FULTON - Facing blustery winds at Fulton Country Club on Wednesday afternoon, Missouri Military Academy’s golf team quite literally blew away the competition.
The Colonels’ top four golfers nabbed the top four individual places during a triangular meet Wednesday in which MMA rolled comfortably to a first-place team finish against a duo of local foes.
With a team score of 156, the Colonels were 44 strokes ahead of runners-up Fulton and another 25 in front of Mexico. With a quartet of golfers (Gunner Stugart, Luke McKean, Zane Jewell and Leon Peralta) who all shot below 40 over nine holes, MMA had consistent good play throughout its lineup despite the tricky conditions.
The scary part is that according to head coach Thomas Roberts, the Colonels didn’t even have their full starting lineup ready to go Wednesday; varsity starter Jack Mitchell was out of town with the National Guard. With what Roberts called “a stacked top four or five,” MMA could be gunning for state trophies in a few weeks.
“I think that if we play our game, we’re going to go far,” Roberts said. “It’s pretty awesome. I’ve coached golf in the past, but never with this level of talent. We can go into any match and be competitive, and they really like to play, and that’s the funnest part of it.”
With an exception of a third-place finish in Monday’s Helias Invitational, the Colonels’ have beaten 10 of the last 11 opponents they’ve faced. The only exception, Moberly, only beat MMA by a single stroke at a quad meet in Mexico on Apr. 2.
Stugart’s 35 not only won the individual title - his fifth of the season - but Wednesday’s score is a season-low. Though this is his first year playing golf for MMA, the senior was finished fifth in the Class 2 state meet last season for team runners-up O’Fallon Christian and brings plenty of pedigree to the Colonels’ lineup.
Roberts said despite an average nine-hole score of 39.2, Stugart can be even better if he sticks to working hard and masters his putting stroke, which he believes is Stugart’s biggest weakness in his game.
“Gunner is a very competitive young man. He’s a very good scorekeeper, very honest and very conscientious about the game of golf,” Roberts said. “His putting stroke isn’t totally there yet, but he didn’t do too bad today. If he gets all parts of his game down, he’s going to be tough to handle.”
Meanwhile, things didn’t go as smoothly for MMA’s cross-town neighbors, Mexico. Head coach Dwight Loyd said because of a miscommunication between he and his team, most of the Bulldogs’ golf team believed that the meet was Thursday and not Wednesday.
Due to the confusion, several junior varsity players stepped into the varsity lineup while most were in non-team gear, mainly t-shirts and athletic shorts. Loyd took the blame for the mistake and apologized that his team looked “unprofessional.”
“Completely my fault. I apologize to our parents for this mistake on my part,” Loyd said. “I told the guys all week that we were going to Fulton on Thursday. The players and their parents were both very understanding and quick to get ready.”
Despite a mixed bag of players, with some playing in a competitive match for the first time of the season, Loyd said that he thought his team handled the situation well. Sophomore Jake Haines led the way for the Bulldogs by shooting a 51, good for seventh out of 15 golfers.
“For the eight guys that went today, I was very proud of them,” Loyd said. “For having no warning about this match as it was all last second, the guys handled it pretty well. They did a great job for the pressure that was put on them.”