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Sikeston's Evan Deere and Ben Murray are set for the Class 3 State Tournament

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sikeston juniors Ben Murray (left) and Evan Deere (right) will be taking part in the Missouri Class 3 State Golf Tournament on Monday and Tuesday at Silo Ridge Golf Course in Bolivar.
(David Jenkins, Staff)
BOLIVAR -- Both Evan Deere and Ben Murray from Sikeston's golf team have advanced to the Class 3 Missouri High School State Championship Tournament on Monday.

Their paths to the state tournament, however, have been somewhat different throughout the season.

Deere has been the most consistent of the two.

He has qualified for the state tournament ever since his freshman year and has been the Bulldogs' No. 1 golfer for quite some time. He has continued to lower his scores over time.

"Evan has been pretty solid throughout the whole season," Sikeston golf coach Andy McGill said. "His scores have improved tremendously since last year. With that experience the past two years, I think that's paid off. I think that's why he has played so well."

Murray has had his share of troubles.

He struggled mightily at the beginning of the year while searching for his swing.

"It's been up and down for him," McGill said about Murray. "Actually, it's been more down that anything, especially at the start of the year. He was really, really struggling."

But, nonetheless, something started to click for Murray.

It began at the Poplar Bluff Invitational tournament where Murray, along with the rest of the Bulldog team, took home first place.

"There were some major swing changes that really helped me start playing better," Murray said. "I really started working on my short game a lot more and that was a big difference."

Murray had found his stroke. He shot a 77 on the day which tied him for sixth.

"That was just like a magic round for me," Murray said about the Poplar Bluff Invite. "It was for the whole team actually. I started out the year really rough and it took me a while to catch on and start playing well."

With Deere keeping up his consistent play and Murray finally catching fire, the two rode their hot streaks into the sectional round last week at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau.

Deere shot an 81 for seventh place, while Murray was right behind with an 82 for a share of eighth which qualified them both for the state tournament.

"Really, at the beginning of the year, I didn't expect to make it this far at all," said Murray.

The two juniors will be playing the state tournament at Silo Ridge Golf Course in Bolivar.

The 18-hole, par 72 course is over 6,800 yards.

The front nine, as described on the Silo Ridge website, resembles a Links style course. The back nine is more wooded that requires accuracy off the tee.

It is also known for it's challenging bent-grass greens that require pin-point accuracy and delicate touch.

Neither Deere or Murray have played the course or even heard much about it.

Which makes their practice round today that much more important.

"The main thing is, there's a lot of courses that have tricky spots in them," said Deere. "If you don't know about them and don't play the course prior to the tournament, you can get into a lot of trouble.

"It's a good opportunity to drop a few balls and find which clubs fit. It's very, very beneficial."

"I definitely want to get the speed of the greens down," Murray said. "That's probably the biggest factor on any course with putting and chipping.

"I heard it isn't as hard as Dalhousie or Crowne Point," added Murray. "But, we'll see."

Deere, who shot a total of 180 as a freshman during the two-day tournament and a 165 as a sophomore, has seen his scores diminish the past two years.

He tied for 97th as a freshman and 59th just last year.

His goal ever since qualifying as a freshman was to simply improve his scores over time. So far, he's been able to do that.

That goal hasn't changed.

"I would like to place in the top 15," Deere said, "and that's a hard goal. I'd like to throw in two, low-70 scores."

He's learned a thing or two about his past experiences at the state tournament.

The most important, he said, was the inevitable first round blues.

"Don't get down on yourself after the first day," Deere said. "Nerves are terrible in these tournaments the first day. You have two days, so if you don't shoot your best on the first day, don't give up. You'd still like to have at least one solid score."

It's some advice that Murray will sure take to heart, being that it's his first time at the state championships.

McGill believes that Deere will be and has been, the captain of the Sikeston golf team for some time now. Even though they officially don't have one.

"I can definitely see that happening and Evan has kind of done that any way," McGill said. "Even since last year, he's been sort of the go-to guy on our team because we've been so young.

"With Evan, and his experience at state, hopefully that will help out for Ben and maybe he'll surprise some folks once he gets there."

Although he's worked hard to make it this far, Murray is playing it cautious when it comes to expectations in Bolivar.

"I don't expect to really win or anything," said Murray. "I'm just going to try and play my best. I don't expect too much out of it since it's my first time going."

Deere seems to believe Murray can exceed expectations.

"Ben is a good golfer with a good swing," said Deere. "He's very capable of shooting low scores, but, it's all in his head. If Ben has the right mindset, he will throw in some good rounds and I think he is capable of placing higher than he believes.

"He's a good golfer as long as he has the right mindset."

With his two-year edge, Deere knows the pressures the state tournament can put on a young golfer. He's played in numerous tournaments over the years which may have helped groom him for a state push.

"I've played in a lot of competitive tournaments so, I'm a lot more confident in my game," said Deere. "I'm thinking I have a much better chance."

Murray will tee off at 8:36 a.m. on hole No. 10 on Monday while Deere begins at 9:30 a.m. on hole No. 1.

Not only will Sikeston be sending state qualifying golfers to Silo Ridge, the Dexter Bearcats will be as well.

Dexter's Cody Stevens, Bennen Justice and Logan Robey all qualified during sectionals as well.

In Class 2, Kelly's Derrick Garner qualified for the state tournament at Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield.