Columbus High senior Shane Hess was most likely guaranteed a spot at state golf given his individual differential headed into districts on Monday in Lincoln. That figure, a number put together by the NSAA similar to the power points standings in other sports, left Hess in striking distance of state should he stumble at the district tournament.
But behind a solid round on Monday at Holmes Golf Course in Lincoln, Hess was in no need of a life line. The Columbus senior shot 77, five shots back of the district champ, and earned the automatic bid to next week at the Norfolk Country Club.
"Shane has a really good game," said head coach Rick Benson. "He shot a 73 up in Norfolk and turned around in districts under a lot of pressure and shot 77. It's good to see him handle that pressure in big situations and against quality opponents."
While Hess making state was a high for the Discoverers, teammate freshman Brock Kuhlman faced heartbreak.
First, after carding a round of 82, he finished three shots back of 10th place and short of qualifying on his own. Since the team was in fifth, that left any members outside the top 10 dependent on the differential standings.
Teams advance from the district meet with a top-three finish. The top 10 individuals at each district plus as many necessary to fill out a 15-golfer field earn state invitations as well.
When all the scores were in, four district tournaments identified six individual golfers in the top 10 who earned their way to state. That left nine more openings based on the differential standings.
Those not already on a team that made the tournament are chosen to compete.
Ivan Paul Yabut of Omaha Burke was the 15th and final individual allowed in the field. Kuhlman was 16th, one spot away.
"That's a little disappointing for him," Benson said. "It should be a motivation. He's a freshman, so it should motivate him. He seems to be self-motivated anyhow."
As a team, CHS finished with a team total of 352 strokes. Junior Mitchell Goc shot a 97, senior Zach Paden scored 96 and junior Cole Asche finsihed with a 100.
"Our last three guys struggled a little bit," Benson said. "A variety of things could play into that. We were in some very slow groups. It took almost five and a half hours to play a round.
"That can effect an individual, not being able to get into a routine or a grove in playing. That could have been one thing. The importance of districts and having to shoot well to qualify could've been another one. Two of those three will be back. Should be a motivator for them to work on their game this summer and improve their skills. "
Benson now turns his attention toward getting Hess ready for the state tournament. Over the next week that means preparing for the mental part of facing the field and Norfolk Country Club.
"I'm really going to concentrate on his mental preparation," he said. "I want him him to stay calm during the state tournament and make good decisions. That mental preparation is going to be important. Skillwise he definitely has that."
As far as the specifics of practice, Benson said he will let Hess determine which parts of his game need refining.
"I will leave of that up to him on what he wants to work on," he said. "Him and Brock are very good friends. Brock has agreed to come out and practice with him and get him ready for the state tournament. A lot of it will be playing and getting in that mental state of competing."
Hess has had success at Norfolk Country Club previously. He shot a 73 this year at Norfolk's invitational and a 74 last year.
"I guess I haven't really talked about goals for Shane," Benson said. "He's played very well on that course. I know he's expecting himself to play into a state medal and maybe even a high state medal."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.