Dylan Bekemeier admitted that this year’s state golf tournament had a different feel than last season.
Such is life when you’re the defending state champion.
The Republic junior said he had a “rough” day Monday at the Class 4 state meet, shooting a 5-over 77 at Rivercut Golf Course.
“It was definitely a lot different. People expect that now, so you come in with a mindset that you’ll feel like you’ll get judged if you don’t perform,” Bekemeier said after his round. “I’m not worried about winning right now. I just have to come in tomorrow with the mindset that I’m going to play as well as I can and see where that gets me.”
Bekemeier came from virtually nowhere last season to win the Class 3 state championship at Rivercut, firing a final-round 68 to finish off a five-shot win.
But Monday was a headache for Bekemeier from the start.
“I started to get a headache on the third hole and that didn’t help,” Bekemeier said. “But that’s just an excuse I can throw out there.”
Bekemeier played his first nine holes in 4-over 40 before coming back in 37.
He sits eight shots behind leader Adam Lechner of Kearney, who shot a 3-under 69.
Lechner finished in a tie for second behind Bekemeier at last year’s state meet. His three competitive rounds at Rivercut have gone 75, 70, 69.
Lechner leads a crowded field that has 30 golfers within eight shots of the lead. Liberty’s Zach Dittmer is second after a 1-under 71.
The best area scores belonged to Kickapoo’s John Fuchs and the Joplin duo of Griffen Locke and Nicholas Yuhas, who led a group of seven golfers at 76. Those three are tied for 11th.
Among a group of 13 players at 77 were Bekemeier; his teammate Beau Allen and Ozark’s Miles Aduddell.
“I had a tough start with the wind, but coming through on the second nine felt pretty good,” Allen said. “I played a lot better and made a few putts. Hopefully I’m set up for a good round (today) and I’ll try to come through.”
Allen teed off on No. 10 and went out in 42 before rallying with a 1-under 35 on Rivercut’s front nine.
The field is just as bunched on the team side as on the individual side. Marquette leads after a first-round 308, but the Mustangs’ closest pursuer, Timberland, is two shots back at 310.
Zach Gollwitzer led Marquette with a 73, good for a tie for fifth individually. All five Mustangs shot 82 or better. Timberland’s five golfers all shot 84 or better, led by Joshua O’Hearn’s 75.
Park Hill South (315), Columbia Rock Bridge (316) and defending Class 4 champion Rockhurst (317) also lurk.
Kickapoo, the only local team in the field, sits seventh after a 323. Behind Fuchs, Palmer Harrison shot 80, Mitchell Kiser 82, Freeman Lightner 85, and Taylor Dade 89.
Final round play starts at 8 a.m. today with foursomes going off both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees. The final group of Lechner, Dittmer, Rock Bridge’s Matt Echelmeier and Vianney’s Matthew Mueller tees off at 9:39 a.m.