Kaylor Steger rescues Oak Creek golf team as Knights earn first league title in 18 years
Round of 70 key
When in doubt, rely on your hammer.
Oak Creek boys golf coach Craig Thome knew that if his team was to win its first Southeast Conference title since 1996, 2013 state placewinner Kaylor Steger was going to have to come through big time.
And Steger did, as the xxx recruit shot a one-under par 18-hole score of 70 to rescue the Knights from an otherwise dismal day at the league 18-hole finale on May 22 at Meadowbrook Country Club in Racine. The Knights only finished third in the 18-hole finale, but were still was able to edge out Racine Case by two points in the final team standings.
"To put it mildly, Kaylor saved the day and allowed us to win the conference championship," said Knight coach Craig Thome. "As a team, we had one of our worst days overall. As each one of our scores came in, each one of my players kept feeling more and more dejected, but thanks to another sterling performance, Kaylor catapulted our position from the 'outhouse' to the 'penthouse'.
"It is is especially rewarding to see a young man compete in the most stressful of circumstances and still perform at the highest of levels. His ability to remain focused and hit clutch shots time after time is something I just can't coach. ...
"Words can't express how rewarding winning this championship is."
Steger was all too happy to help out as his score was only one off the school record 69 he turned in during the second round of the WIAA State Meet last season.
"I like having that pressure and responsbility," he said. "...This feels so good to finally get this done (a conference title)."
Steger and the Knights will now turn their attentions to WIAA competition. They took part in a regional tournament at Brown Deer on Tuesday, May 29. The top four teams and first four individuals not on those teams will advance to the sectional tournament on Wednesday, June 4 at Brighton Dale in Kansasville.
From there, the top two teams and first three individuals not on those teams advance to the WIAA State Tournament in Madison, June 9 and 10.
Anything that is accomplished at those events will be hard-pressed to match the excitement generated at the conference events last week.
It began with the Southeast mini meet at Kenosha Country Club on May 19 as Oak Creek finished second with a nine-hole score of 169 as Steger was meet medalist with a 38, while Kyle Markowiak 43, Brendan Carranza 44, Nick Phung 44, and Sam Lecci 49 as also contributed.
"Kaylor once again played well and my three through five players all played well, which really helped, since Sam (Lecci) struggled to find his game," said Thome.
Then on Tuesday, May 20, in the final league mini-meet, the Knights put themselves in good position fore the title by winning with a season best nine-hole score of 155 on Ives Grove in Racine. Steger ripped up the place with a three-under par nine-hole score record of 33, while Lecci came in with a 39, Phung 41, Markowiak 42, and Carranza 46.
But that just set up the drama for the 18-hole finale on May 22, as despite Steger's scorching meet medalist score of 70, which also sealed up his league player of the year honors, the rest of the Knights struggled, turning in an 18-hole score of 353 with no one else being able to break 90.
Despite Lecci coming in with a 91, he still earned first-team all-conference honors.
Steger said it took about 20 minutes to figure out the final standings in the cloubhouse.
"We had been comparing scores with Racine Case (the only team that could have beaten the Knights) and when we figured out that they had finished second (in the 18-hole finale), we pretty much knew we had won it," he said.
The Eagles would have had to win the meet in that situation to win the conference title.
Thome was almost overwhelmed by Steger's leadership and his ability to bring the team home in this tough situation.
"It is something inherent in him. It is his competitive spirit that drives him and keeps him calm in the toughest of situations," said Thome of Steger. "... Oak Creek is definitely not your traditional golf powerhouse, and to win one (a league title) after 18 long years, is a testament to all of the hard work and sacrifice that my players and assistant coaches (including JV coach Joe Cota and freshmen coach Tom Stock) have put in and the countless hours of practice that often go unnoticed."
Steger said he wasn't aware of how tense the situation was but was happy tio come through.
"I was just playing against par and trying to break 70," he said. "I didn't quite get there but it was still a good score.
He's happy to go out as a champion.
"It's a really nice feeling," he said. "It'll be good to know that whenever I go back to school I'll be proud to see that '14" on that banner (the conference championship banner for golf)."
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