Home course knowledge certainly helped Marshfield’s Clayton Moles on Monday.
A little luck didn’t hurt either.
The Blue Jays senior shot an even-par 70 at Marshfield Country Club to win the Class 3, Sectional 3 meet and advance to next week’s Class 3 state tournament which will be played Monday and Tuesday at Sedalia Country Club.
The victory was the fifth in seven tournaments this spring for Moles, and it started with an unconventional shot on his first hole of the day.
Moles said he got his round going on Marshfield CC’s first hole, after his tee shot came to rest next to a fence that also served as an out-of-bounds marker.
“It was just a couple inches from being out,” Moles said.
Rather than take an unplayable lie and a one-stroke penalty, Moles grabbed a wedge, flipped it over, and hit a left-handed shot back into the fairway before going on to save par on the 400-yard par 4.
“I knew things would probably be OK after that,” Moles said with a smile.
Moles cruised from there, lipping out a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have given him a 1-under 69.
Moles finished three shots ahead of teammate and best friend Tyler Aldridge and Mizzou commit Alec Palen of Rogersville. Moles and Aldridge also finished 1-2 at last week’s district tournament in Sullivan, with Moles downing Aldridge by four shots.
“We’ve known each other since preschool and we’ve been playing golf together forever,” Aldridge said of Moles. “I know that he’s always going to be there to help me out if I have any questions about anything I’ll see on the course, and it’s fun to have someone out there playing well along with you.”
For Moles, it was the next step in trying to atone for last season’s performance at the state meet. Moles finished 20th at state last season after finishing 10th as a sophomore.
“He was really disappointed with how things went last year,” said Marshfield coach Kevin Taylor. “He got into the top 10 as a sophomore and he’d like to do that again. He’s pretty motivated.”
Taylor said Moles has improved his all-around game since last season.
“He’s just a rock-solid good kid. He has all the abilities; all the right attributes,” Taylor said. “He’s taken on more of a leadership role with the other kids this year, and he’s just a kid you want to be around all the time.”
Moles, Aldridge and Palen led a competitive field in which a score of 80 or better was needed to advance to state.
In the team race, Sullivan shot 305 to win by 13 shots over West Plains. Aurora finished at 327 and Rogersville at 333.
Isaac Burroughs led West Plains with a 74. Sullivan put four golfers in the top 11 to roll to the team title.
The top two team scores qualify for state and the top 12 individuals not on those qualifying teams advance as well.
Four golfers shot 81 to miss out on state by one shot.
Other area golfers to advance out of the sectional were Aurora’s Jordan Fronabarger (77), Rogersville’s Robert Mahaffey (78), Aurora’s Josh Fronabarger and Grant Seifried (79), and Bolivar’s Tyler Tran (79) and Haden Stevens (80).
Stevens won last week’s district tournament at Silo Ridge Golf and Country Club.
Moles said that while it was nice to be able to play at home, that didn’t change his approach.
“It helps (playing at home), but what you see here is what you get,” he said. “It might have helped me a little bit confidence-wise, but that’s about it.
“I definitely wanted to win. I think every tournament that’s the goal,” he added. “But today is all about advancing. That’s all I wanted to do.”
And the goal, Moles said, won’t change next week.
“There’s some motivation there,” he said. “I think if I can keep my head down and get the putter rolling up there, I’ll have a chance to win.”
Taylor likes both his golfers’ chances as they wrap up their high school careers.
“These two have worked their tails off all year,” Taylor said. “I think if they can go up there and do what they’ve done all season, they’ll be right there at the end.”