Senior Luke Gleason shot a 3-over par 74 Thursday afternoon, leading the way as the Red Demons hosted their home golf tournament at Mariah Hills Golf Course.
Overall, the team shot a 346. Davan Smith shot an 88, Ethan Goertzen shot a 91, Cayden Kerr shot a 93, Kale Lowery shot a 97 and Dalton Prater shot a 102.
With his finish, Gleason took home a medal. His fifth-place finish and 74 score were three shots and one place better than his score last year at the same event.
“It was a nice day out there,” Gleason said.
Gleason’s day wasn’t always easy.
On the par-4 14, Gleason’s tee-shot hit the branches of a tree overhanging the right side a little ways down fairway, bouncing backward into the fairway, but still setting up a long second shot. Gleason got onto the green with his third shot, but bogeyed the hole. In was the second of two straight bogeys for him at that point in the round.
Later on in the round, Gleason recovered.
On 17, he hit a tremendous tee-shot over trees lining the right side of the fairway. His shot landed within about 30 yards of the green. From there, he chipped the ball onto the green to within about five feet of the hole, making the putt after to give himself a birdie.
On 18, Gleason hit a towering shot straight down the center of the fairway. His second shot landed on the edge of the green closest to the tees, with an uphill putt of roughly 10-15 feet left to go.
Gleason’s putt was perfect, carrying what appeared to be a lot of speed, all of which it needed to get up to the hole and in, giving Gleason his second birdie in a row.
“I just focused on the next shot,” Gleason said. “Our coach says ‘Every shot’s the next most important shot.’ It’s just grind and see what happens.”
Gleason’s group started on hole six. Hole one was thus later in his round, and like 14 earlier in the day, Gleason’s tee shot hit a tree, this time one on the left side of the fairway and much closer to the tee box than the one on 14 was. His shot ended up bouncing off it and continuing down the fairway but ending up in the rough on the right.
That hole, Gleason said, was actually the one he was most proud of Thursday. He ended up bogeying the hole, but also made up for it with a chip-in just a hole later on two.
“I smoked the tree off the tee,” Gleason said. “I’m pretty happy with a bogey though.”
Red Demon head coach Jim Mapel praised Gleason after the round.
“He really stepped up,” Mapel said. “This is his first real good round of the year, and he’s been kind of frustrated. He’s a strong competitor and sometimes he just almost gets a little bit too fired up. In golf, you’ve kind of got to stay even-keel and so he did a good job today.”
Gleason had quite a few birdies Mapel said, but also had some added attention, with multiple family and friends attending to watch.
“He had a lot of people out here following him, which was cool but that’s a lot of pressure when you’re at home really, and for him to perform that well, I really felt good for him,” Mapel said. “That will help his confidence as the season continues.”
That competitive nature was probably part of the reason he was able to keep his score from snowballing negatively after bad shots or holes.
“He’s a competitor. He’s just a tough competitor,” Mapel said. “We saw that on the basketball court this winter, and the same way on the golf course, and he’s gonna keep working at it, and I think his best rounds are ahead of him yet this year.”
As a team, the Red Demons 346 score wasn’t enough for them to earn a place. That didn’t, however, mean the team didn’t benefit from it, or that it was a bad score for where they are.
“It’s 20 strokes better than what we’ve shot this year as a team,” Mapel said. “We had Ethan Goertzen: 91, and Cayden Kerr: 93. Very good scores, and Davan had an 88. So that’s more where we’re trying to bring our scores down, and having the team support each other 1-6. So I’m very pleased with it.”