Matt Drallmeier has been a staple of Rolla golf for the last few seasons.
The Rolla senior played in his second consecutive State Championship last week and as he looks back at his four years at Rolla, Drallmeier said the number one thing he'll take away is how much fun it was.
"I'm just going to remember how fun it was. It was always super relaxed. We always focused on getting better, but we had fun doing it," said the Rolla senior. "Just the camaraderie of playing on the team. I played with 15 different people on the varsity and when you go out on tournaments and it's just five guys having fun. I'm always going to remember how much fun we had."
Having fun was crucial for Drallmeier as he made his second straight trip to State. He went into the tournament with more confidence because he was ranked higher than he was as a junior, but he got out to a rough start on day one. He was seven over-par through his first nine holes, but he had to keep his spirits up and he was able to turn his round around. It all started with a birdie on his 10th hole.
"Those shots are done with. The only chance I have is to go out there, have fun, hit something close and hit some birdies," said Drallmeier on his front nine on the first day. "I started out and shot seven on the back, then I birdied the first hole and dropped about a 20-footer for birdie, so that was pretty fun. I was like 'you know what, just hit and go for it. I've got nothing to lose.'
He went out and was even par on the back nine, shooting a +7 79 on the day. Head coach Zack Nixon was proud of Drallmeier's determination to not let his first nine holes get to him. Drallmeier went on to have an even better score on day two.
"With golf, you just don't have it every day. And then he started to swing a little bit better towards the back nine. He still didn't have his best, but he was grinding and he grinded out that good score on the first day and it was fun. That was the thing," said coach Nixon. "On the second day, his composure was probably even better than the first day. I was proud, because there can be this air of superiority and all these other types of mentalities and Matt kept the same mentality that he did all year long. I think that's when he fell into groove the second day. Even though he wasn't making putts, he hit just a ton of great shots.
"That was what was fun, I was having fun, he was having fun and he was just like 'coach, I'm going for it' and I was like 'well, that sounds like a lot of fun, let's do it,'" continued the Rolla head coach.
One of the biggest shots for the Rolla senior came on a par five. He had hit the ball into the trees, but got a lucky bounce out. Drallmeier was about 175 yards short of the green, which was uphill and over some trees. Since it was going to be the final round of his high school career, he decided to just go for it and it worked. His teammate Jeriah Jordan was able to come out and walk the course with him and the reaction to that shot kept a big smile on his face.
"We had our number two, Jeriah Jordan come. He came and watched. It was a lot of fun. I showed him how to do it. That one shot I hit the six iron over the trees I looked over after I hit the shot and he was just shaking his head and walking away. So that was pretty fun," said Drallmeier with a chuckle. "I showed him how to grind out a round, even though you're not hitting the ball very well."
Drallmeier went out and ended up shooting a 76 on the second day, three strokes better than his opening round. That brought his overall score to 155, a 13 stroke improvement from last year. He enjoyed the fact that he was able to share his final round with a teammate and he nearly had his entire team there. Rolla was just three strokes shy of qualifying as a team, while Jordan and Jack Gesualdi each missed the individual cut by just one stroke. As the senior leader on the team, Drallmeier has loved seeing his younger teammates develop and he hopes that rough luck at Sectionals inspires them to be even better without him next year.
"At Sectionals, we played a really good round and you could see the scores as the year went on get better and better," said Drallmeier. "Being three strokes away form making it (to State) as a team was pretty rough. I know everybody on the team was thinking they could think of three easy strokes that they could've made up to get there. I know I putted pretty bad at Sectionals and I could've made the difference myself. In hindsight, it's probably good that they missed it, because they'll probably be more hungry next year and they'll work harder than even this year to make the jump."
The Rolla senior has tried to set an example for his teammates all season and he said his number one piece of advice for them is simple: don't get complacent.
"One thing I've told them is it's not nearly as difficult to go from shooting mid-80's to high 70's as it is to go from high 70's to low 70's. It's a huge jump. I was shooting some high 70's scores my sophomore year and I was still struggling to shoot low 70's my senior year. It's infinitely harder because instead of just taking away the silly mistakes, you have to make more good shots," said Drallmeier. "I've just told them to not be complacent with how you are now, because I was playing some incredibly good golf my sophomore year, but then the last two years, it's harder to get better and better and lower your scores."
Drallmeier said his final round was an interesting one. His shots weren't always perfect, but he managed to get out of some rough situations. While his final hole wasn't the casual stroll down the fairway he hoped for, he was happy with the way he was able to cap off his career.
"It was interesting and also it wasn't really down the fairway," joked Drallmeier. "I was in the trees way left, just like I had been all day. On 17, I had a bunker shot next to the green one foot in the bunker and one foot out of the bunker. I was in some interesting places, but the last hole, I just tried to have as much fun as I could. I tried to hit an insane punch shot that I probably shouldn't have made, but I pulled it off. Then I hit another crazy flop shot that I probably shouldn't have tried, but it worked out. I just tried to have as much fun as I could.
"It's also encouraging that the rounds I played, it felt like I was playing bad and then you look at the numbers and it really wasn't that bad," continued the Rolla senior. "My game was in a lot better place and even though I wasn't hitting it well, I was a lot higher up in the field. I did the best I could, so the fact that I got 28th playing not near my best game, I'll take it."
Coach Nixon knows it's never easy to say goodbye to a player that has made such an impact on the golf program, but he's glad he's had the last four years will Drallmeier.
"You always hate to say goodbye to a player like Matt, because I've been coaching here a while and I've seen a lot of players and they always progress and it's fun to watch that transition and how they mature, but I don't know that anyone's matured as much as Matt as a player and as a person in the four years on the golf team. It was just fun to watch and that's the thing. This was probably the most fun I've had coaching at a State Tournament because of his attitude and his demeanor," said coach Nixon. "Saying goodbye to him is going to be rough because he was the team leader. He really led the way and he did everything I could ever ask of a senior. He said 'hey guys, this is the way' and he showed them in every aspect on the course."
While the past four years have been spectacular, Nixon joked that he wouldn't say no to a fifth.
"He's just a great kid and a great person and you enjoy the time you have. A part of you wants to say 'Matt, you redshirted your freshmen year, I'll see you next year, you'll be the transfer student,'" said the Rolla head coach with a laugh. "You know, they're going on to a knew part in their life and I'm happy for that."
Drallmeier doesn't really intend on playing college golf just because of the level of commitment you have to give to the sport. He wants to focus on getting a great education, but that doesn't mean he's done with the sport forever.
"I will be calling him for scramble tournaments though," said Nixon with a hearty laugh. Drallmeier added, "I will be playing recreationally and summer tournaments and for money at some point. The NCAA doesn't have any hold over me at this point."