OTTUMWA — In any other district last fall, the Ottumwa boys golf team would have qualified for the Class 4A state tournament.
Ottumwa's round of 320 would have been good enough to finish third in two of the four district sites. It would have been good enough to finish as the district runner-up to Waukee in Sioux City.
At Waveland Golf Course last October, however, 320 was only good enough to finish seventh in what proved to be the final tournament of the 2018 season. The Bulldogs finished 20 shots behind CIML Metro conference rival Des Moines Roosevelt for the third and final state-qualifying spot in one of the most loaded districts head coach Kyle Creamer had ever seen.
“It’s unreal. For seven teams to go 320 or under is just crazy,” Creamer said. “Then you have a 325 qualify for state from the Cedar Rapids district. That’s got to be fixed, but it’s not an excuse for us. We knew all year where we were going.”
This year, Ottumwa knows it has the talent to get to state. The Bulldogs did not graduate one senior off last year's squad that produced a better district tournament score than four state qualifying teams.
"Having everybody back is always a plus. The guys knew all summer what our expectations were and what kind of drills we need to be working on," Creamer said. "I think the way last season ended left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. The guys all told me they were going to put in the work. They all kept their word."
This year also features a district tournament that will not be quite as loaded. Only Johnston and Des Moines Roosevelt remain scheduled to compete for second straight year in the postseason with the Bulldogs at Cooper Creek Golf Course on Oct. 8.
"Last year, it was a gauntlet to get through districts. The course we're playing this year is a little tougher, but it's not going to be us having to go through seven of the top eight teams in the state," Creamer said. "Hopefully, we can be one of the top teams this year going into districts. Our guys seem to play Cooper Creek really well. It can be tough if you scatter your tee shots, but our guys focus in really well. It's a course that sets up really well for us."
The 2019 Ottumwa boys golf season, which may very well conclude in Polk City at Tournament Club of Iowa on Oct. 12 in the 4A boys state golf tournament, gets underway next week with three tournaments in three days. The Bulldogs open at Briarwood Country Club on Monday in Ankeny Centennial's home invitational before heading back to Des Moines to face Metro rivals Hoover, North and Lincoln in a pair of meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I think the schedule sets up well for us," Creamer said. "We get to play three tournaments right away to kind of gauge where we're at. Then, we get two weeks off before our home invitational (at Fox Run Golf Course). It ramps back up after that, but we'll fine tune what we need to after those first three meets."
Creamer points to the trio of Cale Leonard, Joe Hammer and Steven Langland as the golfers that will lead the charge for the Bulldogs heading into this season. Both Leonard and Langland had adjusted scoring averages of below 40 shots per nine holes with all three finishing within four shots of each other for 18-hole scoring.
"Those three guys put in so much work over the summer," Creamer said. "They were all three so close to making it to state as individuals. Each of them probably had one hole that, if they could take it back, probably would have gotten them into state. They've put in the hard work. They're ready to go."