A historic season by the girls team and a promising future displayed by an extremely young boys squad received recognition at the Creston/O-M golf banquet Monday evening at Crestmoor Golf Club.
Second-year coach Jon Thomson said the girls team, almost entirely intact from the Class 4A sixth-place team in 2017, entered the 2018 campaign with high expectations and delivered on such high promise at the Class 3A state tournament.
Playing at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, where the Panthers were fifth in the 4A tourney in 2016 with a score of 374-407 — 781, the Panthers rallied on the second day to overtake Gilbert by one stroke for second place with a score of 346-344 — 690.
Members of the team were seniors Ashton Carter and Sophia Groumoutis — each playing in their third straight state tournament — junior Taylor Buxton, sophomores Sydney Hartsock and Emma Hanson and freshman Rylie Driskell. Junior Sadie Green was the alternate.
“You look at the numbers all season and compare scores, but we’re not golfing the same courses as teams from other parts of the state,” Thomson said. “You go up there, and you feel great coming in as the number six team in the state (Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association ranking) and walking away with the number two trophy.”
Washington won the 3A crown with a score of 334-328 — 662. Gilbert, with a seven-stroke lead over Creston/O-M after the first day, shot 691 to finish one stroke behind the Panthers. Creston/O-M shot 91 strokes better than the fifth-place 4A finish on the same course two years earlier, when the Panthers shot 374-407 — 781.
“We had pretty much everybody coming back, and Rylie Driskell came in as a freshman and played as our number one for two days at state,” Thomson said. “My expectations were high. We ended with a stupendous season. Counting all the opponents and tournaments we were 67-2, losing only to Washington and Van Meter.”
Thomson said Van Meter edged his team at the Winterset Invitational when the Panthers were playing without both Carter and Groumoutis.
“I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out,” Thomson said.
The Panthers sailed to the regional championship in Adel with a score of 341, a 30-stroke margin over runner-up Centerville. In that tournament, Driskell and Groumoutis each shot 81 to tie Atlantic’s Alyssa Ginther for the medalist score, with Driskell awarded medalist honors based on a handicap hole score. Carter was fourth at 84.
Creston/O-M unseated two-time defending champion Atlantic for the Hawkeye 10 girls championship with a score of 375. Carroll Kuemper Catholic was 23 strokes behind in second place and Atlantic shot 383 in third place.
Driskell was conference runner-up medalist in shooting 40-43 — 83 and Hartsock sparked the Panthers that day by taking third in the conference at 88. Other all-conference golfers were Carter with an 89 in fourth place and 12th-place Groumoutis at 98.
An early-season dual win over Atlantic, 174-207, convinced Thomson that his lofty expectations were valid.
For her career, Carter placed 11th, seventh and 10th individually at state in their final three years. Groumoutis was 37th, 17th and 20th in her three state appearances. Driskell ended 13th in her state debut with rounds of 83 and 84 for a 167 this year.
“Sophia came out hot for us on the first day and stayed consistent on the second day,” Thomson said. “She’s a big reason why we were successful at state and the other tournaments throughout the year.
“Ashton, I always call her my day two girl because she always seems to get it together on day two of a tournament,” Thomson continued. “I’m super proud of Ashton and all she has done for th golf program here.”
Both Carter and Groumoutis earned Hawkeye 10 All-Academic honors and plan to continue their golf careers at Southwestern Community College next fall.
Buxton and Green will be the lone seniors next year. Thomson noted that Buxton, in her second year of competitive golf after recovering from knee surgery, improved by 67 strokes from the 2017 state tournament to this year’s event, going 96-96 — 192 this year. Those were her first sub-100 rounds of her career, Thomson said.
The Panther boys squad was made up entirely of freshmen and sophomores. Sophomores Brayton Chesnut, Hayden Green and Beau Thompson each earned their second letters.
“With the boys being such a young crew, you never know what you’re going to get,” Thomson said. “I was really impressed with how we progressed over the year. We had some young guys step up, like Colby Burg taking the number one spot right at the beginning of the season.”
Burg, who earned the team challenge award from practice competition games this season, ended up the team leader at the Hawkeye 10 tournament with a 40-44 — 84 and at the class 3A sectional meet in Denison with a 43-45 — 88 round. That was 11 strokes off qualifying for district competition.
Chesnut showed improvement this season, Thomson said, with an 89 in the sectional tourney and 87 in the league tourney. Rylan Luther shot 90 and Beau Thompson 99 at the sectional.
As a team, Creston/O-M was seventh among eight teams in the sectional with a score of 366. District qualifiers were Atlantic at 309 and ADM at 323.
“We had some great learning experiences for a young crew to see what you have to have in 3A to be competitive,” Thomson said. “We see a lot of quality teams on our schedule.”
Thomson said assistant coach Jan Lesan, who retired as head coach after the 2016 season, does not plan to be full-time assistant coach in 2019. She will be a part-time volunteer.
“I’m very optimistic on the year to come and I hope you get as many rounds in this summer as you can,” Thomson said in concluding Monday’s event.
Seniors — Ashton Carter (4), Sophia Groumoutis (4).
Juniors — Taylor Buxton (2), Sadie Green (3).
Sophomores — Brayton Chesnut (2), Hayden Green (2), Emma Hanson (1), Sydney Hartsock (2), Rylan Luther (1), Beau Thompson (2).
Freshmen — Colby Burg (1), Rylie Driskell (1), Wiley Ray (1), Cole Strider (1), Connor Travis (1).
Participation awards — Brant Looney and Logan Osterhout.