PLEASANT HILL — The past two years have seen unfulfilled expectations for the Ottumwa High School boys golf team.
And then there was Tuesday, where just enough went wrong to deny the Bulldogs yet again.
The Bulldogs received a state-qualifying round from Joe Hammer, but Ottumwa couldn't seal that coveted trip to the state meet, falling two agonizing strokes short of qualifying during the Class 4A district meet at Copper Creek Golf Course.
"It seemed like when we'd have a couple bad holes, we started to press," Ottumwa coach Kyle Creamer said. "That's just golf, and high school sports in general. It's tough right now."
Southeast Polk shot a 315 to claim the district title on its home course, while West Des Moines Valley (318) and Ames (324) also qualified as teams. Ottumwa's 326 was its worst 18-hole total of the season.
Hammer's 6-over par 77 was third individually, and he will play in the state meet Friday and Saturday at the Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City because he was the second-lowest individual from a non-qualifying team.
Still, it won't be the same.
"It's not like any one of us played bad, but we were just consistently worse than we've been, and it took a hit on the team score," Hammer said. "I putted really well today, probably the best I've putted all year. I was pretty inconsistent off the tee, but I made up for it around the greens."
At times, the course played long because of a stiff breeze, but there were also pin placements that made approach shots difficult to get close to the hole. The course also played soft because of recent rain, but it's a course where the Bulldogs have traditionally played well.
"I think if you ask any of our guys if there were two shots apiece they'd like to take back, I'll bet they could give you five," Creamer said. "I'm proud of all of our kids. I'm happy, certainly for Joe, but I'm disappointed as well."
Hammer's round didn't start well. He was 1-over after four holes before five straight pars settled his round. He did enough on the back nine to advance to state by three shots.
"There were pin placements where if you had a downhill putt, it was tough to stop," Hammer said. "There were times you just couldn't get it to the hole."
"For the longest time I thought he was going to win it individually," Creamer said. "He really stuck with it today, really held it together and tightened up his game around the greens the last three or four holes."
Cale Leonard shot an 80 for the Bulldogs to end his tournament winning streak at three, a stretch in which he was a cumulative 3-under. Steven Langland added an 83 in the final meet of his high school career, while Trent Grooms' 86 counted as the final score. Tyler Brown (91) and Noah Bjerke (92) completed the team.
Ottumwa came into the tournament playing some of its best golf in a long time; the Bulldogs statistically should have moved on as their season average for 18 holes would have place them third.
"Super sad for our seniors, Steven, Tyler and Noah," Creamer said. "We hadn't made it as a team since Steven was a freshman, and we really wanted to send him out on the right note.
"We fully anticipated making it as a team this year, but it's one day, and you have to execute. There was a little pressure I think, and we just couldn't get it done."
Class 4A district meet
at Copper Creek G.C.
(Top three qualify for state meet)
1. Southeast Polk, 315; 2. West Des Moines Valley, 318; 3. Ames, 324; 4. Ottumwa, 326; 5. Urbandale, 328; 6. Johnston, 336; 7. Indianola, 340; 8. Des Moines Lincoln, 345; 9. Des Moines Roosevelt, 346; 10. Des Moines Hoover, 361; 11. Mason City, 385; 12. Des Moines North, 461; 13. Des Moines East, 497.
Individual state qualifiers
Tom Krapfl (Ind), 75; Joe Hammer (O), 77.
Ottumwa — Cale Leonard, 40-40—80; Joe Hammer, 36-41—77; Steven Langland, 41-42—83; Noah Bjerke, 46-46—92; Trent Grooms, 40-46—86; Tyler Brown, 47-44—91.