LIVERMORE - The top of the heap was always the goal, but deep down the South Hamilton boys' golf team knew that would be a formidable task.
And that's why bringing home a trophy - any trophy - from the Class 2A state meet was reason to celebrate.
Sitting in third after the opening round on Friday at Spring Valley Golf Course, the Hawks were unable to make a serious run at the leaders over the final 18 holes on Saturday and stayed put to finish in the bronze-medal position for the second time in three years.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
South Hamilton junior Braxton Risetter lines up his putt on the par-4 18th hole at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore on Friday during the opening day of the Class 2A state meet. Risetter shot rounds of 78 and 82 on Friday and Saturday to finish tied for seventh, as he led the Hawks to a third-place team finish.
"Anytime you go up against the field and teams we have done the past couple of weeks and finish third in the state, that's a great accomplishment for the kids," South Hamilton head coach Mark Ullestad said after he led his program to its third straight top-four finish at the state meet. "Sure, we would have loved to get first or second, but it was good to bring home a trophy."
Waterloo Columbus (313-319-632) claimed its second consecutive state championship by 15 shots over runner-up Prairie City-Monroe (316-331-647). South Hamilton (320-337-657) finished 10 more shots in back of its HOIC rival.
Mount Vernon (325-340-665) and Des Moines Christian (348-340-688) rounded out the top five.
CLASS 2A STATE MEET
At Spring Valley Golf Course
Friday and Saturday
1. Waterloo Columbus 313-319-632; 2. Prairie City-Monroe 316-331-647; 3. South Hamilton 320-337-657; 4. Mount Vernon 325-340-665; 5. Des Moines Christian 348-340-688; 6. Fort Dodge St. Edmond 337-354-691; 7. OA-BCIG 349-349-698; 8. Durant 358-349-707.
Individual Top 10
1. Jack Conway (Columbus) 79-71-150; 2. Ryan Minor (DM Christian) 76-76-152; 3. Hunter Van Veen (PCM) 76-78-154; 4. Eddie Doyle (St. Edmond) 76-81-157; 5. (tie) Dakota Miller (OA-BCIG) 81-77-158, Mike Myers (Emmetsburg) 75-83-158; 7. (tie) Braxton Risetter (So. Hamilton) 78-82-160, Jace Holton (Columbus) 76-84-160, Sean Cavanaugh (Columbus) 81-79-160, Chris Sturdivant (DM Christian) 81-79-160.
South Hamilton Scores
T-7. Braxton Risetter 78-82-160; T-13. Trevor Ullestad 78-84-162; T-17. Jake Haugland 80-83-163; 31. Jordan Toillion 84-88-172; 35. Jordan Bowers 88-90-178; T-44. Lucas Fisher 94-94-188.
South Hamilton sat in a comfortable chasing position after Friday's round, only seven shots behind the Sailors and four in back of the Mustangs. But Saturday's grind included much tougher elements; it was cold and windy with sporadic rain showers.
"We didn't play as well (on Saturday), but obviously the elements had a lot to do with that," Ullestad said, noting there was a rain delay after the players had played only two or three holes. "I thought we could make a push and we usually pride ourselves on being a strong second-day team, but that just didn't happen. We just weren't able to make that push."
Junior Braxton Risetter, who finished in a four-way tie for seventh to lead the team, admitted that catching Columbus, even in optimum conditions, would have been a struggle.
"It was a race for second with Waterloo playing, so we were pretty happy with third," he said after posting rounds of 78 and 82 for a 36-hole total of 160. "I was surprised anyone came in under 75 (on Saturday) because it was ridiculous out there."
Risetter wasn't completely satisfied with either of his rounds, which he said included bouts of trouble around the greens, but says he'll accept that spot this year.
"I'm not really upset with seventh, but I know I could have done better," Risetter said.
Classmate Trevor Ullestad shot a matching 78 on Friday, but struggled to an 84 on Saturday. His 162 total put him in a tie for 13th and left him less than pleased, his dad and coach said.
"Trevor wasn't happy," Mark Ullestad said. "He doesn't like playing up there for some reason, but no excuses, he didn't play well (on Saturday)."
Senior Jake Haugland (80-83-163) capped a courageous season by sharing 17th place. He opened Friday's round with seven consecutive pars and shot South Hamilton's second lowest round on Saturday.
Fighting non-Hodgkin lymphoma all season, Haugland's unrelenting resolve was a daily boost to his teammates and coach.
"I was happy to see Jake go out with a trophy," Mark Ullestad said. "He was pretty happy with how he played and I was, too."
Jordan Toillion (84-88-172) sat all alone in the 31st position for the Hawks. Jordan Bowers (88-90-178) finished 35th, and Lucas Fisher (94-94-188) shared 44th.
Columbus senior Jack Conway claimed the Sailors' second individual title in three years. After opening with a 79 on Friday, Conway fired a blistering one-under-par 71 in the mud and muck on Saturday; his 150 total nipped runner-up Ryan Minor (76-76-152) of Des Moines Christian by two strokes. PCM's Hunter Van Veen (76-78-154) was third.
Van Veen began Friday's round with a bogey and double-bogey on his first two holes, but he righted the ship with an eagle and two birdies during a three-hole stretch. He came within one rotation of a double-eagle at the par-5 12th.
Trevor Ullestad, Risetter, Toillion and Bowers will all return next season, giving the Hawks reason to believe that the state hasn't heard the last of them.
"I know Trevor and I aren't happy with how we finished this year, so we're going to work hard over the summer," Risetter said. "We definitely know we can get a state title next year if we work hard."