Trojan golfers claim elusive SEC title
MOUNT PLEASANT — Despite playing well enough to grab 31 victories and a No. 7 ranking in Class 3A this season, the Trojan boys’ golf team was still searching for its big, statement win headed into the postseason.
On Tuesday, they got it.
Boosted by all-conference performances from juniors Matt Carr and Joe Hietpas, Fairfield won its first Southeast Conference title since 2007 at the Mt. Pleasant Golf & Country Club in Mount Pleasant. The Trojans scored a 317 total to edge second-place Washington (322) by five strokes and host Mount Pleasant (326) by nine.
Fourth place went to Keokuk, which shot a 333, and Fort Madison was last with a 348.
“We hadn’t really had a breakout meet yet. Today was the kind of score we were looking for,” Hietpas said following the tournament. “We hadn’t really had the success this season we came in hoping for, and it was kind of cool to win conference for the first time in six years.”
Prior to Tuesday’s tournament, Washington had won the conference’s three previous titles, topping Fairfield by a razor-thin margin all three times. The Demons earned a two-stroke victory a year ago and won via fifth-score tiebreaker in 2011.
No one was more eager for a new result than Carr, Hietpas and the rest of the upperclassmen-heavy team.
After the warm, five-hour day was over, Carr checked in with the tournament’s second best score, a 5-over-par 77, to win all-conference and runner-up medalist honors for the second year running. Carr tied for a team-low 37 on the back nine to cap his excellent day, and he also had three of Fairfield’s four birdies.
The junior said he came into the tournament relatively unfamiliar with the Mount Pleasant course but found it to be remarkably similar to one he’s most accustomed to: the Fairfield Golf & Country Club course.
“They’re similar lengths. The biggest difference would be the greens ... they’re super slow,” said Carr.
Like Carr, Hietpas found himself right at home on the course and finished with a 78 for the third best score in the conference. The 18-hole round was the first time Hietpas had ever reached the 70s, and it was a good reminder that any Trojan can lead the team on any given day.
“I think anybody on our team can step up. We’ve seen that this year before. None of us really played badly today, but it’s nice when we have some guys who may not score all the time come up and shoot some low numbers,” Hietpas said.
Junior Landon Gamrath (80) scored with a pair of 40s to tie for sixth in the conference, but he lost out on all-SEC accolades on a first-hole playoff. Freshman Nick Higgins and junior Alex Shier both carded an 82. Higgins shot a consistent 41 in both rounds, while Shier found his groove on the back nine with a 39.
Gabe Hull, the varsity roster’s only senior, filled out the scoreboard with an 84. After shooting a 44 on the front nine, Hull finished the day with a 40 on the back.
Fairfield head coach Mick Flattery was most impressed with his golfers’ ability to overcome a slow start Tuesday. Three of the Trojans shot in the 30s on the back nine after all six were in the 40s on the front.
“Once our guys handled their nerves, things got better,” Flattery said. “No one shot worse on the back nine. They tied their front nine score or shot better.”
“All scores under 85 is really good as well,” he added.
Mount Pleasant’s Kiley Miller, a junior, took top honors with a 3-over-par 75.
Now looking to build off their momentum, Fairfield (35-9) heads to The Preserve golf course at Lake Rathbun on Friday. The Trojans will be looking to advance against Centerville, Mount Pleasant, Oskaloosa, Albia, Keokuk, Fort Madison and Chariton.