.”
The Spartans were led by Elliott Eggleston’s 93, while Lane Bangasser carded a 96. The final two counting scores came from Nathan Graham (98) and Nick Saak (100). Sam Thompson also had a 101, while Ryon Appel turned in a 102.
“The kids talked about the things that went wrong and they feel they can be corrected,” Dirks said. “Our hope is to play tomorrow. The weather may not allow us to but we want to play so we can prove to ourselves that we are a better golf team than we played like today.
“They were fired up to play. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. When things go astray, that’s when you try to press a little and things can get worse and not better. Hopefully it can be a better day tomorrow and we can redeem ourselves a little bit.”
The forecast calls for lots of rain in the Panora area so the course may not be playable today. If they cannot play, the champions will be crowned based solely on Friday’s results.
Smoldt wants to play. He wants a chance to improve upon his strong round and move up a few positions in the standings.
The G-R senior started his day with a bogey but then carded back-to-back birdies to turn things around. Those two low scores gave Smoldt confidence the rest of the day. And if he can clean up a few things and limit his “punch outs,” he may put himself even closer to an individual state title.
“They were big,” Smoldt said the of two birdies. “They gave me confidence putting. It helped me be a little bit more aggressive with my putts.
“I need to limit the punch outs. When you punch out, a lot of times you just hope to bogey it. It will give me a better chance to get birdies and pars if I can avoid them.”
Final-round action is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. today, weather permitting.
Eggleston currently sits in a tie for 25th place, while Bangasser is in a tie for 30th. Both golfers hope to move up in the standings with better performances in today’s final round.
“First of all, the ultimate goal is to play the last day of the year and that is here at the state tournament,” Dirks said. “The kids were excited about being down here. None of them have done this before. This is a big experience and they wanted to play so well, but they wanted it too bad sometimes.”
The Spartans are no strangers to the state golf tournament. They have advanced as a team in seven of the last 10 seasons. Grundy Center was fourth in 2011, second in 2010 and third in 2009 and won the team championship in 2003 and 2005. … it is the first state meet appearance for Smoldt, who carded a 42 on both the front and back nines. … Austin Peters in 2005 was the last Gladbrook-Reinbeck golfer to play at state. Peters placed third in Class 2A that season.