By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Joplin Eagles senior golfer Griffen Locke shot seven strokes worse than he did a year ago. However, that didn’t stop him from taking top honors at the Joplin Invitational for the second consecutive year.
Locke recorded an 18-hole score of 80 and edged Republic’s Dylan Bekemeier in a playoff to take first place on Thursday at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club. Aurora captured the team title with a four-man score of 337.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel really good at all ... My round just got worse throughout the whole time,” said Locke, who captured the 2012 invitational with a 1-over 73. “I thought I would probably be outside the top 10 the way I was playing. I didn’t really expect to win.”
Locke scored a birdie on hole No. 1 and remained 1-under after three holes. He followed that by shooting an 8 on the par-4 hole No. 4. Locke made only two birdies (No. 1 and No. 6) for the round, but he did register 11 pars to remain in the hunt.
“No. 1 was my only strong hole I think,” Locke said. “I toughed the rest out. On No. 1, I just hit a 3-iron, a pitching wedge and made a 15-footer. I felt pretty confident but after that the round just kind of went away.”
The Joplin senior shot a 40 on the front-nine and the back-nine, while Bekemeier followed a 43 with a 1-over 37 on the back-nine.
Locke and Bekemeier, who won the Class 3 state golf title last year, were even after the first two playoff holes before Locke won by a stroke on the third.
Aurora’s Jordan Fronabarger and Joplin’s Nick Yuhas tied for third with 83s. Aurora’s Grant Seifried and Josh Fronabarger tied for fifth with 84s.
Lamar finished second as a team with a 343, while Carthage was third with a 344 and Joplin was fourth at 348.
The scores were consistently higher as conditions were difficult and players have had limited practice time because of the weather.
“We’ve had very little practice,” Joplin golf coach Jack Pace said. “All we’ve had is snow, ice and cold weather. I guess we take what we can get here in the Midwest.
“We’ll get better as the year goes on. We have good kids, and we played hard and kept fighting. We’ll get better.”
Aurora coach Brian Cox said it was a good start for his team with three players finishing in the top five.
“They will tell you they didn’t play as good as they should have but with the conditions and it being our first tournament this year, I thought they played real well,” Cox said. “Wednesday was the first day they got to play for a week. Everybody’s in the same boat, but when you take that into consideration I thought they played real well.”
Austin Garritson shot a 91, and Tamerik Branham scored a 94 to complete Joplin’s team score.
The Eagles will compete next in the Bird Dog Tournament on Monday at Briarbrook Golf Course in Carl Junction.