Gering golfers gaining experience -- finally - after the snowy weather blows out
     2013-05-09      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Elizabeth Gross/Gering Citizen - Gering Sophomore Baily Hort takes a swing at the seventh hole at the Gering Invitational Tournament on Thursday. Hort had an 83 to finish with the 10th-place medal. 
This was not the kind of weather-beaten spring, with three off-season snowfalls the prevailing factor in postponing or even canceling several tournaments, that a young golf team like the Gering boys needed in order to grow.

The past month’s nasty weather aside, however, the Bulldogs have discovered the means to improve each tournament, no matter how many or few events they have been able to play.

After scoring a four-man, season-low count of 357 in finishing fourth among the Division I teams in the Gering Invitational on Friday at Monument Shadows Golf Course, the Bulldogs ran into some heavy competition Tuesday at the Scotts Bluff Country Club for the Scottsbluff tournament.

The Bulldogs finished Tuesday’s Scottsbluff event in ninth among the 12 Division I teams with a four-man 366.

As has been the case with most tournaments this season, both the Gering and Scottsbluff meets were postponed by weather. Fortunately, the Bulldogs’ meet Friday was put off by just one day, enough to shake off the week’s —and, hopefully, the last of the year — early snowfall.

And the teams were welcomed to Monument Shadows with perhaps the best weather for a meet during this oddball spring.

As a team, the Bulldogs shot what Green said was a good 30 shots better than their previous team low score of the season.

And leading the way was Austin Kaufman, Gering’s “elder statesman” as a junior, who completed the circuit with a fourth-place 78.

“I was really happy for him because he has been struggling with the mental game,” Green said of Kaufman. “He knows he can play the game, but it’s just getting past the bad shots, letting those go and move onto the next hole.”

Sophomore Baily Hort, Gering’s No. 1 player the entire season, had an 83 to finish with the 10th-place medal. Other Bulldogs’ scores Friday had Alex Lupher carding a 91, Mason Marsh shooting 105 and Damian Hort totaling 109.

Cheyenne Central won the team title with a 321 and had the top three medalists, led by Nick Fraley at 76. Alliance was second at 336.

In Division II, the Scottsbluff junior varsity won with a 354, led by Sean Mercer-Smith’s 85 and Jared Pilkington’s 87, with teammate Bryce Meier third at 88.

Scottsbluff’s tournament was postponed from April 22, but Green agreed with most of the other coaches whose teams were in the event that having a tourney at Scotts Bluff Country Club — the site for Monday’s District B-4 tournament as well — didn’t make for such a bad delay after all.

“I think the kids agree with me that we could have shot better. It wasn’t terrible by any means, with a 366 it’s really average. But it’s been tough.”

Hort led the Bulldogs, who had no top-10 finishers, with an 89, followed by Kaufman at 90. Kraiger Ebbers, from the No. 4 spot, shot a 92, with Lupher carding a 95 and Marsh scoring a 96.

“We don’t have any seniors and had just one junior (Kaufman) playing today and actually had a freshman (Marsh) playing in the 5-spot,” Green said. “It was a big tournament for all these guys, and it takes awhile to shake those nerves from the first few holes, get yourself in the groove and stay focused.

“It’s a learning process, and I am pleased with how they did today.”

As is the case with every other golf team in most of Nebraska and connecting states, all factors will be equal when postseason play takes place. The teams expected to do the best will most likely succeed, and the younger teams will be back in the pack but will have that invaluable district experience for next season.

“With so many tournaments being canceled, especially for our younger guys, it’s been a tough year to really just figure out who the top five guys are going to be and really start building that momentum for the rest of this season and into next season,” Green said.

The Bulldogs finish regular-season play — barring a cancellation — on Thursday at Ogallala, and then will return to the SBCC on Monday for district play Monday.

Whether Gering qualifies for state this year or not, Green said the district experience will be good for the Bulldogs as they prepare for next season.

“As long as they play together as a team on Monday — and hopefully their scores will drop and they start feeling their spot and improve on what they are doing — then as far as next year, it’s good to know I have all my guys coming back,” Green said. “I’m not going to lose four seniors like I did last year.”

And after a building-block season, albeit abbreviated in quantity of events, Green said improvement in quality is the key in the Bulldogs’ finish to this season and preparing for 2014.

“ I am excited about what I hear about the junior high guys, and I hope to see a good class of freshmen coming in and really push the older guys to not get too complacent in their spots, and that they can make it a fight for those top five spots.“

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