SMITHVILLE, Mo. — After having a promising season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, Platte County retooled the lineup, adjusted all season and went into the Class 4 District 4 tournament with high hopes. An off day at the top spot plus a late season swoon for two seniors left the Pirates with just one player keeping his season alive.
Platte County senior Evan Handke shot a 13-over 85 on Monday to tie for 13th place on The Posse Course at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex. The state added an extra class this season and eliminated the sectional round, meaning the top 18 finishers plus ties moved on to the Class 4 Missouri State Golf Championships next Monday and Tuesday in Joplin.
“I’m pretty happy,” Handke said. “I did well on the back nine. It started getting rough on the front but I ended up pulling it out.”
All of Platte County’s players started on No. 10, and Handke opened with what would be his only birdie on the round, chipping in from off the green on the par 4. He shot 42 on his first nine and rallied for a 43 on his second nine, ending up tied with Grain Valley’s Charlie Aldred.
“Evan has worked hard and waited for years to get to this point,” Short said. “He gets to go out and earn two more days to get out there and play. There was some disappointment (for others) but that is how golf goes for you.”
Indeed, Platte County expected sophomore No. 1 Parker Amos to lead the way as he has done nearly all season. Instead, he struggled to an uncharacteristic 17-over 89, and he ended up tied for 19th place and just one shot off of earning a reprieve at state.
That led to an agonizing wait time in a deep district that included Suburban Conference Blue Division rivals Smithville and Kearney plus Grain Valley, Marshall, Webb City and Carl Junction.
“Every 20 minutes I’d come in and check the scores,” Handke said.
Eventually, Grandview, Belton, Raytown South, William Chrisman and Marshall finished up their rounds with 89 looking like the possible cutline. Eventually, a score came in that bumped Amos down, and a 47 on his second nine ended up being the undoing.
“I was really hoping we’d all qualify,” Handke said. “I figured Parker would make it, but it is just golf. It is tough.”
Platte County finished seventh in the team standings with seniors Grant Gomel and Lakin Talley shooting matching 97s to round out a score of 368. Smithville won the team title at 324, but with no automatic qualifiers, no one in District 4 qualified the requisite four individuals to compete for a team championship next week.
With the new system, Platte County hoped to have a breakthrough in the postseason for the team — even with little returning from 2019 when the Pirates sent three to state.
Gomel, Handke and senior Connor Dean entered the season with limited time on varsity but at the back end of the top-five. Eventually, first-year senior Lakin Talley worked his way into the lineup as Dean dropped out, and senior Colby Guffey, who shot a 105 at districts, earned his varsity spot in the last weeks of the regular season.
Amos and Handke were the consistent presence at the top of the lineup, while Gomel went up and down while making a quick return to the course after undergoing complete reconstructive surgery on his left knee after tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus in Week 4 of the football season.
Gomel won the Blue Division JV medalist honors as a freshman in 2018 and placed in a tie for 17th in conference on varsity as a sophomore and finished 28th at districts and factored into the team score.
Platte County started the season fast with season-bests of 342 and 335 in the first two tournaments but struggled late as scores became less consistent. The Pirates were third in the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships last week ahead of districts, which ended up being the highest score for the team in an 18-hole tournament this year.
“We knew it would be close,” Short said of the team getting four to qualify as a team for the state meet. “Parker had an off day and you can’t have off days at this point of the season. We knew we had three or four that would have a chance but it would be close and you never know. It has been a rollercoaster like that all season, but we are excited for Evan.”