Boys golf: Ryan wins 4-4A title

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Courtesy photo/SGSpiess Photography, Sharon Spiess
Ryan’s Travis Willis hits a tee shot Wednesday during the first day of the District 4-4A tournament in Thackerville, Okla. Willis won the individual district championship Thursday and Ryan claimed its first district title.

With an alumnus in the national spotlight, the Ryan golf team made this week downright historic. Ryan won its first District 4-4A title Thursday at WinStar Golf Course in Thackerville, Okla.

The Raiders posted a 36-hole score of 628, finishing 16 shots ahead of Wichita Falls.

The accomplishment occurred the same day that Kelly Kraft, a Ryan graduate and the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, played the first round of the Masters.

Ryan head coach Trey Peden said the two-day district tournament drained the Raiders physically and mentally, leaving little energy for a large celebration.

“Guys were tired, and part of it took a little while to sink in,” Peden said. “They worked so hard for it and golf is a year-round sport, but it all comes down to two days.”

Peden said it was the best two days his team has played all season. Travis Willis took home the individual district championship by shooting a 4-over-par 148 to win by five strokes.

The sophomore improved his game throughout the spring and consistently scored under 80, leading to a solid showing at the district preview tournament.

“He’s always had the ability to do that,” Peden said. “I think for him it’s more of a mental struggle and the idea of believing he’s capable of doing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if from here on out he’s able to do that on a consistent basis.”

Senior captain Hayden Hilton finished fourth, shooting 13-over 157. Ryan Zimmer shot a 159 and finished seventh. Cody McBee finished with a score of 166 to tie for 12th, while Mackenzie O’Keefe finished at 171.

Peden said the team refocused after hearing how the Raiders blew a first-day lead at the 2008 district tournament.

After Thursday’s victory, Peden sent a text message to Kraft from the bus. Kraft replied within two minutes to congratulate the Raiders and wish them well in the regional tournament April 16-20 at Diamondback Golf Club in Abilene.

Peden said his team has improved every time it has stepped onto the course — a welcome sign for a team heading into new territory.

“Every time they have literally played better, and I think that gives us an advantage in self-confidence and belief that they do belong,” Peden said. “It couldn’t be better timing.”

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