Schrempf gets his shot at state
CEDAR RAPIDS – Michael Schrempf doesn’t shy away from the big moment.
He’s not afraid of taking on the best either.
Showing his mettle under pressure, the junior Bobcat made par on his final hole to earn a Class 4A state tournament bid before winning a one-hole playoff to claim runner-up in a district golf meet at Elmcrest Country Club Monday.
Schrempf carded a 4-over-par 74 (37-37) and overtook second by defeating defending state champion Matthew Walker of Ottumwa and Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Conner Koberg in a one-hole playoff at No. 10.
Already having secured a spot for state, Schrempf went a step further in his preparation for the season finale. The junior hooked a 200-yard 6-iron over a tree to within several feet of the cup before two-putting for par, while Walker and Koberg both bogeyed.
“(Michael) is a kid who always wants to go up against the best competition and he’s going to have no shortage coming up this weekend,” said MHS coach Lucas Johnson. “He can be very proud of the way he played. To shoot 74 on this golf course is a real accomplishment.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Davis Sutton captured medalist honors at three-over 73 as the Cougars placed four in the top-10 to claim the team title at 299. Cedar Rapids Washington was 11 strokes back in second and host Cedar Rapids Xavier also punched its ticket for state at 313. Marshalltown tied for seventh in the 13-team field, totaling a score of 339.
Senior Connor Johnson fired an 85, while Sam Weatherman came in at 87 and Brandin Chaloupek shot 93. Beau Ragland (97) and Brant McKibben (98) also represented the Bobcats.
The Class 4A state tournament is Friday and Saturday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course in Marion. Play begins at noon Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Schrempf is the first Marshalltown state qualifier since Jake Butler in 2008 and just the third to advance from the program in the last 10 years.
Though before Schrempf could start thinking about state, he had to close out his round on hole 1 after some late struggles on 16 and 18.
“I sort of fell apart a little coming down the stretch,” said Schrempf, who double bogeyed No. 16 and hit a ball into the trees to bogey 18.
“That 3-over is still really hard to get over because I wasn’t in bad shape on 16.”
Heading back toward the first hole, Schrempf had a conversation with his coach to see where he stood.
“Michael is a competitor and he wanted to know exactly where he was at,” said Johnson, of his talk with Schrempf leading up to No. 1.
“There’s a lot of guys who would not want anything to do with knowing where they’re at. For some guys that will make them really nervous. For (Michael), that gave him a little extra oomph to play really hard there.”
Thinking he’d need a birdie to advance, Schrempf had to settle for par and then had a long wait to see how his score stacked up with the others.
“I made a putt on No. 1 from about five feet thinking it was just to end my round but I realize now that it was a huge putt,” said Schrempf.
The MHS junior opened his round on No. 2 with a three-putt to start even on the par-5 and played steady through 9 before things took a turn at 10.
“I hit a bad tee shot on 10, way left of the green. I chipped it in for birdie which really got me some momentum,” said Schrempf, who followed with a birdie on 11.
Schrempf’s strong finish after some adversity matched his season as he worked through some late struggles with his swing before turning in his best play of the year.
“(Michael) hit a stretch in the middle of the season where he wasn’t happy with his swing and he wasn’t hitting it well,” said Johnson.
“But over the last week or so he’s just been playing really well.”
On paper, the Bobcats came in as the ninth-best team and had faced off against just one (Ottumwa) of the other 12 teams in the field.
“Our guys can be happy with where they finished,” said Johnson.
“The course was playing tough and the greens were lightning quick. … We’ve only played Ottumwa this season and were coming in blind but that’s fine because we’re just playing our own games.”
Though Schrempf is going into the state tournament course blind, he’s doing as much as he can to familiarize himself with Hunters Ridge before Friday. With his district runner-up finish just minutes old, Schrempf was already discussing the holes with Elmcrest head pro Larry Gladson and planning to walk through the course with his father, John, later this week.
State rules prohibit golfers from playing the course after districts are completed, though it shouldn’t hinder Schrempf much, if at all, as he’s raised his game at the right time.
“I don’t see why he can’t continue this play,” said Johnson. “He tied the defending state champion individually today so the sky’s the limit. He’s just going to have to go out and play one shot at a time.”
The Bobcats lose just one of their top six golfers to graduation with Johnson being the lone senior on the varsity unit. “I’m going to miss Connor tremendously. He’s our team captain, a leader and a great kid,” said coach Johnson. “The fact that we have five of our top six coming back is going to bode well for this team.”. … Koberg was disqualified on the playoff hole because he had assistance from a caddy. It automatically placed him third out of the three golfers and fourth overall, though it had no effect on his state qualification. … The last Marshalltown team to qualify for state came in 2003.