The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 17, 2013

Stafford keys UCO to title in Southern Invitational

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Despite making birdie on only one of the par-5 holes, Central Oklahoma senior Trevor Stafford fired a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine to spice a final-round 66 and lead the Bronchos to the team championship Tuesday in the Missouri Southern Invitational at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club.

The Bronchos had four players among the top 13 and posted a two-day total of 590, 11 shots in front of runner-up Central Missouri. In addition, Central Oklahoma caught Central Missouri atop the league standings. Both have 30 points apiece entering next week’s MIAA Championships in Smithville, Mo.

Nebraska-Kearney jumped two teams to finish third with 608, followed by Northeastern State 609, Washburn 614, Fort Hays State 617, Missouri Southern 618, Missouri Western 620, Lincoln and Lindenwood 624, Pittsburg State 637 and Southwest Baptist 646.

Stafford, who made only one birdie during Monday’s first-round 74, finished at 4-under 140 and was the only one in the 59-player field to break par Tuesday and for the tournament.

Trey Seigel of Washburn matched par-144 after a final-round 73, and Missouri Southern’s Ryan Buerk and Nebraska-Kearney’s Kris Koelzer tied for third with 145. Buerk closed with a 73 while Koelzer, the first-round co-leader, had 75.

Dillon Rust of UCO, the other first-round co-leader, tied for fifth at 148 with Sam Migdal of Central Missouri.

Stafford began his round on No. 3, and he was par through his first nine holes before jump-starting his round on 12 when his wedge from 45 yards out rolled into the cup for an eagle-2.

“It landed short and just released right into the hole,” said Stafford. “It was pretty exciting.”

Stafford then drove the par-4 No. 13 and two-putted from 30 feet for birdie. Pars on 14 and 15 were followed by a three-foot birdie on 16, four-footer on 17 and 20-footer on 18. Pars on 1 and 2 completed his second-best round in competition. He shot 7-under in the Oklahoma state amateur qualifier two summers ago.

“I knew I was capable of going out there and shooting low,” he said. “I stuck with my game plan — fairways and greens — and if the birdies came, they came. I kept my head down and kept playing and kept grinding it out.”

Missouri Southern’s Ryan Russell shot 72 — 11 shots better than his first round — for Tuesday’s second-best score. The Lions shaved eight strokes off their first-day team score and moved up three spots in the team standings to seventh.

“The problem (Monday) was I was pressing a little bit, playing our own course,” said Russell, a junior from Nixa. “I got out of my rhythm and just couldn’t calm down. I didn’t stay focused. Today I stuck with my game plan,  him my shots and the rest is history.”

Russell rolled in a 50-foot birdie on No. 13, and he also made a short birdie on 6 and 10-footer on 12.

Buerk, a junior from Blue Springs, was 2-under through 15 holes but then took bogey on 12 and double-bogey on 13.

“My second shot (on 13), I overhooked it a little bit and it went long left,” he said. “I hit a chip, and I thought I was going to be able to make the putt and ended up three-putting. I had a really, really short putt that I just went up and tapped (and missed for bogey). Not very smart, and it cost me stroke.

“I’m not too upset. I played really consistent the last two days. I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and putted pretty well, too. I had some shots here and there that kind of bit me in the butt.”

Earlier in the round, Buerk made birdies of 20 feet on 2, 25 feet on 5, four feet on 10 and 25 feet on 11.