MADISON – The Colman-Egan and Flandreau golf teams aren’t letting a snowy spring slow them down.
At least not on Tuesday.
Nine Hawks and Fliers squared off in an unprecedented event at JB’s, taking advantage of the indoor simulators to complete a nine-hole match despite the stacks of snow that lined downtown Madison.
“We started (practice) on April 9 and we obviously weren’t able to get outside,” said first-year CE coach Billy Stitz, the mastermind behind the event. “I was thinking about bringing the kids over here for a practice, but we have 16 kids so realistically it wasn’t going to work out. …
“Tournaments kept getting cancelled and pushed back, so I was sitting at work and got a harebrained idea that we’d actually come over here and compete. I know (Flandreau coach) Jake (Otkin) – he’s from Colman originally – so I just texted him, ‘Here’s a really bad idea; why don’t we have a competition inside?’”
Stitz and Otkin proceeded to talk to their athletic directors, who in turn contacted the South Dakota High School Activities Association to get permission to have the event.
“They were okay with it, so we just decided to give it a go,” Stitz added.
On the boys’ side, Colman-Egan seniors Kade Groos, Bodee Groos and Chandler Gullickson hit the simulator alongside Flandreau sophomores Devon Burggraff and David Allen.
“I think it’s pretty good, especially just to get some swings in,” said Kade Groos, an All-State performer in 2017. “When you have this weather out here, it kind of sucks, but the most important thing is getting swings in.”
For the girls, Flier sophomores Grace Johanson and Alaina Cloud and eighth-grader Keva Burshiem, along with Hawk seventh-grader Berkley Groos competed.
“It’s definitely an interesting experience; something different that we’ve never done,” noted Johanson. “It’s really kind of showing us what we’re doing so far; how we’re doing this season, especially since we haven’t been able to get outside. So it’s really nice to get in there and see what the ball flight is doing and stuff like that.”
Colman-Egan has been stuck indoors for the most part, hitting balls into an archery net in the gymnasium. However, the Hawks got some time on grass on April 11, before hitting shots in chilly conditions at the golf course on April 12.
“It’d be nice to get more than the four golfers we have out here, even if it was eight golfers out here and do something like that; but it’s important to the people that are here to get back into the swing of things and compete and actually see results on a golf swing, compared to just hitting into a net in the gym,” Stitz said of the event. “So it’s important for these kids to kind of get a feel for where their golf swings are now. I know the three boys I brought here all competed at the state tournament last year, so they’re advanced enough to kind of understand what’s wrong with their golf swings – enough that they can see some results and they can work on it inside.
“(Berkley) Groos is only in seventh grade, so it’s nice for her to get a chance to kind of see what it’s like to compete against somebody else. I know the rules aren’t necessarily the same … but it’s nice for her to go out and compete against some other people and actually get a feel for competition.”
Flandreau has also had to play the inside game, but it hasn’t been all bad.
“This year we got a new indoor golf net, so that’s been nice; we’ve been taking full swings,” said second-year coach Jake Otkin. “We have a really supportive golfing community in Flandreau, so we had a guy donate a putting green that actually has a little bit of break on it. We’ve been chipping off some gym mats into boxes and then just kind of trying to incorporate some games into it while we’re doing it – the kids are kind of getting that indoor fever, so just to make it a little fun for them so they’re not overcome with the weather, so to speak.”
Otkin also called Tuesday’s event “important.”
“I think it’s very important just to get ball flight and trajectory for them, and just to get some full swings in and actually see where the ball is going instead of hitting it into a net,” he added. “And then the networking with the kids from Colman and just developing that friendship on the course and off the course is a great opportunity for our kids.”
The Colman-Egan boys return three starters – Groos, Groos and Gullickson – from last season’s squad, which placed third at the Class B State Tournament. The Hawks were the Dakota Valley Conference and Region 2B champions.
Kade Groos was the region medalist and ended up taking fourth at state.
“Hopefully we can go to the state tournament again; compete as a team; and hopefully we can get in the top eight,” he said.
Bodee Groos ended up 38th at state, while Gullickson was 67th.
CE lost Mason Hemmer to graduation. He finished 17th at state after placing second at both the DVC and Region 2B tourneys.
This year, the DVC Tournament is at Sunrise Ridge in Colman on May 7 at 9 a.m.
The Region 2B Tournament is back at Edgebrook in Brookings for the second year in a row, scheduled to be contested May 22.
“It’s a nice course,” said Kade Groos. “Last year, I mean, we ended up shooting pretty good. Hopefully we can do that again and get to the state tournament.”
Kade Groos has competed in four state tourneys in his career – tying for 20th as a sophomore; placing 19th as a freshman; and tying for 31st as an eighth-grader. The Hawks were eighth in 2016 and ninth in 2015 in the team standings.
Bodee Groos (tie-90th in 2016; tie-59th in 2015) and Gullickson (tie-99th in 2016; tie-110th in 2015) have both participated in the state event three times.
Last year, the Flandreau girls qualified for the Class B State Tournament as a team for the first time since 2000 and proceeded to place sixth.
Johanson paced the youthful group at state by tying for 28th.
Burshiem tied for 31st and Cloud tied for 38th.
“I’m still holding myself and the team to high standards,” said Johanson. “I really hope we’re going to exceed this year but with our season being cut short and everybody else’s, the stakes are definitely going to be a little higher this year, especially with people not being able to get outside. So I’m just going to hold ourselves to high standards and see what we can do.”
The Fliers won the Big East Conference and were runners-up in the Lake Central Conference a year ago.
The boys played nine holes at Prairie Dunes Country Club, which is in Hutchinson, Kan. The girls played nine holes at Heron Pointe, which is believed to be a fictional course.
1, Kade Groos, CE, +9; 2, Bodee Groos, CE, +14; 3, Devon Burggraff, F, +25; 4, Chandler Gullickson, CE, +32; 5, David Allen, F, +40.
1, Keva Burshiem, F, +9; 2, Grace Johanson, F, +12; 3, Berkley Groos, CE, +22; 4, Alaina Cloud, F, +28.