Waiting was the hardest part for the Borgia golf Knights Tuesday at Rivercut Golf Club in Springfield.
But when senior Cameron Stahlman sank his final putt and the scores were posted, the Knights learned they were MSHSAA Class 3 state champions.
“The title was in doubt all the way to the final hole,” said Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier. “That made it very intense. The kids were ecstatic when they found out the final results. We didn’t know until the scores were posted. It was great to see how the kids reacted. They were enthused and excited. You could see the joy on their faces. That made it fun.”
Borgia senior Cameron Stahlman, who tied for fourth place overall and was one of two all-state golfers, said he knew it would be close, but not how close as it ended.
“I was in the final group on the second day,” Stahlman said. “I had no clue. I asked the coach from Westminster how his team was doing. I talked to Coach Neier right before the 18th hole and he told me how our team was doing. I knew it was going to be close coming down the stretch but I didn’t know exactly until I got into the clubhouse.”
Dolan said it came down to Stahlman’s final hole.
“It’s unbelievable,” senior Bryce Dolan said. “You’ve got to count every shot. At the state level, it’s a team sport. When you’re out there struggling, you’ve got to remember that every shot counts. In this case, every shot did count. We clipped a really good team in MICDS. It came down to pretty much the final putt. Luckily Cam knocked it in there to get us that state championship.”
Borgia shot 609 over the two-day tournament, ending at 304 on the first day and 305 on the second, to edge first-day leader MICDS by one stroke (302-308, 610) to earn the school’s second golf title. Borgia also won the 1999 state title.
“You try to teach not only to play for yourself, but also for the team,” Neier said. “You have to forget about bad holes. You have to remember you can help the team out by minimizing bad holes. The kids all had bad holes, but they were able to pick themselves back up. They did a great job.”
Westminster, which had held second place after one day, placed third (303-309, 612).
The top three teams, which were separated by two strokes after one day, were followed by Logan-Rogersville (316-308, 624), Cape Notre Dame (315-317, 632), Kearney (322-310, 632), Sikeston (329-322, 651), Excelsior Springs (331-327, 658), Bolivar (333-350, 683) and Sullivan (350-348, 698) in the team standings.
The Knights had the best second-day score at 305, three strokes better than MICDS. And that was just enough to win the title.
Borgia had two individual medalists.
• Senior Cameron Stahlman tied for fourth with a two-day score of 146. He shot 72 on the opening day and 74 on the second day.
“It’s a great feeling,” Stahlman said. “I’m very excited, very happy and thrilled to be a part of the team. I’m going up on the wall and that’s the best feeling of the whole thing.”
• Dolan tied for 10th with a two-day score of 148. He shot 73 on the opening day and 75 on the second day.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dolan said. “All of us have been playing golf since we were little and we’ve been practicing so hard this year. We thought we had something going into the year with us three seniors and two young guns who really can play some golf. When we got to the state championship, we finally all put it together and did something special.”
Playing for the Team
Borgia’s other three golfers posted solid scores to help the Knights capture the top trophy.
• Senior Alex Buschman finished just five strokes out of the medals with a two-day score of 155. He shot 77 in the opening round and 78 on the second day.
Borgia’s two underclassmen each trimmed four strokes off their first-day totals to lift the Knights.
“It was absolutely awesome,” Buschman said. “Last year, I did it for the first time and it was awesome. It’s just great to be out there and to see everyone watching you. It’s great to show what you’ve got.”
Neier credited the three seniors, Stahlman, Dolan and Buschman, with leading the way this season.
“Stahlman, Dolan and Buschman, the whole senior group, led the way,” Neier said. “They took turns winning medals at different tournaments throughout the season. We had great leadership from the seniors.”
• Freshman Clayton Voss shot 160 for the tournament, improving from 82 on the first day to 78 on the second day. He tied for 38th in the final standings.
“Getting a state championship as a freshman, that’s something I knew we had a shot at coming into the season,” Voss said. “To get it my first year is something I’m not going to forget.”
Voss said every stroke counted.
“I knew every stroke was going to count,” Voss said. “We were down two after the first day and MICDS was a solid team. We all had to play our game to beat them. I just had to focus on every shot and do whatever I could go get the team the W.”
• Sophomore Alex Rennick went from an 84 on the first day to an 80 on the second day to tie for 56th with a two-day score of 164.
“I’ve got two more years,” Rennick said. “I improved a lot between my freshman year and sophomore year. Hopefully I can keep improving next year even more. Hopefully we’ll have a shot again next year.”
Neier said having two players coming back next season will build a solid base for the future.
“They played for themselves and the team,” Neier said about the underclassmen. “They conquered their nerves and shot well both days. It’s a great step for the future of Borgia golf.”
Neier said all five golfers displayed grace under pressure.
“There was some nervousness among the players to shoot good golf,” Neier said. “It takes courage. I think all the teams went out and shot well. We were fortunate that our kids played well both days. All of our kids played well and that made the difference.”
Third After First Day
After the first day, Borgia held third at 304, one stroke behind second-place Westminster and two behind MICDS. And that’s right where the Knights wanted to be.
“Talking with (Assistant Coach) Chip (Thompson), we really were glad to be in third after the first day,” Neier said. “The pressure was off. MICDS led and Westminster had beaten them twice this season. That put more pressure on those teams. You can see that in the big tournaments when someone has to sleep on the lead, it’s tough.”
The Knights were relaxed after the first day of action.
“We were sitting in the hot tub the night before,” Stahlman said. “I told them that if we were paired with a guy from MICDS and a guy from Westminster to just beat your guy and we would win. That’s all we had to do.”
Dolan knew the Knights had a very strong first day.
“We came down there and had a feeling we were going to do pretty well,” Dolan said. “Shooting 304 is a great score and we were down by two. That just shows how great the competition was. We were really content with where we were. We knew we could make a run on the second day just how everyone was hitting the ball. We were happy. Obviously we wanted to be in first but we were fine coming from behind.”
Buschman said the Knights knew everyone had to contribute.
“We knew we were two shots back,” Buschman said. “I wasn’t playing my absolute best but I knew every shot counted. I knew I had to stay in there and make every putt I could.”
Voss said it was better to be close behind than leading after the first day.
“Being down two actually felt better than being up by two after day 1,” Voss said. “Being able to sleep and knowing you could come from behind to win actually was a little easier than trying to hold the lead, I thought.”
Rennick stated that only a little improvement would get the job done.
“I knew we had a good chance,” Rennick said. “Two strokes is not much in golf. I knew if we all improved, we had a really good chance to win.”
Neier said Borgia took advantage of the situation.
“You don’t want to be way off the lead,” Neier said. “We felt we were in good shape going into the second day. I think we were in a good positive position and the kids took it to heart. They went out to shoot the best scores possible. I’ve got to tip my hat to the kids.”
Neier credited Thompson with making a difference on the team.
“Chip Thompson does a tremendous job,” Neier said. “He knows golf exceptionally well and the psychology needed to prepare the golfers. He has been a tremendous addition to the school and the team.”
Following are thoughts from each of the golfers.
“It feels great. I’m still in shock with everything. I’m just trying to take it all in.”
On being near the individual lead:
“I wanted to give myself a chance going into the first day. That was my main goal to just give myself a chance. I accomplished a goal there.”
On going up on the wall:
“It’s a great feeling. I’m very excited, very happy and thrilled to be a part of the team. I’m going up on the wall and that’s the best feeling of the whole thing.”
On his biggest thrill:
“The state championship of course (over making all-state). I could have finished dead last and if we won the state championship I still would have felt great. I could have won an individual state championship and this still was twice as great. I just want a board. I’ve been trying to get it for the last four years. I think this is my sixth try in two different sports. It was time to go out with a bang with one.”
On having individual success at the state meet:
“The last three years, I’ve gone up there and laid an egg after playing well at districts and sectionals. This year, I made it a point to stay focused and play as well as I could. I thought I played great. My scores were good enough to get me all-state honors and that’s always been a big deal to me to finish in the top 15 and be able wear that medal with the greatest players in the state.”
On his fellow seniors:
“It’s fun. We always want to win the team competition. I think there’s a little competition within all five of us. We all want to win a tournament and get that top spot. It just so happened that all of us had the chance to do that. It seemed that Alex was in the hunt in the last four tournaments and so was Cam. I didn’t play well coming down the stretch. It’s always good to compete against great players and it’s nice to have them on my team.”
On playing the second day:
Played in the second-to-last group with Westminster, Republic and Monett golfers. One of them is going to Mizzou and the kid from Republic won the individual state championship. It was great to play with those guys. Just to try to stay at their level — the kid who shot 68 was just unbelievable and a lot of fun to watch. Just to try to stay with them helped me to stay focused and keep my head in the game.”
On his fellow seniors:
“We all played well. Not everyone was on at the same time. We all switched. We all had our time to shine and we all did well.”
On making the wall:
“It was good. It was fun. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m excited, great to see that board up there. I’m excited to be up there for the rest of my life.”
On the experience:
“It’s something I’m not going to forget anytime soon. It was a great experience.”
On breaking into the lineup:
“They treated me well. They knew I was going to help them win if I played my game.”
On first-day nerves:
“For sure on day one, standing on that first team you get a little nervous. But as the round went on and into day two, I settled in and played my game.”
On comparing golf to other sports he’s played:
“I played baseball from when I was in preschool and I picked up golf about fifth or sixth grade and I loved it, so I just stuck with it. These guys carried me to the state tournament two years in a row and we finally won it. Tennis and golf are a lot alike. They both are individual sports. You’ve got to learn to keep your temper and play your own game.”
On waiting for the rest of the golfers to come in:
“I really was nervous. I didn’t know where we were at whenever Cameron came in. Whenever we finally got down to the pro shop, we saw that we were ahead one.”
On the future of Borgia golf:
“Hopefully the future holds another state title.”