OTTUMWA — On the surface, the scene of high school golfers competing at Cedar Creek Golf Course might not seem that significant.
It became a little more significant, however, based on the official news that many knew would be coming sooner rather than later.
The Ottumwa boys golf team, playing without top junior Cale Leonard, edged three CIML Metro Conference rivals in the first home meet of the season for the Bulldogs. Five OHS golfers finished among the top seven individual scores, helping Ottumwa post a nine-hole team score of 166 (+22) to edge out Des Moines Hoover by nine strokes, Des Moines Lincoln by 11 and Des Moines East by 56.
It was Ottumwa’s first win in three meets this year. It also might be the only time the Bulldogs face a conference rival this fall after the official announcement on Thursday by Des Moines Public Schools that all in-person sports and activities at member schools will be suspended due to the district starting the academic year in an online-only model in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We always look forward to this. We get to play here one time a year and it was great to have those teams come down,” Ottumwa head boys golf coach Kyle Creamer said. “It’s unfortunate that they might not get to continue their seasons. It worked out that we could schedule this meet today. Hopefully, it will all work out for everybody.”
Several new faces stepped up to help Ottumwa edge the Huskies and Railsplitters. Playing short-handed without the services of top junior Cale Leonard, a total team effort was required to secure the first win of the season for the Bulldogs.
Joe Hammer posted Ottumwa’s top score, a familiar position for the returning state qualifier, but was edged out by Hoover’s Ian Hawks for the medalist honors after posting a four-over-par 40. Hawks gave Hoover the top individual score with a 38 on the front nine at Cedar Creek while Lincoln’s Bradley Koefed matched Hammer with a 40, leaving it up the rest of the Bulldogs to find the winning scores.
Mitch Wood, Trent Grooms, Jackson Saunders and Tyse Barker were up to the challenge. Wood, in his first season of OHS golf, posted his best finish on Thursday with a five-over-par front nine 41 while Grooms followed right behind with a 42. Saunders added a 43 to round out the Ottumwa team scoring while Barker added a 44, providing a seventh-place finish that would ensure the win even by tiebreaker with the best fifth score of the meet.
“There were a lot of guys that stepped to produce some of their best rounds for us,” Creamer said. “It was an effort you love to see as a coach this early in the season.”
The official announcement by the Des Moines Public School board could have a huge impact in all sports for Ottumwa moving forward with all five Metro conference rivals (East, Lincoln, Hoover, North and Roosevelt) being impacted. The Bulldogs are still scheduled to host their home invitational tournament at Fox Run on Tuesday starting at Noon.
Burlington, Indianola, Muscatine and Norwalk as of Thursday are still scheduled and available to participate with the Bulldogs in the tournament. East, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt, however, are now out of the tournament and off the schedule for OHS football, volleyball, cross-country, girls swimming and volleyball baring any unforseen changes between now and Monday when DMPS will begin classes strictly online.
DMPS is taking legal action against the state, arguing the state government is overriding the local control and decision-making authority that Iowa law gives school districts. There is a hearing is set for Friday morning in Polk County District Court, during which DMPS will request for an injunction on the state’s rejection of its plan to start the school year through primarily virtual learning.
“It’s nice for the kids to have something that brings a little normalcy to their lives,” Creamer said. “Hopefully, we all get to continue to participate in sports including golf throughout the rest of the season.”