Bison battle into top three at home golf tourney

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
McCook golfer Tanner Unger chips a ball to the green during Tuesday’s Ron Coleman Golf Invite. The Bison earned a tie for third among 12 teams competing.
R.B. Headley

McCOOK, Neb. — The great Ron Coleman legacy was still rolling across Heritage Hills in wife Joan Coleman’s golf course.

More than 13 years after R.C.’s seventh and final Bison Class B state champion team, Joan’s still attending the annual Ron Coleman Invite to support those young McCook players.

She talked about how her late husband really didn’t start playing golf until college. Yet he soon loved the game and learned an amazing skill at teaching how to handle all those challenges on a course like Heritage Hills.

“Even on family outings, Ron just seemed to have a knack at helping people play better,” she recalled about the Bison coach for 25 years (1978-2003).

The Bison didn’t win any titles on Tuesday, but RC probably still would have been proud.

McCook’s young team with only one returning varsity regular improved throughout the Coleman tournament.

Gabe Vielma was a great example as he sliced seven strokes off his score during the last nine holes.

Vielma’s 87 was oh-so-close to a top 10 tournament medal. He finished 11th while helping the Bison reach their home invite’s top three.

McCook tied Scottsbluff for third behind only Class A North Platte and the York Dukes.

“It was nice to see the kids compete and finish with a high place,” current coach Rick Haney remarked. He directed to the Bison to another Class B team title in 2016.

Returning state veteran Kade Gray’s been battling back problems recently. He missed the Hastings Invite last week.

However, he returned on Tuesday and showed toughness with a four-stroke improvement on the back nine (47-43-90).

Gray’s round earned 17th place among almost 60 golfers competing from the 12 schools.

“Kade showed his courage today by playing and scoring a 90 to help the team,” Haney confirmed.

New varsity teammates Hunter Hays (47-48-95) and Trevor Oberg (48-49-97) both played consistently enough to help McCook earn that top three team place.

Hays finished 26th overall with Oberg in 31st place.

“They both battled and showed promise as we begin the focus towards districts and getting to state,” Haney observed.

Tanner Unger’s 101 (47-54) matched or surpassed No. 5 players on eight of the 11 teams. He was only one stroke behind York No. 5 Dawson Sandall.

Meanwhile, McCook’s top four “White” players carded 102 or below as that team captured eighth place.

“We did play all the players today,” Haney said. “The JV and younger players all showed t hat the program is coming along for the future.”

The Bison move on to play at Thursday’s Gothenburg Invitational.

North Platte featured four top players who all reached the Ron Coleman Invite top 10 — quite an achievement at Heritage Hills during this warm and sometimes breezy Tuesday.

Haney praised the course for being in both “great shape” and “very tough.”

“Teams were very impressed with the challenges it offered,” he concluded. “And they were very complimentary of it.”

Complete team results and the top 10 can be seen at left.

McCook “White” scores: Payton O’Toole 48-46—94; Marcus Eckhardt 44-53—97; Joel Gray 46-53—99; Ethan Hays 48-54—102; Billy Bennett 52-55—107.

Decatur Community, Kan., Red Devil scores: Kel Grafel 47-46—93; Branden Beagley 48-50—98; Kole Breth 61-55—116.

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