MARION – The first call went to voicemail, but Ben Sagers answered the next one.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier junior rebounded after a second shot landed out of bounds in his first six holes to earn medalist honors with 75 in the third round of the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division crown Monday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course. Sagers secured the MVC Valley Division overall crown, helping the Saints claim a second straight divisional team title.
Sagers entered tied for the lead through two rounds with teammate Matt Junge. He suffered the worst start possible, hitting his first drive a foot out of bounds and carding seven on the par-4 18th. After calming down, Sagers hit his approach shot on No. 5 out of bounds, and posted a double-bogey.
“That was my wake-up call,” Sagers said. “I tried to bring it back in and take it hole-by-hole and shot-by-shot from there.”
A stiff wind wreaked havoc on the tough par-72 course. Sagers and Junge, who tied for second in the third round with 77, were two of only three golfers to break 80 Monday. Sagers limited the wind’s affect, keeping his shots low enough to avoid the elements. Conditions made it more challenging to bounce back from the rough start.
“It’s tougher on a day like today when you know birdies are going to be a lot harder to come by, but you have to realize it’s 18 holes and not one or two,” Sagers said. “I think that was the biggest difference today. I was 5-over (par) on two holes and 2-under on 16.”
Xavier Coach Tim O’Brien said the results speak for themselves. Sagers managed the course well.
“I thought it was outstanding play today by Ben Sagers given the elements,” O’Brien said. “If you look at the other scores, it stands by itself.”
Sagers, a second-team all-MVC golfer last year, finished divisional play with 219, two shots ahead of Junge. The victory has special meaning, giving Sagers a tangible reward for his effort.
“I work hard for stuff like this,” Sagers said. “It’s good to see my hard work pay off.”
The Saints dominated the field, beating host Linn-Mar by 18 strokes Monday and by 44 strokes for the division championship. In addition to Sagers and Junge placing first and second, Robbie Thinnes was third overall with 232, and Jordan Even, who added an 80 Monday for the Saints, John Drahozal and John Ingwersen all were in the top-12.
“It was something we set at the beginning of the season,” O’Brien said. “When we won the Super Meet and out first divisional, we talked about we need to come here and not just win the division but win this meet. I was really pleased with how they stayed focused and won the meet. I’m pretty proud of it.”
The celebration won’t last long. The Saints were already discussing Tuesday’s practice. Focus quickly shifts to the regular-season finale Thursday and then the postseason next Monday.
The second divisional title won’t mean as much if they can’t follow it up with a first trip to state. Xavier hosts the Class 4A district meet at Elmcrest Country Club.
“The ultimate is to play well at districts and advance,” O’Brien said. “They made some nice strides and looking forward to finishing our regular season and then teeing it up next Monday at Elmcrest.”
The Saints know the field will be tough, but they have prepared for that moment, since watching teammate J.P. King play at the state meet as an individual. The final round of the divisional showed they have the balance for a berth.
“We can definitely bring it down for next Monday,” Sagers said. “We have quite a few good players. It’s just a matter of putting four good scores together.”
Linn-Mar’s Jason Gingrich shot 77, helping the Lions hold their runner-up spot over Dubuque Wahlert. Gingrich said he knew a strong round was possible, but also had to overcome a slow start.
“I knew I was capable,” Gingrich said. “I was a little nervous.
“I just battled back after I went 5-over on my first three holes.”
Gingrich caught fire and gained confidence thanks to his short game and leading the Lions with least putts. He shot 1-under on the front nine, going as low as 3-under at one point.
“I almost holed out from 80 yards on one, and tapped in for birdie,” said Gingrich, who earned second-team all-MVC Valley honors. “I had an eagle putt on No. 6 and two-putted for a birdie there. I made birdie on the next hole.”
Jacob Sevcik shot 82, and Trevor McCann and Kile Bean each added 87, giving the Lions a 333 Monday and 947 overall. McCann was sixth overall with a 235 total, garnering a first-team all-MVC Valley award.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY CONFERENCE VALLEY DIVISION
(Hunters Ridge, par 72)
Teams - 1. Cedar Rapids Xavier 315, 2. Linn-Mar 333, 3. Dubuque Wahlert 337, 4. Cedar Rapids Prairie 343, 5. Waterloo West 345, 6. Cedar Rapids Washington 346, 7. Cedar Falls 348
Individuals - 1. Ben Sagers (CRX), 37-38-75, 2. (tie) Matt Junge (CRX), 38-39-77 and Jason Gingrich (LM), 35-42-77, 4. Jordan Even (CRX), 40-40-80, 5. Charlie Smith (DW), 42-39-81.
C.R. Xavier (315): Sagers 75, Junge 75, Even 80, Robbie Thinnes 83
Linn-Mar (333): Gingrich 77, Jacob Sevcik 82, Trevor McCann 87, Kile Bean 87
C.R. Prairie (343): Matt Edl 85, Cooper Reittinger 85, Drew Digman 86, Ryan Doser 87
C.R. Washington (346): Matt Strand 84, Evan Jankwietz 85, Dominic Rodriguez 88, Zach Gothard 89
Teams – 1. C.R. Xavier 903, 2. Linn-Mar 947, 3. Dubuque Wahlert 954, 4. Waterloo West 972, 5. C.R. Washington 978, 6. Cedar Falls 982, 7. C.R. Prairie 984
First-team all-MVC Valley Division - 1. Ben Sagers (CRX), 219, 2. Matt Junge (CRX), 221, 3. Greg Lange (DW), 229, 4. Robbie Thinnes (CRX), 232, 5. Charlie Smith (DW), 234, 6. Trevor McCann (LM), 235
Athlete of the year - Sagers (CRX)
Coach of the year - Tim O’Brien (CRX)
Second-team all-MVC Valley Division - 7. (tie) Jason Gingrich (LM) and Jordan Even (CRX), 237, 9. John Drahozal (CRX), 238, 10. Alec Brown (CF), 239, 11. (tie) John Ingwersen (CRX), Matt Edl (CRP) and Matt Strand (CRW), 240
MVC Valley Honrable Mention - 14. (tie) Will Shirey (WW) and Dominic Rodriguez (CRW), 241, 16. (tie) Christian Rapp (DW), Collin Trenkamp (DW), Kile Bean (LM) and Jared Deines (CF), 243
MVC Valley Division All-Academic – Cedar Falls: Caleb Vander Wiel, Conner Calhoun; C.R. Prairie: Drew Digman, Matt Edl; C.R. Washington: Reid Rossberger, Grant Kamin; C.R. Xavier: Robbie Thinnes, Gage Bauserman; Dubuque Wahlert: Nicholas Banwarth, Christian Rapp; Linn-Mar: Drew McGovern, Kile Bean; Waterloo West: Tom Richter, Will Shirey.
Ben Sagers, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Dubuque Wahlert, Golf, Hunters Ridge Golf Course, Jacob Sevcik, Jason Gingrich, John Drahozal, John Ingwersen, Jordan Even, Kile Bean, Linn-Mar, Lions, Matt Junge, Mississippi Valley Conference, Robbie Thinnes, Saints, Tim O'Brien, Trevor McCann, Valley Division