Troy Watson (SR/Coffeyville, Kan.) knew he had an advantage entering Kansas Wesleyan University’s Fall Golf Invitational at the Salina Country Club and was intent on playing well on his home course.
Watson, a fifth-year senior at KWU, met the challenge and a whole lot more during Tuesday’s final round.
Buoyed by pinpoint putting and an ideal day weather-wise, he scorched the course and field with a school-record 7-under-par 63 and cruised to the individual title. Watson posted a dazzling 12-under, 68-67-63—198 total, 12 shots better than runner-up Casey Dougherty of Sterling (71-71-68—210).
His record-setting effort, which included eagles on the 10th and 12th holes, helped the Coyotes dominate from start to finish en route to the team championship with an 854 score, easily outdistancing Sterling’s 897 second-place total.
“This is our home course, this is my fifth year and what a luxury to have five years at Salina Country Club. I know the course pretty well,” said Watson, who hails from Coffeyville. “All aspects of my game are coming together. I love putting on these greens and it gave me a huge advantage this week. I rolled in so many putts, that’s what helped me out a lot.”
Second-year KWU coach Coleman Houk, who was Watson’s teammate two years ago before being named as coach a year ago after serving as a graduate assistant, replacing Randy Syring in January, was impressed.
“He’s been playing well, but I would say this is the peak of him playing,” he said. “Hopefully it sticks here for a while.”
Houk attributes Watson’s sterling play to his approach to the game.
“His maturity level and his intelligence on the golf course are unmatched in the nation right now,” he said. “This is his fifth season and he looks like a seasoned veteran. His freshman year he had the talent, now’s he’s matched it with the intelligence on the golf course.”
Watson said the victory and KWU’s superb play during the fall season will help the Coyotes heading into the spring session in 2021.
“We always want to see how we are compared to our competitors, especially in the (Kansas) Conference and this let us know,” he said. “We’re ranked No. 1 in the KCAC and that’s nice to know heading into the spring and helps motivate us further.”
Watson’s teammates also had a monstrous day. Logan Vacca (SR/Coffeyville, Kan.) tied for fifth (71-73-73—217), Landon Berquist (SO/Lawrence, Kan.) placed seventh (71-75-78—224) and Austin Odom (SR/Sanger, Texas) tied for eighth (72-76-77—225). Ethan Vikander (FR/Aberdeen, S.D.) was the fifth score and tied for 12th (84-74-70—228).
Wesleyan’s B-Team also played well, finishing tied for fourth with Bethany at 904 and included a 294 total Tuesday. Matthew Freriks (JR/Stinnett, Texas) tied for fifth individually (70-75-72—216), Trevor Oberg (SO/McCook, Neb.) was 11th (82-72-72—226), Cameron Becker (SR/Coffeyville, Kan.) tied for 22nd (80-76-76—233) and Pat Mercer tied for 24th (79-76-78—233).
Wesleyan’s C-Team tied for 10th with a 977 score led by Tyler Martin (FR/Phillipsburg, Kan.), who placed 35th (78-81-79—238). Steele Schweinebraten (FR/Las Cruces, N.M.) was 40th (83-79-78—240), Ryan Lee (FR/Sugar Land, Texas) was 47th (80-84-83—247) and Zac Cepure (SR/Lincoln, Neb.) 52nd (82-89-81—252).
“We’ve got a lot of good players,” Watson said. “They’re a good group of guys to play with. Sometimes we struggle, but we fight back and look to improve each day. The guys didn’t have their best stuff this week, but they did pretty well. It’s nice to not have you’re A-game and still win.”
Houk’s pleased with his team’s steady improvement entering the KCAC Match Play tournament on October 5-6 at Mariah Hills Golf Course in Dodge City. Watson and the Coyotes entered their home tournament after winning the individual and team titles in the Ottawa Fall Invitational six days earlier.
“We have 10 or more guys who any day could be one of the lower guys,” he said. “Over the past four weeks our top five just been a revolving door, outside of Troy and Logan. It’s different every single time. To come away with a 43-shot victory is awesome. It’s not just the top five guys, the B-Team was under 300 and that’s incredible.
“We just had a poll for the match play and they put us at No. 1. It was nice to prove that right.”
KWU closes out the fall season at the Tabor Invitational on October 12-13, at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton.