Experience had the better of it on Thursday as 102 of the state’s top golfers teed it up in opening round qualifying play in the 2018 South Dakota State Match Play Championships at the Golf Club at Red Rock.
Playing in overcast, damp conditions for a portion of the day, a trio of Rapid City golfers, all of whom are familiar with the Red Rock layout, had the best of it in themen’s qualifying round play.
And in women’s qualifying round, Hallie Getz of Pierre, 2012 high school state champion, 2016 match play champion and South Dakota State University graduate, earned the top seed in the women’s division firing the low round of the day, a 67, highlighted by a five-birdie barrage on the back nine.
TJ Nolan, a Rapid City Stevens grad and current member of the Grand Canyon University golf team, posted the low round of the day on the men’s side, carding a three-under 69, one shot better (70) than fellow Rapid Citian Tyler Rachetto, the 2011 match play champion.
“I didn’t get off to a really good start, but I gave myself good opportunities all day. I was kind of going for the middle of the greens and avoid going for any pins and making a big number,” said Nolan, a junior at Grand Canyon. “I stumbled a little bit on 17 trying to get too cute with a shot and ended up with my only bogey of the day, but other than that, I played pretty consistently throughout the round. I would say avoiding big mistakes was the key to my round.”
And a little course knowledge came in handy as well.
“Definitely. There are a number of blind tee shots out there and you have to know the sightlines," Nolan added. “And also there is a lot of slope in the greens, and knowing the greens is definitely an advantage for me since I play there quite a bit. I know where to miss the ball and leave myself a makeable putt.”
And 68 year-old Mike Brummer, a 17-time South Dakota state titlist, continuing to age like a fine wine rounded out the Rapid City contingent atop the leaderboard, firing a one-under 71.
“I hit the ball well missing only two fairways and three greens, and ended up making four birdies along with three bogeys,” Brummer said. “And I putted well, so it was a great combination today. To my advantage, it’s not a bomber’s course, which helps me out since I’m not as long as I used to be. Instead, you have to keep the ball in play, hit the middle of the green and two putt.”
The highlight of Brummer’s round may have been a series of impressive bounce-backs.
“Everytime I bogeyed a hole, I came right back with a birdie on the next hole. That helped to keep me on track and took the pressure off,” Brummer said. “Today you just wanted to nit some good shots and go into tomorrow’s play with some confidence. After all, tomorrow we all start out at even par.
Defending state champion, Alex Shattuck of Sioux Falls, posted an even par 72.
Getz earned the top-seed in the women’s bracket by firing a blistering 31 on the back nine, her best ever nine-hole total. After a par on No. 10, Getz ran off consecutive birdies on holes, 11-13, added two more on 15 and 16 to conclude the day’s best round.
“I actually didn’t have to work too hard for the birdies,” Getz said. “I hit my irons really close to the pins and my putts were going in. I think I made only one putt outside of 15 feet. Everything else was about three feet away from the hole, which made it easy to shoot a low score.”
Like Nolan, Getz credited Red Rock experience as a contributing factor to her outstanding round.
“Actually, I think this is my favorite course in South Dakota. I worked and played out here in Rapid City when I was a junior in high school, the summer of the Pierre flood, and was able to play at Red Rock quite a lot, ” Getz added. “From playing here, I knew where to place the ball on the greens, and though we teed off in the rain, which can be mentally challenging, the sun came out late in the round, which worked to my advantage.”
Another Jackrabbit, Parkston’s Sydney Bormann, a three-time Class A state champion (2014-16), was five shots back (72), followed by defending state match play champion Katie Bartlett of Pierre and Maggie Murphy of Brookings with matching 75’s.
Tara Hofer of the Golf Club at Red Rock led the local contingent with a 76.
Seeded bracket match play begins on Friday at Red Rock, followed by another series of double-round matches on Saturday. The State Match Play Championships concludes on Sunday with morning semifinal rounds, followed by the championship match in the afternoon.