By Jim Henry
Globe Assistant Sports Editor
Barrett Lais and Nathan Fridley prefer this year's appearance in the Class 4 state golf tournament over last year's trip.
The reason is simple: They are taking their Joplin High School teammates with them.
"It was pretty satisfying last year," Fridley said. "This year it's an awesome feeling going with my team. It's so much better going as a team than it was as an individual."
"It was kind of a bittersweet accomplishment, competing as an individual," Lais said. "It will be a lot better competing both ways (team and individual honors). Our main goal is to win state."
Is that a state championship as a team or an individual?
"Both would be nice," Lais said. "Either way will be satisfying. I'd take either one."
Chad Dalton, Matt Willis and Ryan Salisbury complete the Eagles' five-man unit that won the district team crown with a 304 total, two shots ahead of Glendale.
"Barrett has been solid all year," Eagles coach Jeff Starkweather said. "He shot par (in the district). He was outstanding as always.
"Nathan shot 76. He had six birdies. He could have shot even lower but he had a couple of double bogeys that hurt him. Still, 76 is fantastic for us, and Chad Dalton shot 75. Those three have been solid performers all year."
Evan Griffith of Neosho shot a 73 in district at Deer Lake Golf Course to earn a return trip to state.
In last year's state meet at Silo Ridge Golf and Country Club in Bolivar, Lais tied for 24th place with 159, Fridley tied for 42nd with 163 and Griffith tied for 46th with 164.
This year's tournament, which starts today, will be played in Springfield at the Rivercut Golf Course, the same layout where Joplin placed second in the Ozark Conference Tournament two shots behind Kickapoo.
"If you get out of the fairway, the rough can be difficult at times for you," Starkweather said.
"It's pretty much a ball position course," Lais said. "You got to hit the right spots because of the undulation on the greens.
"Our team has a lot of potential. We've been solid the last few years. If we can get everybody to play good on the same day, there's no reason why we shouldn't win."
"I think we have a pretty good chance of winning," Fridley said. "I'm not going to be dissatisfied if we don't win, but we're one of the better teams in the area. It helps playing Rivercut. It gives us a home course advantage playing in Springfield."
By Jim Henry