By BEN JOHNSON
TULSA — Jake Johnson had Bishop Kelley’s Chris Karlovich in his sights to start the day. By the ninth hole during the final round of the Class 5A state tournament, Johnson had Karlovich in his rear-view mirror.
Nearing the turn at Tulsa Country Club, Johnson teed off on the final hole of the front nine and landed in the front-right bunker on the 205-yard par 3. However, with ease, Johnson escaped the sand and plopped his second shot within a couple of feet of the hole.
Then, disaster struck amid a pristine, sun-splashed setting.
Two of Johnson’s next three shots would haunt him the rest of the round.
Johnson missed a short par put on No. 9 only to follow with a tap-in for a less-than-desirable bogey.
Moments later, Johnson pulled his driver out and drilled his tee shot on No. 10 in the pond on the right. That led to a triple bogey, 7 on the long par 4.
“I should have hit 3-iron,” Johnson said.
Johnson would never reclaim the lead and ended up finishing in a tie for third with Bishop Kelley’s Will Murphy. Johnson and Murphy concluded the 54-hole tournament at 223, which was four strokes off the winning pace set by Karlovich.
“Disappointing,” said Johnson, who began the day in second place, four strokes off Karlovich’s pace. “I had the lead after nine and blew it. But it’s just a learning experience and I’ll get it next year.”
There’s no reason to think he can’t. After all, Karlovich and Murphy are both seniors, and it could very well come down to Johnson and Edison’s Alexander Hughes — who finished second with a 220 — next season.
“Next year, hopefully I can win it my senior year,” said Johnson, who did improve on his seventh-place finish at state in 2012.
When he tees off next year at 5A state tournament, Johnson will think back and realize what he learned at one of the more prestigous golf clubs in Oklahoma this year.
“Play smarter and hit fairways,” Johnson said of his game plan a year from now.
Instead of blaming his errant tee shot on No. 10, Johnson pegged the missed putt on No. 9 as the culprit to his highest round of the state tournament.
“After getting out of the sand and missing that putt,” Johnson said, “that kind of turned the whole round around.”
Tahlequah coach Nick Baker said putting likely cost Johnson a shot at medalist honors.
“Really what got him today was his putting,” Baker said. “Even with that triple bogey, he missed four putts around three feet long and he shoots 77. If he makes those putts, like he normally does, that’s 73 and he wins the tournament.”
Like Johnson, the rest of Tahlequah’s team struggled to post low numbers on the final day. Blake Berry (79) and Brent Spradlin (84) posted their best rounds of the tournament, but Hunter Pennington (85) and Brandt Emerson (85) were among 62 golfers in the field that shot in the 80s or higher in the final round.
Tahlequah wrapped up the second day with a tournament-high 325. Yet, the Tigers moved up the team leaderboard and finished in a four-place tie with Bishop McGuinness. Both clubs concluded the tournament with a 962.
“That’s one of the best finishes we’ve had at state,” said Baker, whose gofers logged a 1,040 at Chickasaw Pointe Golf Resort in Kingston last season. “Our expectations were higher than our finish, but I’m proud of the guys. I was out there with them the whole time and they were battling. Now they all know what they need to do to get better. They just have to work all summer long.”
Heading into the final 18 holes of the tournament, no other team was catching Bishop Kelley. The Comets cruised to the team title, posting a 913, which was 40 shots better than Shawnee.
Bishop Kelley, through, graduates three players from its team this year. Same goes for Bishop McGuinness. Deer Creek, which came in third at 961, will lose four from this season. Only Tahlequah and Shawnee return every golfer this season on 2014’s squad.
Advantage, Tigers and Wolves.
“We’re young, we get everyone back,” Baker said. “Again, we’ll have competition in just qualifying for the team next year, so hopefully next year they’ll be more battle tested. And hopefully we’ll have a chance to win it.”
1. Bishop Kelley (305-303-305), 913
2. Shawnee (323-316-314), 953
3. Deer Creek (318-312-331), 961
t4. Tahlequah (319-318-325), 962
t4. Bishop McGuinness (321-310-331), 962
6. Duncan (326-324-328), 978
7. Edison (335-328-326), 989
8. Altus (344-332-332), 1,008
9. El Reno (331-335-346), 1,012
10. Claremore (346-335-350), 1,051
11. Grove (341-342-349), 1,032
12. Carl Albert (355-349-360), 1,064
1. Chris Karlovich (Bishop Kelley), 71-71-77, 219
2. Alexander Hughes (Edison), 77-70-73, 220
t3. Jake Johnson (Tahlequah), 71-75-77, 223; Will Murphy (Bishop Kelley), 72-76-75, 223
5. Garrett McDaniel (Shawnee), 77-75-74, 226
t6. Carson Jenson (El Reno), 71-76-82, 229; Trent Meisel (Lawton MacArthur), 77-77-75, 229
t8. Colton Cowan (Piedmont), 81-78-74, 233; Daniel Langley (Shawnee), 78-78-77, 233