Cassville freshman golfs at state

Cassville freshman Dennis Craig prepares to putt on a hole at the Rivercut Golf Course in the Class 3 Boys Golf State Tournament May 13-14. Priscilla Craig/Special to the Cassville Democrat

A wet, and at times rain-delayed, 2024 Boys State Golf Tournament in Springfield on May 13-14 saw 92 golfers competing, and Cassville’s Dennis Craig was in a select few of the field.

One of only six freshmen to compete at the Par 72 Rivercut Golf Course, Craig shot a 93 (+21) on Day 1 and an 87 (+15) on Day 2 at the Rivercut Golf Course, finishing in 80th place overall with the combined 180. The winner, Summit Christian Academy’s Peyton Smith, shot a 141 (71, 70) “I think he did really well,” said Jay Rogers, Cassville golf coach who delayed his retirement two days to continue coaching the golf program. “Dennis has not been golfing long, just a couple of years, and this is his first year of competitive golf. He turned in his best score of the season at districts, and the state course can be tricky with certain aspects we aren’t familiar with.”

Craig qualified for state with a 79 (+9) at the Par 70 Horton Smith Golf Club on May 6, narrowly making the cut. Monett’s Jaxon Bailey won that tournament with a 68 (-2) “He had a putt on his last hole, maybe 1-1/2 to 2 feet, and if he’d missed it, he would not have made the cut,” Rogers said.

Advancing to the final round of play in Class 3, Rogers said Rivercut presented unique challenges for Craig.

“Even in the fairway, you don’t always get a level lie,” Rogers said., “There are a lot of undulations everywhere, from the fairway to the rough to the greens. We were also two holes in when we had an hour-and-a-half weather delay on Day 1, and when we came out of that, the course was wetter and the greens were slower.

“In those conditions and on that stage, Dennis handled himself very well.”

Day 2 at Rivercut brought some precipitation, enough to slow the course down but not enough to cause a weather delay. The change and Craig’s newfound familiarity with Rivercut allowed him to shoot just +4 on thew front 9, and on his 17th hole of the day, Craig chipped in to save par.

“Dennis shot 6 strokes better on Day 2, and he had a couple holes with big numbers he usually does not have,” Rogers said. “For the most part, he putted well. He only had a handful of threeputts I’m proud of his improvement from Day 1 to Day 2 and getting that experience as a freshman — that’s pretty cool.”

Craig and the rest of the young Wildcat squad, which loses only one senior in Cole Watts, will be under new tutelage going forward, as Rogers has retired and Coach Clay Bagby is taking the reins.

“I’m really excited for Coach Bagby,” Rogers said. “This is a good group of kids, and three coming back were shooting in the 70s this year, two freshmen and one sophomore. If they can start doing that consistently and at the same time, they have the potential for some solid team results.

“This group coming back also all love to play. Even after practices, most of them would head back out on the course. We have some young, talented players, and I know Coach Bagby is a good player, so hope he can help them along further and they’ll do some good things.”

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