Truman's Bragg surprises herself with all-state honor

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Truman junior Katelyn Bragg follows through on a shot in the second round of the Class 3 Missouri State High School Girls Golf Championips at Twin Hills Golf & Country Club in Joplin. Bragg finished in a tie for 14th to earn the first all-state honor for Truman since 2011.

JOPLIN, Mo. – Katelyn Bragg had to play the waiting game and she didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter.

When the Truman junior wrapped up her round on the second day of the Class 3 Missouri State High School Girls Golf Championships at Twin Hills Golf & Country Club, she sat in a tie for 14th place – just inside the all-state cutoff of the top 15 finishers.

There were still more than two dozen players on the course and many of them had better scores in relation to par than Bragg with a few holes left.

“I thought I’d be in the top 20 but I ended up staying at 14,” Bragg said. “It was amazing to get that all-state medal. I definitely didn’t expect to be all-state; I barely expected to go to state, let alone be in the top 15.”

Bragg’s standing jumped a lot in the final hour, going from 14th to 16th back to 14th and then 17th, before finally settling into the tie for 14th with Madeline Gentry of St. Teresa’s Academy. Gentry was fourth at districts last week, while Bragg was 10th. 

Bragg became the first all-state girls golfer for the Patriots since Madyson Smith earned back-to-back all-state honors in 2010 and 2011. Incidentally, both of Smith’s finishes were the last medal given out, just like Bragg.

“Watching all those scores come in was such a rush,” Truman coach Joey Penner said. “The state tournament is such a grind with 36 holes. This whole trip hasn’t even sunk in yet. This girl (Bragg) has all the talent in the world, just up to her how far she wants to go with it. We were talking after yesterday’s round and before she played today, and I asked her what she noticed? She said he was using all the clubs in her bag and that is what this course we are playing will do. It’s so easy to hit a driver and then a 7-iron and be on the green at Drumm (Farm Golf Club in Independence).

“You will have to use all 14 sticks and it is a matter of learning how to manage a golf course and how to take the proper shots to put holes together. This course is the real deal and definitely a state-caliber course. It's an old-school country club layout with big, mature trees, the water was trouble and there was a lot of sand. It was a very challenging course.”

Bragg shot 91 on Tuesday to finish the two-day event with a 177 total. She entered the day in ninth place – after shooting a season-best 86 on Monday – and six shots off the leaders. She ended up 18 holes behind Class 3 champion Kiser Pannier of Sedalia Smith-Cotton.

Bragg started on hole No. 1 on Tuesday and carded a 44 on the front nine. The first tee-times started at 8:30 a.m. but by 9 a.m. there was a delay that lasted an hour due to a deluge of rain.

“I haven’t been in a tournament this cold ever; it was terrible,” Bragg said. “I didn’t expect to do that good going into Monday after the practice round. I knew I had to focus because it was so cold and that is what I did. The course played to my advantage. There were a lot of straight fairways, so I tried to forget about the cold and focus on the shot.”

After having three birdies in the opening round, Bragg didn’t have any on her second 18 holes. She did string together three straight pars, something she didn’t do in the first round. She got pars on the pair of par 5s (Nos. 5 and 6) and the par-3 No. 7, a hole she double-bogeyed in the first round.

Bragg had a triple bogey on the 467-yard, par-5 No. 10 for the second straight day. She had another triple bogey on No. 15 – a 428-yard par 5. Bragg though strung together pars on Nos. 13, 16 and 17.

“It was a very long course compared to what we usually played,” Bragg said. “I had to focus on every shot good, because if you messed up you were in a bad position.”

Teammate Molly Bradshaw shot 263 during the event and placed 72nd in her debut at state. She opened on No. 1 and was on the green about to putt for par on the 301-yard, par-4 hole when the rain came.

The delay followed and Bradshaw had to start over on that hole and struggled to a quadruple bogey, the start of a rocky first nine holes.

“This year has been truly memorable,” Penner said. “We haven’t taken multiple girls to the state tournament and we were three shots shy of taking three girls and seven strokes shy of taking the whole team from districts. All of the girls are coming back and the future is very bright at Truman. It is just a matter of how much work they will put in. Truman … and Independence, is not a country-club community but it comes down to the desire and the work these two put into to accomplish these goals. I’m so proud of them.”