Leader of the pack

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Dylan Garner took home the state championship medal during the Class 3 state golf championship last Tuesday. Contributed photo

Garner brings home state golf championship

Dylan Garner’s list of favorite golf courses has always been short.

The Cassville junior felt fortunate to live in a community where its local golf course was challenging, well maintained and fun to play.

Outside of that, Garner loved to travel to Marshfield, and until a week ago, the list stopped there. But, after a stellar performance at the state tournament, Garner has added another course to the list — Sedalia Country Club.

“During my practice round, I told coach [Jay Rogers] I liked the way these holes set up for my game,” Garner said. “I felt comfortable and was able to just relax and play.”

Two days after that practice round, Garner claimed the title of state champion, besting the top 100 golfers in Class 3 with a 146 (72, 74) on the par-70 course. He edged Nevada’s Patrick Ferry by one-stroke. Ferry shot a 147 (74, 73).

The junior entered the last day of the tournament in third place, and it did not take him long to formulate a plan of attack.

“I went into day two knowing, with how the wind was and how the course was, that anything around even par would be a great score,” Garner said. “I didn’t think there was anyone going to be too low. Heading into the tournament, my goal was a top-five, top-10 finish.”

Hitting in the lead group, Garner played a consistent round on the final day that featured two double bogeys and 16 pars.

“My biggest advice to Dylan was just to approach the round like any other,” Rogers said. “Obviously, the stakes were higher, but he’s played so many rounds in his life that the biggest thing was just to be relaxed, go out and have fun and just approach it as another round of golf.”

According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds on the course the final day were sustained 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 miles per hour.

“Obviously, club selection was a big factor on the final day,” Garner said. “I tried to hit the ball a little lower with my irons which is difficult for me, but I got it figured out that day. I had two holes that I didn’t play well, but the 16 pars helped. As coach would say, it was just a ho-hum round.”

When the final results were posted, Garner was not sure what to say. He said it was surreal achieving his high school goal as a junior.

“Since he was freshman, you could tell that Dylan had plenty of game,” Rogers said. “He can hit all the shots, which helped him on the second day. The biggest area I’ve seen him grow is in his mental maturity. Now, he can have a bad hole and forget about it and not let one hole lead to bad scores on the next three, four or five holes. On the third hole on the second day, he double bogeyed and then he pared out until the 18th.”

Golf is a game where having a having a short term memory is essential to success. Rogers said he was told once that good golfers are either real smart or real dumb.

“I’m not saying that Dylan is real dumb, but sometimes you just have to forget about a bad shot,” Rogers said. “Dylan has managed to get to the point where he can move on after a bad hole.”

Dylan is the second golfer from Cassville to claim a state title. According to Rogers, Chris Collins accomplished the feat in 1990.

Garner said he did not talk for the first 15 minutes in the car ride home because he did not know what to say.

“Winning the title was one of my biggest goals,” Garner said. “Now, I want to help my team go with me.”

Rogers said he routinely pairs Garner with younger players to allow his leader to teach them what he knows.

At least three times a week, Garner said he is on the course working on his game, and he only expects that practice amount to go up.

“The pressure is off now, so I see no reason why I can’t repeat next year,” he said. “I’m excited about being a state champion, but can’t wait to play my next round.”

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