Paul Kopsky Photo
HILLSBORO, MO. • Blake Hammond is not about to tell all of his secrets.
The Hillsboro High senior used the home course advantage to grab co-medalist honors at the Class 3 District 2 boys golf tournament on Monday at Raintree Golf Club in Hillsboro.
Hammond navigated the ultra-difficult, hilly course with relative ease in firing a more-than-credible 6-over-par-78. He was not flustered by the lightning-quick greens, which flummoxed more than half of the field as three-putts were the norm on a day that featured near-perfect weather conditions.
“There are just little things that you know from playing here all the time that the other guys don’t know,” Hammond said.
Hammond chose not to elaborate — with good reason.
“It’s just stuff I’ve picked up over the years,” he said with a smile.
Hammond estimates he has played “well over a hundred” rounds of golf at Raintree, which is the Hawks’ home course.
He even recorded his first career hole-in-one on the par-3 No. 2 hole earlier in the season in a match against St. Pius X.
“I’m comfortable here,” Hammond said. “Most of the people that play here end up complaining. But I know what to expect and that gives me a little advantage.”
Hammond finished in a tie with junior Zach Shirley of Lutheran South, the defending district champion.
A long hitter, Hammond got off to a quick start — he was even par through the first five holes. A couple of three putts slowed him down in the middle of the round, but he finished by sinking a nifty 16-footer on No. 18 for a par to grab a share of the crown.
“This course throws a lot at you,” Hillsboro coach Brian Sucharski said. “If you can play here and score, you can play anywhere.”
Hammond, who knows every blade of grass on the 5,863-yard track, is headed to Mineral Area College. But first he wants to close his career in style. He finished 46th at state as a junior and 77th the year before.
“The last two (state) trips, I learned and gained some good experience,” Hammond said. “I feel this time, I’m more prepared.”
Shirley’s consistent performance helped the Lancers to a second-place finish in the team race with a 364 — 11 behind winner John Burroughs (353).
The top two teams and the top 15 individuals not associated with a qualifying team advance to sectional play next week at Ste. Genevieve Country Club.
“I’m happy that I’m advancing,” Shirley said. “But, I wish my score could have been a little better.”
Shirley finished the round with his only birdie of the day.
“My iron play was good,” Shirley said. “The other parts of my game, I still need to tinker on a few things.”
Shirley, who hit a drive 350 yards on Monday, finished fifth at state as a freshman and 13th last season. He feels like a top 10 finish is definitely within reach.
William Cummings (84) and Robert Baldwin (85) led the Bombers’ balanced attack. Dylan Meyer and William DeWitt IV each shot 92.
Cummings, the No. 3 player in the lineup, set the tone with an impressive effort.
“He’s a grinder, he rose to the challenge,” Burroughs coach Tim Begley said.
The Bombers finished seventh at state last season.
“We came in here today with a game plan to lay off the driver,” Begley said. “It’s a tight, difficult course and we wanted to stay in the fairway. The guys were disciplined enough to stick with it.”
David Cramer of Clayton finished third with an 83. He and Shirley were tied at 71 after 16 holes.