There are some beautifully manicured lawns alongside the 11th fairway at Manhattan Country Club, but since all of them are out of bounds, they are no place for a golfer to hang out. When Manhattan High sophomore Cole Dillon drove into one of those lawns during Monday’s Manhattan Invitational, it looked like the end of a promising round.
Dillon had come to the 11th tee leading the shotgun format through 11 holes. But that status lasted only as long as it took him to drive a second ball into trouble, play out, chip short, and record a triple bogey on the 330-yard, downwind par 4, a hole generally viewed as one of the course’s easiest. Momentarily rattled, he bogeyed 12 and 13, then slammed his drive on the 550-yard par 5 14th into an adjacent fairway.
“I snap-hooked it,” Dillon said of his first drive on the hole.
One under par at the time, he acknowledged that nerves may have gotten the best of him.
“I don’t know,” Dillon said of that prospect. But if it was nerves that got to him over those three holes, they left just as quickly. He recovered to drop a 10-foot birdie putt on 14, chipped delicately within three feet to save par on 15, drained a daunting 20-yard chip on 16, then slammed a 9-iron 12 feet directly above the hole and curled that downhill putt home on 17 to record a 71.
The score gave Dillon medalist honors by three strokes.
“For him to shoot 71 with a triple bogey — that’s pretty special,” MHS coach Brad Ficke said.
Dillon’s teammates could not replicate his performance on a day when 20-mph gusts sent scores flying for almost all of the 13 teams competing. As a result, MHS finished second with a team total of 319, 11 strokes behind Washburn Rural.
The Indians’ top two players, junior twins David and Scott Woods, both suffered through rounds that found them in the mid 80s at 84 and 85, respectively. Only one other Indian, senior Drew Kohlmeier, landed a spot in the Top 10, shooting an even 80 to claim seventh. Pierson McAtee carded an 84, while Drew Casper finished with an 85.
Ficke lauded Dillon’s medalist effort and was also happy for Kohlmeier, but was less satisfied by the team finish.
“That shows (Dillon) what he can do,” Ficke said. “We easily could have been 10 to 15 strokes better. You’d like the scores at your home course to be lower.”
The key hole for Dillon was 16, a 350-yard par 4 dead into the wind. He drove solidly, leaving about 120 yards to the whipping flag, only to badly pull his approach near the adjacent fifth tee. Between his ball and the hole 20 yards away stood a fully grown pine tree.
“I thought about trying to go over it with a wedge,” he acknowledged.
But recognizing that chancing such a maneuver could have brought a six, seven or higher into play, Dillon turned instead to his 6-iron for a bump and run. He struck it perfectly into the bank short of the putting surface, then watched as the ball rolled to the hole and wedged itself between the lip and the flagstick.
A few gusts of wind fluttered the stick sufficiently to permit the ball to drop home for a hardly-routine three. What a few seconds earlier looked like a bogey at best had suddenly transformed into a birdie. Yet another birdie on 17 — Dillon’s third on the round’s final four holes — finalized the 71.
Topeka Seaman finished third with a team score of 325. A second Manhattan team shot 378 to tie for 10th place in the 13-team field. Freshman Cole Gritton led that team with an 89, while Dylan Gross shot 90.