Four shots separated the top three players at the boys Class B state golf championship held Wednesday at Elks Country Club in Columbus.
One of those three was Scotus Central Catholic senior Bryce VunCannon. VunCannon put together a 4-over 75 and claimed his second straight state medal in a third-place finish.
Elkhorn Mount Michael's Luke Gutschewski was the only player in the 74-member tournament field that navigated his way around Elks under par. The sophomore shot a 1-under 71 and took individual state championship honors.
Charles Zielinski, a junior out of Omaha Skutt, was the runner-up medalist two shots back with a 73.
VunCannon ends his Scotus and varsity career as a four-time state tournament qualifier and 2018 fifth-place medalist to go with his bronze medal on Wednesday.
"I'm really happy with the way my career has gone and how I've played the last four years," he said moments after accepting a second straight medal. "It feels good to go out and perform the way I did. I didn't under-perform, I didn't choke I played a very good round.
"It didn't shake out the way I wanted it to, unfortunately. But I'm still very, very happy with the way I played and the way I have played."
VunCannon's 18-hole trip through his final high school round had a little bit of everything.
The first nine included three birdies and four bogies. He found a little more consistency on the back but bogeyed two of the first three holes before finishing the final six at even par.
He bogeyed two, birdied three, bogeyed four, birdied five, bogeyed six and eight then birdie nine and made the turn 1-over.
A wayward tee shot left of the green on the par-3 11th was followed by a missed four-foot putt just high of the hole. He then went in the trees on 12, punched out and missed a 15-footer to drop to plus-3.
He responded with a chip up to within five feet on 13, rolled in the birdie but didn't make up any more ground the rest of the way. He was three shots back of Gutschewski with three to play but bogeyed 16 when he overshot the green on his approach.
"The front nine was just so difficult. I couldn't judge any of my chip shots. It just wasn't getting up and down for me. It was difficult to make pars. I was making birdies because my putter was hot, but the consistency just wasn't there," he said.
"Then on the back, I just figured out how to hit very average shots and make pars rather than go from birdie to bogey every hole."
Scotus coach Tyler Swanson said the round he and VunCannon thought could win the tournament was anything under 70. VunCannon planned on four birdies and a bogey.
He made exactly four birdies, three of which came on the front, but also suffered seven bogies.
"The consistency in getting pars wasn't quite there for him, and he knows that," Swanson said. "He got the birdies he needed. He just made too many bogeys today."
Gutschewski teed off 40 minutes before VunCannon and made the turn at 1-under with birdies on two and six and a bogey on four. He was even par after staring the back with a bogey on 10 but went back in red numbers with a final birdie on the par-4 16th.
Zielinski was two groups ahead of VunCannon and sat at -1 through nine holes with three birdies and a double on four. He shot a 38 on the back with bogeys on 12, 14 and 17 and a birdie on 13.
VunCannon looked to have momentum on his side with a hard-earned par on 14 but never quite capitalized.
His drive landed a few paces into the right rough were a very thick lie clogged up his second shot. He pushed it just 50 yards forward then hit the green with his third shot.
From 25 feet away he angled a left to right putt up the hill, sank it and gave a slight fist pump.
"That back nine is much harder than the front. I wasn't upset with the way I played. Typically, I expect anything from 38 to 40," he said. "It's just a tougher nine, especially in this wind."
Play was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday before constant rain canceled the first round. Though that could have played a factor in lessening VunCannon's home-course advantage by shortening the tournament from 36 holes to 18, he said the top of the leaderboard likely would have remained the same.
"The two kids that beat me, they're very good golfers. I've played against them several times," he said. "Who knows what could happen in 36, but this is probably how it would have shaken out."
North Platte won the Class B boys team state championship with a team total of 326. North Platte was two shots clear of Hastings Adams Central.
VunCannon now looks ahead to Nebraska Wesleyan and continuing his time on the course with the Prairie Wolves.
Though, he will be missed.
"I hope his teammates learned that hard work pays off in golf, in any sport," Swanson said. "He worked as hard as he could at everything he did. He didn't take a day off."
Though a two-time medal winner and a four-time state qualifier, VunCannon wasn't quite ready to anoint himself as one of the best in program history.
Rather, he hopes teammates, coaches and fans remember how he tried to use the talents he was given to the best of his ability.
"How I was able to allow God to come into my life and help me. There's parallels between golf and faith and life and all that," he said. "I just hope that they're able to realize that faith is an important part of everything you do. It's not just compartmentalized into one aspect of life."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.