Hillsview golf course in Pierre was flooded with high school seniors on Monday for a ‘one of a kind’ event that aimed at giving some of the graduating golfers a bit of closure to their high school career.
In early April, due to the closure of all school buildings in the state for the remainder of the school year, the South Dakota High School Activities Association made the decision to cancel all of its spring sports and activities. This officially ended track and field, boys tennis, and high school golf for the spring.
As time went on, discussions began to occur within the high school golf community about the possibility of putting on a one-day event for just the seniors in all three girls classes and ‘B’ boys.
Tom Jansa, South Dakota Golf Association Executive Director and Bishop O’Gorman golf coach, led the charge, and it was decided, after multiple conversations with other high school golf coaches around South Dakota, to put on an event that would be called the ‘Senior Showcase.’ It wasn’t going to be the same as a state tournament, but it was an idea that would give the senior spring golfers a chance to play one more time for their school.
Monday’s golf event in Pierre consisted of 43 players. ‘AA’ girls had fourteen, ‘A’ girls had nine, and ‘B’ girls had six. The ‘B’ boys division saw a total of fourteen golfers as well.
“I think if we would have got it going a bit earlier, we might have got a few more [golfers], but we were really pleased with the numbers,” stated Tom Jansa. “And it wasn’t really about trying to get to a huge number, it was just to make something available for the kids that really wanted to play and were able to play.”
For Jansa, this event came with the opportunity to watch his daughter Sophie play one more time at the high school level as well.
“It was really cool. As a coach, I haven’t been able to watch her exclusively through most of the events she’s played in throughout high school. So I got to watch, not every shot, but I got to watch a lot of her shots today. I have a tradition. I walk down the 18th fairway with each of my (senior) girls at the end of the tournament, so I got a chance to walk down with her and it was really special.
Sophie Jansa finished the ‘Senior Showcase’ tied for first in ‘AA’ with Carly Kunkel, also from O’Gorman. They both shot +8 on the day.
Madison Bulldogs head golf coach Joey Liesinger was also present on Monday to watch his two senior golfers – Mya Maxwell and Kelsey Gustaf. Like Jansa, even though he didn’t have a daughter playing, the event was memorable.
“It meant the world to me. They were crying at the end and I was crying,” said Liesinger. “We’ve been together since 7th grade and they’ve gave everything they’ve ever had. When they finished, it was really tough on them, it was tough on me, but those girls really mean the world to me.”
The ‘A’ girls, similar to ‘AA’ had a tie for first place. Lauren Tims of Sioux Falls Christian and Lauryn Driscoll of West Central both finished at +12. Tims experience was a tad bittersweet as she was supposed to play with two of her younger sisters on the team this spring. Instead, her final round of golf as a high schooler consisted of just her – which after it sunk in she said was “ok.”
“I'm so happy that Tom Jansa and the SDGA put it on. It gave all the seniors one last shot. I know we all missed most of our golf seasons so for a lot of us it was one last time to play and to play for our school,” explained Tims. “It just meant so much to play for [Sioux Falls Christian] one more time.”
Josie Rush of Philip, who won the the ‘B’ girls division at +11, echoed Tims’ gratitude of the event taking place.
“It wasn’t how I expected my season to go, but I’m glad there was a good way to wrap up the year,” said Rush. “It was a beautiful day to play golf, a little hotter than I thought, but it was fun.”
The temperature for most of the day was in the mid-80’s to low-90’s, which at times was a bit warm. Despite the heat, the best score of the day came from Austin Boomsma of James Valley Christian in ‘B’ boys. The future University of Sioux Falls golfer shot +2 in the round.
“I was really excited (when he heard he was going to get one more chance to play),” stated Boomsma. “It made my whole year to find out I would get to play one more time.”
Most would agree, a state tournament would have been the best case scenario this spring, but having the opportunity to play one more time will stick with these senior golfers forever.