Down four strokes at the start of play and still down a stroke with nine holes to go, Goodland’s Gage Ihrig made a charge down the back stretch to claim the Open Division title of The Railer: The Kansas Stroke Play Championship, which concluded Sunday at Sand Creek Station.
Ihrig, who will be a senior at Wichita State this fall, shot a 66 in his final round for a 206 total, breaking the record set by Jack Courington in 2012 at 208.
Ihrig shot three birdies, a bogey and five pars in the final nine holes. He had four straight birdies (two through five) on the front nine with pars the rest of the way.
Ihrig downed Witchayapat Sinsrang of Thailand by eight strokes for the title. Sinsrang led the first two days of the tournament.
“I just got off to a pretty good start,” Ihrig said. “I just played back in it. I just knew where (Sinsrang) was at the whole time. I tried not to think about it too much. I just tried to sink as many birdie putts as I could. I just tried to approach my shots and hit them. It was not an easy set up today. (The record) was pretty cool.”
Ihrig said his next tournament was to be a Kansas Amateur qualifier, but the win gives him exempt status for that tournament, which begins July 17 at the Kansas City Country Club.
“I may go caddie for my little brother,” Ihrig said. “It’s nice not to have to qualify. My next tournament after that is a U.S. Amateur qualifier in Wichita.”
When Ihirg returns to the Shockers in the fall, he will have a new conference to contend with. Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference title last spring, but the Shockers join the American Athletic Conference this school year.
“I have no idea,” Ihrig said of the new conference. “I haven’t even looked into it.”
Sinsrang had just three bogeys in the first 36 holes of play — at 10 and 12 Friday and at 13 Saturday, but had an eagle two holes after that.
He had a relatively clean round on the front nine, going one under par with a birdie on four. He opened the back nine with a birdie on 10, but doubled on 11. After bogeys on 14 and 17, Sinsrang shot an eight on 18 for quadruple bogey. Sinsrang held second place by one shot.
“It was a very tough round today,” Sinsrang said. “I played bad on the last three holes. I did pretty good the first day and yesterday.”
Sinsrang played at Dodge City Community College the last two years, playing Sand Creek Station at the Jayhawk Conference Championships.
He will return to the course next spring as he joins the University of Nebraska-Omaha, which competes in The Summit League Championships.
“It’s a pretty tough course when it’s windy,” Sinsrang said. “It was pretty tough today. I’m joining a good team with good teammates and a good coach. I’m looking forward to playing good golf.”
Sinsrang said the wind was the biggest difference between playing in Thailand and the U.S.
“In Thailand, it’s not as windy as it is here,” he said. “It took me some time to figure it out.”
Courington of Wichita, Luke Gannon of Bel Aire and Wells Padgett of Wichita all tied for third at 215. Jeffrey Topp of Edmond, Okla., was sixth at 216. Gannon shot Saturday’s low round of 66.
Gregory Goode of Salina won the Senior Division with an even-par 216. He led the first two days with rounds of 70 and 71, finishing with a 75. Don Kuehn of Kansas City, Mo., was second at 218. John Bailey of Nashville and two-time defending champion Steve Newman of Wichita tied for third at 220.
Newman had Saturday’s low round of 70. Bailey had Sunday’s low round of 70.