As one golfer extended his team’s state medal streak, another hopes he started a new streak.
Papillion-La Vista’s Nolan Vondra and Papillion-La Vista South’s Drew D’Ercole each earned medals at the Class A state golf tournament May 22 at the Norfolk Country Club.
While Vondra’s state medal gave Papio a state medalist for the sixth straight season, D’Ercole was the first Titan to medal at state since 2012.
The state championship was cut down to a one-day, 18-hole tournament after inclement weather scraped play May 21. While the weather was better on the 22nd, it was far from an easy day for the golfers.
“We knew the weather for Tuesday didn’t look great about a week ahead so we were mentally preparing for what might happen,” Titan coach Joel Bails said. “Wednesday was an incredibly tough day at an already tough course. Norfolk is just a different place. You can get all four seasons in one day.”
Other than a three-hole stretch, Vondra had at shot at the low round of the day in Norfolk. After starting on the back nine, Vondra took a score of plus-2 into the fifth hole. At the time he was one stroke off the lead.
Unfortunately, Vondra followed with a double bogey and two bogeys on the next three holes to drop in the standings. He still finished with a round of 78 to place in a tie for eighth and four strokes off the lead.
“He played a great round and probably could’ve had a chance to win it,” Monarch coach Joe Pudenz said. “Those three holes are about the hardest on the course and those hurt him.”
Vondra played his best golf at the end of the season and was rewarded with medals in the three biggest tournaments of the season..
“Anytime you can get a medal at Metros, districts and state that’s a great way to end the year,” Pudenz said.
A big change this season was Vondra stepping into a leadership role. He was the lone returner from last season’s state tournament team and he did thrived leading a team with three sophomores and one freshman.
That leadership will pay off in the next few seasons for Papio.
“I put him in a leadership role this season to get the other guys up to speed and understanding what we want to do,” Pudenz said. “During the off-season he was the only one old enough to drive so he would take everyone to different courses to get practice rounds in.”
Freshman Jack Davis shot an 83 for Papio to finish in a tie for 27th and three strokes away from a state medal. Sophomores DJ Savington (87), Sebastian Holtmeier (95) and Christian Holloway (96) rounded out the state team for Papio.
The Monarchs’ team stroke total of 343 placed them 12th in the team standings.
D’Ercole made a little Titan history by becoming only the fourth Titan in school history to medal at state.
“It’s a great accomplishment for him and the program,” Titan coach Joel Bails said. “Everyone who knows Drew, knows how hard he works and this is a great end to his career.”
There was some tense moments of waiting for D’Ercole after his state round. The senior let a stroke get away with a bogey on the ninth hole — the 18th of his round — to finish the round with an even 80.
Neither D’Ercole nor Bails were sure if that’d be enough for a medal as the Titan was tied for 18th when his round completed. Luckily, with many golfers still needing to finish their rounds, D’Ercole climbed into the top-15
“At about the fifth hole, Drew asked what score I thought he’d need to medal,” Bails said. “I told him he’s got to be in the 70s.
“After he finished he was a little bummed because he thought he let one go. But after an hour when it was over and we saw he medaled we were ecstatic.”
D’Ercole had a steady round, carding 40s on both nines. Bails said his short game was what allowed him to stay in medal contention.
“I told him before that match that his short game was what needed to be there to help him score well and it was,” Bails said. “He had a stretch of about five holes he only needed one putt (per hole).”
As for the rest of the Titan team, they were dangerously close to the best team finish in program history. Eighth is the best Papio South has done at state and that was the team’s goal entering the tourney.
The Titans’ posted a team total of 339 strokes, which placed them in 10th place but just three strokes away from a tie for seventh.
“I think one parent put it best when he said ‘We were just a few shots away from a great day,’” Bails said.
Sophomore Mason Burger shot an 83 to finish in a tie for 27th, three shots away from a medal. Sophomore Josh D’Ercole added an 87 with junior Zach Bowen shooting an 89. Sophomore Luke McCann’s 91 rounded out the team.
With a state experience under their belt and four of five varsity players returning next season, the Titans are hopeful for more state success.
• Like much of the season, Gretna used a balanced team attack at the state tournament to earn a ninth-place finish.
The Dragons totaled 338 team strokes to place ninth. Gretna was two strokes behind Elkhorn South and Millard North’s scores of 336 and four strokes away from fifth-place finishers Kearney and Westside.
Senior Colin Kitson and sophomore Christopher Atkinson each finished the tournament with 83 strokes to finish in a sixth-way tie for 27th and three strokes away from a medal.
The Dragons started on the back nine, where Kitson shot a 39 before a 44 on the front nine. Atkinson had a more even split with a 41 on the back nine and a 42 on his second nine.
Freshman Parker Jones shot an 85 to finish in a tie for 36th while sophomore Colton Stock shot an 87. Senior Zach Weber rounded out Gretna’s performance with an 88.
• The Bellevue West duo of Cade Richards and Ryan Kamentz each competed in the Class A state tournament as individuals.
Richards shot a 95 while Kamentz recorded a 98 to finish in a tie for 70 and tie for 73rd, respectively.