More than six years have passed since the day Tim Hiebert was working the clubhouse at Cherry Oaks Golf Course in Cheney and noticed a young boy practicing his game for hours one afternoon.
When the boy came into the clubhouse for a break, Hiebert, the golf coach at Cheney high school, suggested a new drill he could try. The boy spent the next two hours trying to complete the putting challenge.
“That was the day I knew he was winning a state championship,” Hiebert said. “In golf, work ethic is paramount and he demonstrated that as a 12-year-old.”
Harrison Middleton, the boy Hiebert met on the course that day, fulfilled that destiny on Tuesday when the Cheney senior won the Class 3A individual state championship with his 2-under round of 68 from Monday at Salina Municipal Golf Course. The second round on Tuesday was canceled due to rain, which meant Middleton, Monday’s leader, was the winner.
“I always dreamed of this,” Middleton said. “I knew I was capable of it, it was just a matter of doing it. It was all mental for me. Once I got past that mental barrier, I knew I could achieve it.”
It capped a remarkable run in May for the left-hander, who won all six of his tournaments and finished with a season-low round of 68 in Salina, the same place where he opened with a season-high round of 81 back on April 8.
Middleton said he was fully aware of the forecast for rain on Tuesday, which impacted his strategy on Monday.
“I had a feeling we might not play again, so I went for everything,” Middleton said. “It felt like a round of golf with my friends. No laying up, going after every pin. It was full steam ahead, guns blazing.”
That aggressive mentality led to five birdies, the most important the final one on the final hole of his round on the 500-yard Par 5 No. 9. Middleton’s second shot had left him in the rough about 25 yards from the pin, but he delivered his best chip shot of the round to put him six feet away.
Middleton calmly sank the putt, not knowing that the up-and-down for birdie had just won him a state championship by one stroke over Hesston sophomore Camden Waterson, who birdied four of his final five holes to make a charge at the lead.
“We have this video of him making the putt on 18 and he doesn’t have any idea how important that putt was,” said Nanci Middleton, his mother. “Now we know. It’s just so awesome. He picked the best day to have one of his best rounds of golf.”
Nanci and Jason Middleton remember when Harrison actually preferred basketball when he was younger. He still played through high school and remained a talented player, earning honorable mention all-state honors on a Cheney team that finished 22-1 this season.
But when the family moved to Cherry Oaks and became members at the golf course, Harrison had found a new love. He used to spend hours at the course and during the summer he would wait until 3 p.m. when his mother clocked out of work to play even longer.
“In the summer when it got hot, he didn’t like walking the course and he couldn’t rent a cart until he was 16,” Nanci Middleton said. “So he would be there waiting for me every day when I got off work to drive him around in the cart. I loved doing it. He was such a natural at golf.”
And now all of those hours at Cherry Oak as a kid have paid off with a state championship and a chance to golf in college at Friends.
“I always loved the highs of (golf),” Middleton said. “Nothing feels better than a good round.”
Bishop Carroll, Kapaun Mt. Carmel come away with state titles
Bishop Carroll junior Noah Holtzman etched his name as one of the all-time greats in the program by winning the Class 5A individual state championship with his 1-under round of 71 on Monday at Quail Ridge golf course in Winfield.
Hotlzman held off a loaded field that included Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s 1-2 punch of junior Conner Geist and sophomore Asher Whitaker, who both finished one stroke behind Holtzman in a tie for second place. Tuesday’s round was canceled due to rain, which finalized Monday’s leaderboard after 18 holes.
“It means a lot because our school has a lot of really good history, so it will be cool to look up at the banners and see this,” Holtzman said.
It concluded an impressive postseason run by Holtzman, which also included the valiant effort to help Carroll unseat Kapaun as the City League champions with Holtzman shooting the low score to also earn individual honors.
Holtzman was coming off his best summer to date, as he finished in the top-5 of the Kansas Junior Amateur and qualified for the Kansas-Nebraska Cup team. He now joins a short list of just three golfers at Carroll to win a state title in Zach Cleland (2003) and Rod Nuckolls (1972, 1975).
“This is by far the most impressive season we’ve had for an individual since I’ve been here,” Carroll coach Mark Berger said. “Noah is just a tremendous ball-striker. He’s so solid and consistent that he rarely has to scramble.”
Holtzman was actually left frustrated by his round on Monday, despite being the only competitor under par. He 2-under through 14, but back-to-back bogeys left him even par. He didn’t know it at the time, but his birdie on the 394-yard Par-4 No. 18 is what sealed the championship.
“I hit 15 out of 18 greens, so that’s a pretty good recipe for success,” Holtzman said. “I played pretty well, but I missed a couple short putts and I feel like I could have shot a lot better.”
While Geist and Whitaker came one stroke shy of individual honors, they didn’t go home empty handed: their scores helped power Kapaun to its second straight Class 5A team state championship and 33rd in school history.
The Crusaders are slated to return all six of their members from the state championship team which also included individual medalists in junior Quaid Oliver (75, tied for seventh) and sophomore Noah Pirtle (77, tied for 13th), as well as junior Spencer Seachris and junior Gabe Grier.
Wichita-area medalists from state golf tournaments
At the Class 5A state tournament at Quail Ridge in Winfield, Eisenhower came away with a second-place team trophy with a team score of 307, led by a trio of top-20 finishes in senior Emery Kaylor (75, tied for seventh), junior Carson Wright (75, tied for seventh) and sophomore Tyler Hardtafer (78, tied for 17th).
Other area medalists in 5A were Andover senior James Hill (73, tied for fourth), Maize South senior Kyle Kasitz (73, tied for fourth) and Andover freshman Aidan Nguyen (77, tied for 13th).
At the Class 4A state tournament at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Wellington had its run at defending its team title end in anticlimactic fashion with Tuesday’s cancellation that left the Crusaders four strokes short of Bishop Miege’s winning score of 324. Wellington seniors Deitrek Gill (77, fourth) and Brett Wyckoff (81, tied for ninth) came away with top-10 finishes.
McPherson won the third-place team trophy with a score of 331, led by top-15 finishes from sophomore Blaise Hoover (81, tied for ninth), senior Parker VanCampen (81, tied for ninth) and senior Gus Ruddle (82, tied for 12th).
Other area medalists in 4A included Augusta senior Chadd Brown (76, second), Pratt freshman Grant McAtee (79, sixth) and Buhler junior Logan Day (86, tied for 18th).
Hesston won the Class 3A team state championship with a score of 319, edging Santa Fe Trail out by two strokes. The Swathers were led by sophomore Camden Waterson’s runner-up finish and senior Ty Schroeder, who finished tied for 10th place with a round of 80. Other team members were senior Jace Regier, freshman Grant Waterson, junior Eric Schmidt and sophomore Palmer Welsh.
At the Class 1A state tournament at Hesston golf course, Hutchinson Central Christian won the team with a score of 355 and freshman Ryland Kooiman won individual honors with a 5-over round of 76. Other team members were freshman Nathan Reed (85, tied for eighth), junior Andrew Yoder, senior David Weis, senior Carson Hamby and junior Gage Regehr. Other area medalists included Goessel sophomore Noah Schrag (80, fourth) and Dexter junior Cale Shorter (85, tied for eighth).