Happy birthday -- Tebo gets his title
By CONOR NICHOLL
Ellis High School senior Skyler Tebo has made quite a few birdies in recent tournaments, but normally has a bad hole or two that produces a double bogey or worse.
On Tuesday, though, Tebo played a near flawless round at the perfect time. On his birthday, Tebo earned his long-awaited Class 2A state golf title when he shot a 66 (5-under) at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course to win the state championship by six shots over Ellinwood's Jared Oelke.
Before Tuesday, Tebo called his sixth-place state medal at the Class 3-2-1A wrestling this past winter his career highlight. This performance tops it.
"I can't even tell you how good it feels," Tebo said, wearing a big smile. "I think the best thing is I shot a 66."
Tebo, a four-time regional champion and one of Kansas' best junior golfers for years, had never shot better than a 76 at state and had finished third, in a tie for fifth and fourth at state. Tebo completed his career with 16 victories in a Railer uniform.
"I think Skyler just finally had his day," said Matt Carroll, Ellis coach and tournament director. "It's been four years, and he has had lots of ups and downs and I think everything just finally went his way for once."
Tebo, helped by a key scramble for par at No. 5, a short, downhill par-4, and great length off the tee, finished with seven birdies and two bogeys. Tebo had trouble finding words to describe the championship.
"It feels amazing," said Tebo, a Garden City Community College signee. "I am kind of on a high still."
He was tied with Meade's Austin Jansonius and Olathe Heritage Christian's Parke Allen with a 35 after the front nine, but then fired a 31 on the back. Oelke finished before Tebo and had the clubhouse lead, but had played with Tebo before.
"I know he's capable of going low," Oelke said. "I kind of figured he would -- we kind of expected him to be the favorite going in. ... It wasn't all that unexpected. I am surprised he went that low, though, that was surprising."
Tebo had shot a 64 at Ellis in practice rounds, but had never shot better than 69 in a tournament. Tebo became the second Railer to win state golf, joining Chris Mickelson from 1998.
Olpe finished first at 318, Sterling second at 320 and WaKeeney-Trego Community took third and the final team plaque at 322, a stroke ahead of Ellinwood and Syracuse. It marked Trego's best round of the year. The top 21 golfers all shot 80 or better; WaKeeney-Trego coach Mark Pfannenstiel couldn't recall a time when the top 20 didn't stretch into the mid-80s.
"We have been so dry, and I think a lot of people coming from back east don't realize the course is in as nice of shape as it could possibly be -- and as dry as it is," Carroll said. "I am amazed in the way it looks. The greens roll great. I think the fairways look really nice. There's a few little rough places, but everywhere around the area is that way."
Trego's Dion Reetz finished fourth with a 73, and the Eagles' Blake Huxman was sixth with a 75. Trego, the defending Class 1A champion, benefited from Syracuse once hitting the wrong ball during the day, which gave the Bulldogs a penalty.
"We had a couple of kids shoot very well today, and a couple who didn't shoot up to their potential," Pfannenstiel said. "But that is golf. On one hand, I am a little disappointed that we didn't finish higher. You can look at it another way and say, we beat two teams by one stroke. 'We could have very easily been fourth or fifth place and not taken home a medal and a third-place plaque."
Tebo hadn't played The Fort in many years, but starting three weeks ago, he played four practice rounds. In all four rounds, he played better on the back nine than on the front. Two days ago, he was 1-under through eight holes, but made a double bogey, and then went even on the back.
"After that, I knew there was a lot of birdies on the back that could be made," he said.
Tebo, with the largest following of any player, had some nerves through the first five holes.
"I am glad that a lot of people came and supported, and I am glad that I was able to make some birdies for them and shoot 66," he said.
On No. 1, a straightaway par-4, Tebo blasted his drive well ahead of his playing competitors, but also hooked it into the rough. With FHSU's open space, Tebo had an open shot to the green, narrowly missed his birdie putt and made par.
Carroll estimated Tebo was hitting tee shots 340-350 yards off the tee.
"He hits the ball so far off the tee," Carroll said. "That puts him in an advantage compared to the rest of the kids in his group. I think that makes a big difference, but he was just able to get up and down and make some putts when he needed to. I don't think anyone else could have done any better. He played really well."
On the fifth, Tebo hit it under a tree, putted it out and got up-and-down to save par from around 40 yards. Allen, also in Tebo's group, drove the green with his tee shot and had a chance to eagle. Allen made birdie and Tebo's par allowed him to drop just one shot.
From there, Tebo's only miss-hit came on a tee shot on No. 11, a par-3. He made bogey, but then made four birdies after that, including a chip-in on No. 13.
"It seemed like a switch kind of clicked right there," Carroll said. "It kind of took the wind out of (Allen's) sails and really gave Skyler a boost. He kind of just went on a tear from there on out."