Titles for two: Cathedral claims set of golf championships in stellar year

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2018

Most people are lucky, Cathedral golf coach Kurt Russ said, to be a part of just one state championship in their life.

After an exceptional year of golf for the Green Wave, Russ is happy to say he’s added two more titles — making that a total of five in his athletic career.

Within the past two weeks, the Cathedral girls golf team and an individual boys golfer from Cathedral both won MAIS Class AAA State Championships.

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“Golly, this is pretty special,” Russ said. “I’m very blessed and the talent is a big part of it.”

The Lady Green Wave — Kayla Starr, Liza Mayo and Maggie Ulmer — claimed their title on April 26 in Jackson, notching an eight-stroke win over Jackson Prep.

The top two scores were counted for Cathedral for a combined total of 185, as Starr shot an 85 and Mayo finished with an individual score of 100. Ulmer shot a 108.

Despite the win, the trio said golfing conditions were not quite pleasurable.

“It was cold. It was soggy,” Starr said. “The conditions were pretty bad. It was hard to hit the ball because it was just wet.”

Helping them through their championship round, however, was Russ himself.

As Mayo took the turn onto the back nine holes, she remembers receiving a pep talk that was less than conventional.

“To make me do better, he told me that we were four strokes behind the leader,” Mayo said. “I was just thinking ‘Oh gosh, I’ve got to pick up my game.’”

Though he said he just wanted his team to finish strong, Russ admitted the confidence boost was a lie.

“I had no idea where they stacked up,” he said. “I told her that if she went out and played hard on the next nine then we might have a chance. I actually I had no idea, but she played the next few holes as hard as she could.

“I’m not sure if it was the difference or not, but sometimes you have to use those kind of tactics.”

Equally for individual winner Chase Kaiser, Russ has been there every step of the way.

Kaiser notched his title on Tuesday in Starkville, winning by just one stroke with a score of 75.

The win, Kaiser said, wasn’t his best performance.

“It was a good round considering I never really had an opportunity to score low,” he said. “It was just something I could never get the upper hand on, but I ended up hanging in there.”

The worst moment of the round was a double bogey on hole 16, Russ said.

“He thought he was done,” he said. “You could see it in his face. The blood just rushed all out.”

With the encouragement from Russ, Kaiser picked up his attitude.

“I think the biggest thing was how it all turned around,” Kaiser said. “It’s been one of the biggest mental steps I’ve made since I really started competing. I’ve learned how to drop what’s happened on previous holes and just keep going.

“That day I knew I wasn’t going to finish like I wanted to, but I told myself to do the best I could.”

Moving forward, Russ will return each member of the girls team, as well as Kaiser. He hopes the future looks just as bright as this year has turned out.

“We’ve gotten better every year, so now we can only improve score-wise,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep winning some more.”