Blue Springs' Paniagua, Rooney headed to state golf

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Blue Springs freshman Raiden Paniagua grabbed a putter from his golf bag and headed to the WinterStone Golf Course putting green.

While members of other golf teams awaited their scores at the Class 5 District 4 tournament Monday afternoon, Paniagua worked on the putting game that helped him shoot 76 and punch his ticket to the state championships May 20-21 at Sedalia Country Club.

As Paniagua putted, his senior teammate Blake Rooney – who shot an 82 – waited with his parents and coach Doug Gillispie as they nervously watched former Lee's Summit golf coach Manning Williams list the scores of individual players.

Blue Springs freshman Raiden Paniagua tees off on the first hole during the Class 5 District 4 tournament Monday at WinterStone Golf Course in Independence. Paniagua, just a little over a year after beginning golf, fired a 4-over-par 76 to advance to next week's state championships.

"For the last hour and a half," Gillispie said, "I've been keeping track of all the sub-80 guys, because it looked like 82 was going to be the cutoff."

That happened to be the score Rooney shot, so he had to wait, and wait, and wait as the final scores were listed.

Blue Springs senior Blake Rooney putts on the first green during the Class 5 District 4 tournament Monday at WinterStone Golf Course in Independence. Rooney shot an 82 to make it right on the cut line to advance to the state championships.

"I want Blake to make it as badly as I wanted to make it," Paniagua, who tied for sixth place, said as the final round of golfers arrived in carts. "He is someone I look up to – he is my mentor. I would not be where I am today without Blake."

It was then announced that 82 was, indeed, the cutoff, with five players recording that identical score.

There were hugs, high-fives and one deep sigh of relief.

"Congratulations Blake!" Paniagua said. We're going to state!"

At last, Rooney could smile.

"It would have been tough to not go this year after we didn't get the chance to play last spring," Rooney said. "I didn't shoot the round I wanted – I had a double bogey and followed that with a bogey – but I tried my best not to let those holes get in my head. I honestly thought the cutoff was going to be somewhere near 80 – and I don't even want to think about how I would have felt right now if I had not made it to state.

"That was my one goal this year, and I'm so happy for Raiden. He works as hard as any kid I've ever played with, and it's great he's going to state as a freshman.”

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Blue Springs assistant coach Kyle Lower added, "We literally have to kick Raiden off the course. It's always, 'One more shot, one more shot! Sorry Raiden, it's time to go home.' None of us are surprised at how well he played today. He isn't affected by the pressure and sure doesn't play like a freshman."

Paniagua has played golf for just one year and three weeks but quickly fell in love with it.

Blue Springs South's Ryan Wall tees off on the third hole during the Class 5 District 4 tournament Monday at WinterStone Golf Course. Wall shot 86 to finish four strokes away from a state berth as the Jaguars finished 11th as a team.

"I know, it's amazing to think I have had this kind of success and only played for such a short period of time," Paniagua said. "I was just feeling it today. I was even after nine and then I knew I was going to state. I knew I would have a strong finish, and I did."

Rockhurst's William King won medalist honors with a 67. Although no teams are going to state, only the top 18 individual golfers, Rockhurst was first at 304 and Staley was second at 312.

Rockhurst had only three qualifiers so it will not compete as a team at state. Staley had four golfers finish in the top 18, led by Logan Broyles’ 75, so the Falcons will get to compete at state.

Truman's Ian Hildebrand follows his tee shot on the third hole during the Class 5 District 4 tournament Monday at WinterStone Golf Course. Hildebrand shot 115 as Truman finished 12th.

Blue Springs finished eighth as a team at 359. Lee’s Summit North, led by Raef Campbell’s 89, was 10th at 370. Blue Springs South, led by Ryan Wall’s 86, took 11th at 386. Truman, led by Aidan Williams’ 91, was 12th at 430.

Class 5 District 8 local scores

Blue Springs: Blake Rooney, 82; Raiden Paniagua, 76; Carson Corwin, 103; Gavin Smith, 108; Caden Hoehns, 98.

Blue Springs South: Ryan Wall, 86; Chauncey Small, 98; Adam Suskind, 106; Jacob Alderman, 95; Andrew Nagel, 107.

Lee's Summit North: Liam Frank, disqualified; Raef Campbell, 89; Tyler Dailey, 93; Ty Barker, 92; Colin Sukaromya, 96.

Truman: Aidan Williams, 91; Ian Hildebrand, 115; Cole Dockins, 99; Jude McGraw, 132; Alec Vaught, 125.