Yates earns MWJGT player of year award
He may not believe it to be a fact, but the trophy Colby Yates brought home recently says the Tonganoxie High sophomore is the Midwest Junior Golf Tour fall player of the year.
Yates earned the honor by winning the points title in his age division (14-15) of the six-tournament Metro area golf league that wrapped up the first weekend of November.
“I’m not the best player — I know that,” Yates said with a smile.
The defending Kaw Valley League champion said the MWJGT was full of quality players, many from larger schools.
“We always go back and forth,” Yates said. “In each tournament, nobody knows who’s gonna win.”
After finishing in the top four at his first two tournaments, Yates received a real boost in the points standings by finishing first at his next two tourneys — Oct. 10-11 at Staley Farms Golf Club in Kansas City, Mo., and Oct. 17-18 at Winterstone Golf Course in Independence, Mo. At Winterstone, Yates posted the best score in all age divisions, 145 for two rounds.
Winning player of the year honors wasn’t Yates’ goal heading into the fall season.
“It just kind of happened after I won the first one,” Yates said. “I realized I was in second place and 30 (points) behind.”
The following week, he took the points lead at Winterstone, which had him leading the way entering the tour’s final tournament at Oakwood Country Club in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 31-Nov. 1. There he played alongside the standings’ second-place golfer in the first round, but Yates’ opponent had to withdraw to go to his school’s homecoming and Yates won the title easily by 91.25 points, even though he finished tied for fourth at Oakwood.
The THS sophomore only played in five of the league’s six events and still won the points title convincingly. Yates said he got a boost with a new putter midway through the tour’s season and that helped him perform at a higher level.
“This is probably the best I’ve played, consistency wise, my whole career,” Yates said.
This was Yates’ third year playing in the league and he said his familiarity with the tour’s organizers and usual golfers made it easy to relax and play well.
“It’s just like showing up and playing a regular round,” he said. “It’s not like other big tournaments.”
This fall, Yates took home six different trophies for his play in the MWJGT, but it was less heralded success last year, he said, that put him in this position.
“I never really started placing, like actually getting trophies, until my freshman year,” Yates said.
That’s when he realized he was capable of much more and started working harder on his golf game.
This fall, along with the five tournaments Yates played in, he practiced three or four days a week and played a round on weekends when he wasn’t competing in the league.
“I definitely knew I could win more, and I ended up succeeding,” Yates said.
Although the Tonganoxie sophomore will be spending a great deal of time this winter in the gym, playing basketball for the Chieftains, he still plans on devoting what free time he has available to hone his golf game and avoid rust in the spring. On weekends, Yates said, he’ll be taking lessons at Robin Nigro Golf Academy in Kansas City, Mo.
Then in the spring, he’ll be back on the golf course, likely winning more trophies and defending his KVL title.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Colby Yates finished in the top four at each of the five Midwest Junior Golf Tour fall events he played in this year.
Shirkey Golf Club — 4th, 155
Dub’s Dread Golf Club — 3rd, 154
Staley Farms Golf Club — 1st, 155
Winterstone Golf Course — 1st, 145
Oakwood Country Club — Tie-4th, 161