By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
OZARK — Per usual, the numbers game inside Cooper Hess’ head was churning out his route to victory Monday.
Hitting off the No. 18 tee box at Millwood Golf & Racquet Club during the Springfield Public Schools Invitational, the Lebanon junior was very much aware of the one-shot gap he had to make up on leader Dawson Meek, of Springfield Glendale.
Hess responded to the pressure with a birdie, that combined with a bogey by Meek, lifted him to the Invite championship with a five-over par round of 76.
It worked out well for Hess that he and Meek were playing in the same foursome.
“I knew where we stood,” Hess said. “Sometimes, I wish I didn’t keep track of where everyone is. But I like to know so I know what I need to do. It helps me focus and I knew what I most likely had to do to today to win.
“it was nice to go out and do what I needed to do to secure the win.”
Hess hit the middle of the fairway using a 4-iron on the 433-yard, par-4 18. It left him 166 yards to the pin.
“I was in between clubs,” Hess said. “I was in between a nine-(iron) and eight. I wanted to be below the hole, so I went ahead with a nine. It landed pin-high and (rolled) about 8-10 feet.”
Once again, Hess was glad to know where he and Meek stood on their scorecards. Hess eased his mind before his putt to win by realizing he likely had already clinched a tie for first.
“I was pretty nervous,” he said. “At the same time, I was calm because I knew if I didn’t make it, I’d have a playoff. I calmed myself down.
“I thought I hit the putt a little high. It started to break at the last second and I saw it go in the middle of the hole.”
In contrast to Hess, Meek purposely didn’t keep up with the scores of the players in his group.
“I didn’t pay attention to the scores, I was just trying to play my own game,” said Meek, who won the Invite last year with a 75. “I’d rather play my normal game and not worry about (the lead) because then I might get nervous.
“I didn’t play too good the whole day and it carried over to 18. The 18th didn’t go well for me from the start (off the tee box). I ended up actually having a pretty good bogey.”
This was the first time Lebanon competed in the SPS Invite, but hardly the first time Hess and Meek have been locked up in a showdown.
“We played a lot together growing up,” Hess said. “Dawson and I know each other well and are pretty good friends. I’m pretty good friends with all the Glendale guys.”
Glendale repeated as team champs with a 321, good for a nine-stroke victory over runner-up Springfield Catholic and its 330. Springfield Kickapoo was third with a 343.
Nick Palmer, of Springfield Catholic and Logan Smith, of Kickapoo, tied for third in the individual standings with a 79.
The Invite was played amidst dreadful weather conditions. Temperatures in the 30s were compounded by a steady mist that fell on the golfers during their final six of holes, if not more.
“It wasn’t too good, but nothing that should have had that big of an effect on your game,” Meek said. “I’m usually pretty good about not letting (inclement weather) get to me. But it was definitely cold. It started raining on us when were at No. 12. My fingers were frozen after that.”
“You’ve just got to hang in there because everybody has to play in the same conditions,” Hess said. “If you get negative, it’s only going to hurt your score. Staying positive, I think, is the best thing you can do.”
Springfield Public Schools Invitational
1. Cooper Hess, Lebanon 76; 2. Dawson Meek, Springfield Glendale 77; 3. (tie) Logan Smith, Springfield Kickapoo 79, Nick Palmer, Springfield Catholic 79; 5. (tie) Conner Obert, Springfield Glendale 80; Walker Tynes, Springfield Catholic 80; Kelby Day, Ozark 80; 8. (tie) Lucas Ogden, Springfield Glendale 81; Tryn Titus, Lebanon 81; 10. Jonathan Dixon, Glendale 83.
1. Springfield Glendale 321; 2. Springfield Catholic 330; 3. Springfield Kickapoo 343; 4. (tie) Lebanon 358, Ozark 358; 6. West Plains 360; 7. Springfield Kickapoo KV 381; 8. Nixa 395; 9. Springfield Parkview 406; 10. Springfield Glendale JV 407; 11. Springfield Greenwood 415; 12. Branson 440; 13. Springfield Central 484.