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Ben Daane

Rapid City Stevens' Ben Daane watches his tee shot on Hole No. 6 during his round in the Yankton Invitational boys' golf tournament on Friday at Yankton's Hillcrest Golf and Country Club.

Plenty of sunshine and light winds, a golfer’s delight, are expected to greet South Dakota’s premier high school boys golfers on Monday when they tee it up at the 2019 South Dakota High School Athletic Associations state championships in Yankton (Class AA, Hillcrest CC) and Vermillion (Class A, The Bluffs).

Sioux Falls Lincoln (AA) and Tea Area (A) look to defend 2018 State titles, and though new individual champions will be crowned in both classes, many of the 2018 title contenders do return. Here’s a preview of the teams and individuals to watch.

CLASS AA

A couple of Rapid City Steven seniors, Adam Salter and Ben Daane, will tee it up for the last time in Raider blue on Monday and Tuesday as the duo close out their prep careers at the Hillcrest Country Club in Yankton in what will be their fourth consecutive appearance at the state tournament.

They're very successfully as well, as Salter placed in a tie for second in last year’s state tournament, while Daane earned a share of fourth at the Brookings Country Club.

The only two seniors on the Raider roster, they will be joined in Yankton by juniors Sam Lesselyoung, Nick Sliper and Jonah Swartz, and 8th grader Jackson Swartz.

“Ben and Adam have been great leaders for the rest of the team,” Raider coach Nick Rotella said. “And they also provide excellent competition for each other. Ben won most of the meets earlier in the year, and then Adam started winning some later in the year, so in competing with each other, they have made out team better.”

The tight Hillcrest layout demands accuracy off the tee, a factor that Daane thinks may work to his advantage.

“It has tighter fairways and is not too long, so it doesn’t give the longer players much of an advantage and instead favors accuracy,” Daane said. “And its really tight around the greens so you have to be on point with your wedges and putting, and I think that gives our team a little advantage.”

Salter seconded his teammate’s read of a course that demands accuracy with the big stick.

“For me it will depend upon how I am off the tee,” Salter said. “If you get hit fairways off the tee, it isn’t a very hard course, but if not, it is one of the hardest courses in the state. It’s been a good year. I’ve had a couple wins, and I haven’t had any round that have been too far off. I’m not exactly where I would like to be right now, but good enough to compete.”

In the race for the team title, a Sioux Falls Lincoln team that edged Stevens by four strokes for the 2018 state title is perhaps the favorite as the Patriots outdistanced the field in the Sioux Falls City tournament, led by medalist Nash Stenberg.

“Sioux Falls Lincoln and Sioux Falls Roosevelt are probably the favorites with O’Gorman and Yankton a little bit behind them, and then I think we are right there waiting in the wings,” Rotella said. “We are not necessarily a favorite like in the past, but I like playing as underdog and I think if we get four good scores tomorrow, we are capable of surprising some people.”

As for individual honors, golf being golf, it’s anybody’s guess.

“I don’t think anybody is head-and-shoulders above the pack,” Rotella added. “I think the number one player on six or seven teams is capable of winning. You could play ten times and have ten different winners.”

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Other area competitors who could make a move on the leaderboard include Rapid City Central’s Alex Duran, who has fashioned a very solid season for the Cobblers including copping medalist honors at the Rapid City Invite. Duran will be joined by teammates Seth Stock, Ethan Dotson, Benjamin Gibson and Logun Mason.

Spearfish’s Sam Grout could make some noise at state also as the junior lapped the field at the Black Hills Conference tournament winning by a whopping 12 strokes. Other Spearfish team members include Dane Burghduff, Jack Hight, Preston Hazldine, Charlie Rasmusson and Josh Sundsted.

Douglas will send a four-man team to Yankton: Sawyer Brose, Derrick Brown, Andrew Divis and Gage Hodgkins.

CLASS A

Sioux Falls Christian will carry the favorite’s tag as the Chargers (324) displayed impressive depth to claim the Region 2A title over Lennox (333), defending champion Tea Area (336), and Vermillion (340).

Contenders for medalist honors include Braden Eimers (Madison, 4th in 2018), Cameron Caldwell (Chamberlain, 5th), Alex Vande Greind (SF Christian), Paul Bruns and Keaton Hensley (Dakota Valley), Ryan Whistler (Vermillion) all of whom tied for 6th in last year’s event.

Lance Christensen, Jr. shared 6th as well, and the Little Wound junior appears to be playing well coming off a second-place finish (84) behind Custer’s Austin Eggers (80) in the Region 4A tournament at Hart Ranch.

Among Black Hills area teams, Custer would seem to be carrying West River hopes as the Wildcats will be led by 4A medalist senior Austin Eggers (T-22nd) and junior Dustyn Fish.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to finish in the top five and to do that we will have to go out and play well,” Custer coach Paul Kelley said. “Austin finished high last year and has hopes of doing better, and we also think Dustyn Fish, our number two, could get up there. But you do need that three four and five to post some good scores, too.”

Senior Dylan Polzine, junior Gunnery Prior, and 8th grader Ryder Bailey hope to fill those roles.

St. Thomas More and Hot Springs also qualified teams to compete for the state title.

The young Cavalier team will be represented by juniors Cade Jacobson and Baxter Meyer, and sophomores Cade Kandolin, Sam Gibbon and Luke Ponto.

Teeing it up for Hot Springs will be Zane Cope, Hayden Vanbibber, Jacob Harris, Tregg Kilby and Modes Kerr.

Other area golfers competing include Lance Sutter and Alex Voyles (Belle Fourche) and Kaleb Brave Eagle (Little Wound).

The two-day, 36-hole State tournament event begins at both locations at 8 a.m. (MT) on Monday and concludes and Tuesday with a 8 p.m. start as well.

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