Tin Cup Golf

Kelly Walsh’s Annalyse Johnson prepares to putt as teammate Josie Olson watches during the Trojans’ Tin Cup match against Natrona County on Aug. 30 at the Casper Municipal Golf Course.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

The Kelly Walsh boys and girls took different paths to winning the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Golf Championships in Evanston.

The boys team needed to put in some extra work, beating Cheyenne East on the first playoff hole to win its first state title since 2012.

The girls team, on the other hand, was hardly challenged in posting a 56-stroke victory over runner-up Natrona County to repeat as state champion.

Regardless of how they got there, the end result was the same. Kelly Walsh became the first 4A school to win both boys and girls state golf titles in the same year since Natrona County in 1993.

Despite temperatures in the 40s, along with wind, rain and an occasional snow flurry, the Trojans persevered at Evanston's Purple Sage Golf Course.

"We knew the conditions would be tough," KW head coach Craig Marsh said, "but we just tried to be aggressive and go out there and make a statement.

"I think we found a way to embrace the weather," Marsh added. "And the kids went out there and did what they needed to do."

That was especially true for the KW girls team, which had five of the top-eight finishers, including individual medalist Josie Olson.

Olson, a junior who placed second at state last year, shot a 164 (82-82) to finish six strokes ahead of teammate Barrett Lloyd and Evanston's Alexis Cornell.

Also for Kelly Walsh, Annalyse Johnson finished fourth with a 172, Nicole Klungness tied for sixth with a 182 and Megan Griffin was eighth with a 185.

"We knew we had a great group of girls," Marsh said. "They set aggressive goals for themselves over the summer and then they went out and pushed each other to accomplish them.

"Josie really worked on her mental game over the summer and it showed. She had high expectations and she was hungry after finishing second last year."

The Kelly Walsh boys also entered this season looking to erase the memory of last season's second-place finish. The Trojans finished four strokes back of Riverton, which won four state championships in a row (2013-16).

The Trojans received a break Monday when a Cheyenne East player signed an incorrect scorecard and the Thunderbirds went from a seven-stroke lead to trailing KW by three strokes. Behind individual medalist Blake Danni, however, the T-Birds made up the deficit Tuesday to force the playoff.

"We knew it was going to be close," Marsh said. "It was hard to know just how close the two teams were, though, because we didn't have live scoring.

"It can be kind of nerve-wracking when you don't know what you have to do out there ... Do I need to lay up and play it safe or do I be aggressive and shoot for the green?"

According to Marsh, KW sophomore Taj Sutherland forced the playoff with an 8-foot putt on the final hole.

The playoff was over in a hurry.

The top-five golfers from both teams teed off in alternating fashion and the Trojans seized control.

Kelly Walsh senior Steven Ellbogen and junior Logan Hensley both birdied the hole and sophomore Sutherland and senior Shea Hensley had pars to give the Trojans a score of 2-under on the hole. Cheyenne East had a 2-over.

Danni carded a 143 to finish one stroke ahead of Sheridan senior Kirby Coe-Kirkham. Sutherland and Riverton's Jorden James tied for third with 148s, while Shea Hensley tied for fifth with a 155, Ellbogen was ninth with a 162 and Logan Hensley 11th with a 164. KW senior John McGinley tied for 12th with a 165.

"We knew we had the team that could win it," Marsh said. "They played great all season long and we had three senior leaders who really pushed us to be the best."

The state championships capped an impressive season for the Trojans, who won every tournament but one this fall.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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Jack Nowlin is sports editor of the Star-Tribune.

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