NORTH PLATTE — The Heartland Lutheran golfers, coaches and fans were nervous as the Class D state meet at River’s Edge Golf Club wound down.
Coach Dan Bremer thought the Red Hornets had the team title. So did assistant coach Greg Uhrmacher.
But they didn’t know for sure until one last score was posted for Bancroft-Rosalie, and then Bremer’s face lit up.
It was all over. The Red Hornets had won the school’s first-ever state title in any sport.
“It’s huge for the school. We get to hoist a banner,” Bremer said. “That is so awesome for our school. Get a little press, get a little notoriety. Central Catholic has won, Grand Island, and now Heartland Lutheran. That’s great.”
It didn’t turn out to be all that close. The Red Hornets posted a two-day total of 684. Bancroft-Rosalie was second at 699.
Seniors Garrett Suchanek and Sam Simonson led Heartland Lutheran. Both shot 153 to finish tied for second, one stroke behind individual champion Shad Wellman of Elwood at 152.
“It means a lot for our school and our program, just to get our name out there,” Suchanek said. “It was a great experience for our team to come out here to North Platte and contend the way we did.”
Bremer said he was at a loss for words, but then he found some.
“As I said in districts, these kids mean the world to me and they have given me their all,” Bremer said. “They have devoted their time and energy to practice and more practice. Even when I wasn’t around they practiced.
“They were committed today. Our No. 1 and 2, Sam and Garrett, were just awesome, and the whole team fought hard. Thomas (Hudnall) coming back with a 45 on the back may not mean much some other places, but here it probably gave us a state title.”
Hudnall shot 184 for the two days. Joshua Sugita and Jacob Stinson both shot 198 for Heartland Lutheran.
Winning state was always the final goal, but it became a little clearer when the Red Hornets posted the second-best district score a week ago.
“After the districts were all in, we saw the scores and I told the kids that we were right there,” Bremer said. “We are right there. Coach Uhrmacher and I both said if we shoot in the 340s, we can win this. And 341 and 343 did it. That was our target.”
That’s when Simonson realized that a state title was a definitely possibility, too.
“We saw what the final team scores were and saw we were sitting in second, we were like, ‘Yeah, we can do this,”’ Simonson said. “Then coming in today we were leading after the first day, I was like we can do this. We just have to play our game. We came out and got first.”
Few people saw this coming two weeks ago, but it’s the culmination of the 12 years the Heartland Lutheran golf program has been in existence. It started in 2000, and Bremer has been there from the beginning.
“The five kids that went to school there, that was the golf team,” Bremer said. “Not one of them knew how to play golf. We were throwing up astronomical scores.”
Actually, Bremer said, the school added another student before the golf season started.
“When we would go to golf match, we’d close the school and the one kid just went home,” Bremer said. “That was our beginnings, and we would post numbers near 500. Very humble beginnings.”
The real seeds for this title were sown in 2009 when Suchanek and Simonson were freshmen. They weren’t very good golfers either. There were both shooting in the 100s at the time.
“They just worked and worked and worked, and they devoted their time and listened,” Bremer said. “There’s just not better kids who deserve something like this. I’m just so proud of them.”
Suchanek shot an 80 on the first day, but came on strong Wednesday with a 73.
“This back nine has really killed me and today I kind of kept it under control,” Suchanek said. “I kept the ball in the fairway and that made the game a lot more easier.”
Simonson shot 76 on Tuesday and 77 Wednesday.
“Garrett and I have been neck and neck all four years of high school,” Simonson said. “We showed that today. We came out and tied for second. We’ve been working at this four years and slowly improving until we got to this point.”
Simonson had a chance to tie for first on the 18th, but missed a short putt.
“I over-read by just maybe a quarter of an inch and missed it left,” Simonson said. “The individual championship wasn’t as important to me as the team one was. I really wanted the team title for our school.”