TITLEIST … AGAIN: Team effort propels Hawks to another HOIC golf title

POLK CITY – Braxton Risetter has a great golf game, but a terrible poker face.

A birdie received a quick hop as he sauntered towards the hole, while a bogey earned the cup a glare as the South Hamilton senior made his way around the tricky, tree-lined Tournament Club of Iowa yesterday afternoon.

Par is always a solid score on the par-71 terrain and Risetter had many of them, even if most left him sighing as he exited the greens.

His score was the envy of the other 59 golfers in the field at the Heart of Iowa Conference tournament.

He felt it was just ho-hum.

Ho-hum 71, to quote him accurately.

“It was good, but I left a lot of shots out there,” Risetter said. “I was happy with a 71, but it could have been better.”

It was good enough.

Risetter’s even-par round earned him the individual conference title by two shots and sparked top-ranked (Class 2A) South Hamilton to its second consecutive league team championship and third in four years.

The Hawks posted a 310 to clip No. 8-ranked (3A) and runner-up Gilbert (312) by two shots. The two teams littered the leaderboard, combining for 10 of the top 13 scores.

Prairie City-Monroe (325) was the only other team within a country mile of the leaders.

Most of the South Hamilton and Gilbert players milled around the clubhouse for an hour before they finally heard the results. Fist pumps and handshakes were common from the Hawk players and their supporters.

“I knew it was going to be between us and Gilbert, so I’m just tickled,” South Hamilton head coach Mark Ullestad said. “This is definitely the best we’ve played and it’s a good springboard for what we’ve got coming up.”

It took an entire team to fend off the Tigers.

Less than a week after returning from a long absence because of mononucleosis, Jordan Bowers – trimmed down by 15 pounds – went pin-seeking all day on his way to a 77 and fifth-place finish. Trevor Ullestad, the 2013 HOIC medalist, was eighth with a 79 and Nathan Sogard placed 12th with an 83.

Jordan Toillion also shot an 83.

“I’m glad we won as a team more than the individual because beating Gilbert is a bigger milestone,” Risetter, the No. 1-ranked individual in 2A, said. “Going on from here, if we all play well, we have a chance to keep on winning.”

Risetter’s round featured five birdies. He shot a 2-under 33 on the front, but became frustrated midway through the 5-hour trek after missed birdie chances at Nos. 9, 10 and 11. He pulled his second shot into the trees at the par-4 12th and had to swallow a double-bogey, but he quickly recovered by getting up and down out of a green side bunker for birdie at the par-5 13th.

He closed out his day with a birdie at the par-4 18th and a tap-in par at the par-5 first.

“Braxton obviously played solid, so that was awesome,” Mark Ullestad said. “He played under control and didn’t do anything fancy. If he wants to dial it up and go after it, he has those capabilities.”

Bowers was steady early and on fire late. He threw darts off the tee at the 15th and 16th, both par 3s, and made birdies. Three holes later he nearly jarred a bunker shot at the first and tapped in for another birdie.

“I’m pretty much back to 100 percent and I feel like most of my game is back,” Bowers said. “I had a pretty rough round here (last) Tuesday, so I took a few days off and I think that really helped.”

Trevor Ullestad’s round started flawlessly and he walked to the sixth tee at 1-under. But trouble crept up quickly at the 423-yard, par-4 and it led to a quadruple-bogey 8. He found the water three holes later and penciled in a double-bogey at the par-4 ninth, and he was never able to recover on the back.

“Trevor got a little flustered, but he’s a senior and he’ll figure it out,” Mark Ullestad said. “I’m not worried about him at all.”

Risetter wasn’t concerned either. In fact, he was thinking about the big picture when talking about his teammate.

“Trevor didn’t play as well as he normally does and we still won, so I think that speaks volumes,” Risetter said. “If he shoots what he should and I shoot what I should, we’re able to shoot in the 290s and that’s tough to beat in 2A.”

Sogard played out of the No. 6 slot in the Hawks’ lineup and thrived. He birdied the par-5 fourth and par-4 13th holes.

PCM’s Devon Woody claimed the runner-up medal with a 73. Colfax-Mingo’s Jimmy Abell fired a 76 to take third.

South Hamilton will have a few days to enjoy the victory before it travels to Story City to face Roland-Story at River Bend Golf Course on Thursday.