GRANGER — Turning in one of its better rounds of the season on Tuesday, the Newton boys golf team could've been happy with its final result of the season.
However, coming that close to the state meet without making it never seems to be a reassuring idea. The Cards shot a 317 as a team, landing in fifth place out of 13 teams and just seven strokes back of a state berth at the district meet at Jester Park Golf Course to end their season on a high and low note at the same time.
"We just needed something spectacular from one of the other guys, and obviously we were just seven strokes away from state in one of the toughest districts," Newton coach Pat Riley said. "I'm not disappointed, just sad for the kids because they gave it their all and just came up a little short." Coming even closer to state was senior Austin Shores, who recovered from a slow start on the back nine to shoot a 74, which was one stroke shy of the state cut. Shores' 3-under 33 on the front nine put him in contention, but left him just on the outside as the individual field produced a 70, 72 and two 73s. "I didn't think it would even be close after shooting a 41 on the front," Shores said. "I just told myself I had to make a bunch of birdies, and I ended up making three without any bogies. I didn't even think I'd actually have a real chance until I birdied my last hole."
Another strong turnaround on the front nine came from sophomore Devin Shores, who carded a 1-over 37 to finish with a 78. The pleasant surprise round of the day came from freshman Cory Hartgers, who earned the Cards' third score with a season-best 82 and was one stroke ahead of senior Tyler McAnally, who provided an 83 for Newton's fourth score. Senior James Leonard and junior Bobby Dowling contributed non-scoring rounds of 86 and 90, respectively.
To no one's surprise, West Des Moines Valley took top honors with a 298, Johnston took second at 301 and Ankeny, a team the Cards had defeated earlier in the year, was the third team in at 310. Newton nearly topped Des Moines Roosevelt, a team the Cards had yet to beat, which turned in a 316. The meet was the last in the high school careers of Austin Shores, Leonard and McAnally. Although the disappointment was clear for the team as it watched the scores come in, it also should take some solace in the fact that it put itself in position to make a state run.
"I know the kids are disappointed because we both believed they had a good chance to go," Riley said. "Three or four years ago, if you told me we'd have a chance to go to state and were only seven strokes out, I'd say you were crazy. That's just how much better we've got in the past three or four years." Although three seniors will depart next season, the Cards will return a number of players with varsity experience. Devin Shores has now missed state as an individual by just a few strokes two years in a row, and Hartgers ended his season on a high note and could potentially pick up where he left off next season.
"We're going to have three or four guys with some experience back, but it'll be sad to see the seniors go," Riley said. "But we've got to see what we can do with some younger players to get them ready."