By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
CLINTON -- If this were another sport, what the Burlington golfers pulled off Wednesday might be called a “Hail Mary” or a “buzzer-beater.”
The Clinton High players had their eyes on the leader board having wrapped up a steady team round of 324 at The Oaks. It was the River Kings’ best round this season, coach Paul Niedermeyer said, coming fashionably on Clinton’s home turf.
Best of all, senior Ryan Rursch was atop the standings with a 77, good for ninth all-time in the history of the Clinton Varsity Invitational. But as the Grayhounds scores were posted, two more 77s appeared alongside Zach Swink’s 76.
“They (Clinton golfers) were all feeling really good about themselves,” Niedermeyer said. “Then Burlington posted their scores and it was like, ‘Aw man.’
“That’s the one thing about golf. It’s not like other sports; there’s no defense. You go out and put the best number you can up there. You can’t knock their ball away from the hole.”
Rursch settled for a second place tie despite playing his best round as a varsity River King. As a team, Clinton dropped to third place out of eight behind Burlington’s 310 and Muscatine’s 317.
In most other tournaments, Niedermeyer explained, Rursch would have at least walked away with some hardware after his top-10 finish. But the coach structured the Clinton Invitational to reward the lowest scorers at each grade level.
“It just so happens I do the class medals,” Niedermeyer said. “So he basically walks away with no medal. He deserves to get a medal for a round like that.”
Swink took senior medalist honors for the Grayhounds. His teammates -- junior Brian Petersen and sophomore Jared Hoelzen -- medalled in their respective classes with 77s.
Although the tournament ended in disappointment, Niedermeyer said the Clinton players had a lot to hang their hats on. Junior Koby Cleary bounced back from a front-nine 42 with an even-par 36 on the back, giving him a 78 overall. Cleary, too, was edged by a Burlington player for the junior class medal despite turning in his finest round of the season.
River Kings’ freshman Jake Luett was third among Clinton scorers with an 83, good enough to earn him the ninth-grade medal. Justin Tomona rounded out counted River King scores with his 43-43-86.
The 324 team total was what stood out to Niedermeyer, who said midway through the tournament he would settle for a score in the 330s. The impressive finish sets Clinton on a good track leading up to the Mississippi Athletic Conference tournament on Friday and Saturday.
He saw River Kings players dropping their heads when the final scores were announced and tried to give them some perspective.
“I said, guys, it’s all right. You played good today,” Niedermeyer said.
“I definitely would rank this round up there,” Rursch said hours after the tournament. He parred 12 of 18 holes with a birdie, four bogeys and a double bogey. “That brings with it some pride as well. It feels really good to do so well at my home course. It does Clinton good.”
Rursch said his knowledge of The Oaks was critical to his low score.
“Having that club selection really is a benefit to your round,” he said just after his round was over.
“I played about as well as I could,” Rursch said later. “The kid shot a little bit better than me so he deserves all the kudos. I was a little disappointed, I guess, but overall I couldn’t really change the outcome.”
What prided Rursch was the collective team effort.
“This is the best we’ve played,” he said. “It shows that we aren’t just four guys out there. We’ve got really good depth on our team. ... Where my game is right now, I’m extremely confident in it. Everybody’s on the up swing.”
The MAC Conference Golf Tournament begins Friday at 8 a.m. at the Kewanee Dunes Golf Course in Kewanee, Ill. Round 2 concludes Saturday afternoon.
CLINTON BOYS VARSITY INVITATIONAL
Team standings: 1. Burlington 310, 2. Muscatine 317, 3. Clinton 324, 4. North Scott 332, 5. Davenport Assumption 335, 6. Davenport West 342, 7. Pleasant Valley 357, 8. Davenport North 365.
Individual top-10: 1. Zach Swink (Burl, tournament medalist) 76; t-2. Ryan Rursch (Clinton), Jay Morgan (N. Scott), Jared Hoelzen (Burl) and Brian Petersen (Burl) 77; t-6. Koby Cleary (Clinton) and Ryan Solt (Musc) 78; 8. Peter Hutton (Musc) 79; t-9. Jace Mueller (Burl), Rayce Miller (Musc) and Jaden Carey (Musc) 80.
Senior medalist: Swink (Burl) 76.
Junior medalist: Petersen (Burl) 77.
Sophomore medalist: Hoelzen (Burl) 77.
Freshman medalist: Jake Luett (Clinton) 83.
Other Clinton scores: Justin Tomona 86; Aaron Henry 89; Jordan Ready 94; Tyler Schutte 96; David Orte 101.