By JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s Kelby Titus kept his poise even when his swing and his putting were not going his way.
Titus parred three of his final four holes for a 9-over-par 81 that qualified him as an individual for the Class 5A state tournament at Emporia Municipal Golf Course May 23.
He was unable to take advantage of home course knowledge at Stoneridge Country, which features a tree-lined back nine. He battled accuracy with his driver throughout the round, which created pressure to put the ball back into play. He was unable to get any phase of his game working.
“My driver hurt me today. Nothing was really working right. It went from driver, to second shots and I had a few lip-outs that didn’t help,” Titus said. “I was mentally out of it when I bogeyed five straight holes.”
Titus hit two accurate tee shots on his final par 3s to qualify by a three-stroke margin. The morning started with heavy rain, but developed into a light drizzle most of the day with a wisp of wind.
“I finally went with the flow and I battled to post a score,” he said. “The scores were higher than I expected. It was pretty tough conditions early in the round. The greens were slower than normal and slowed the putts down.”
Great Bend coach Travis McAtee was pleased Titus’ hard work was rewarded after the All-Western Athletic Conference player missed qualifyin by one shot last year.
“After missing the state tournament by a single shot last season, we’re excited that Kelby has qualified to play at state,” McAtee said. “He’s worked very hard and has been dedicated to improving his game so he could get to this point. I’m very proud of him and look forward to a good showing at state.”
Goddard’s Jacob Pitcher birdied four holes for a 2-over-par 73 that won medalist honors by five strokes over Salina Central’s Brayden Neuschafer (78).
Salina South captured the regional trophy (331) by a comfortable 18-stroke margin over rival Salina Central (349) with Valley Center (352) capturing the third team berth.
Pitcher was in a class by himself, booming 300-yard drives that swept up-and-over and around Stoneridge’s trees. He drove close to the green at the 365-yard No. 8 hole and whacked a 300-yard plus drive at the par 5 17th hole. Pitcher’s four birdies were all tap-ins, created by his accurate tee shots that created a slight fade.
“I hit a bunch of big drives and had 50 yards on some of the approaches,” Pitcher said. “I wanted to attack it and take advantage of the shorter holes. I knew it would be a good day when I saw I had control of my driver today. I placed the tee ball right where I wanted today.”
Pitcher’s elevation off the tee negated many of the trees.
“I was weaving in-and-out of the trees, but ending up in the fairway,” he said.
Two poor holes, a triple bogey six and a double bogey five prevented Pitcher from a sub-par round.
“I’m pretty good about leaving it behind,” he said. “By far, this is my best round this year. It’s the first time I’ve shot under-par in a nine-hole round.”
Salina South’s top 10 medalists were third-place finisher Parker Norton (79) and Logan Coble (81).
GREAT BEND 5A REGIONAL
At Stoneridge CC, par 71
TOP 10 MEDALISTS—1. SQ—Jacob Pitcher, Goddard, 73 (34-39); 2. Brayden Neuschafer, SC, 78 (38-40); 3. SQ—Tanner Pauls, Newton, 79 (41-38); 4. Parker Norton, SS, 79 (38-41); 5, SQ—Cameron Riley, Liberal, 80 (38-42); 6. Reed Pierce, VC, 80 (38-42); 7. SQ—Max Brenneman, Newton, 81 (43-38); 8. SQ—Kelby Titus, Great Bend, 81 (40-41); 9. Logan Coble, SS, 81 (41-40); 10. SQ—Dylan Shellenberger, Liberal, 82 (41-41).
TEAM TOTALS—1. Salina South 331; 2. Salina Central 349; 3. Valley Center 352; 4. Newton 356; 5. Liberal 360; 6. Goddard 369; 7. Great Bend, 406 (Titus 81, Jared Divis 102, Andrew Erb 108, Payton Doll 115, Aaron Stein 117, John Barrington 124).