Jirak takes medal honors at Nike Boys Golf Invitational

Kaleb Allen of Notre Dame-West Burlington tees off during the Notre Dame-West Burlington Boys Golf Invitational Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at the Burlington Golf Club.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Again, a little of both can also go a long way.

Van Buren County sophomore TJ Jirak doesn’t claim to be the best golfer in the world. In fact, just three years ago he bought a golf club for the first time and got serious about the sport.

On a cool and mostly overcast Tuesday at Burlington Golf Club, Jirak conquered the course and the competition.

Jirak nailed the best 18-hole course of his life on perhaps the toughest 18-hole course he has played.

Jirak, using brand new irons his parents recently bought him, hit a par-8 80 to edge Mount Pleasant’s Nick Matheny by one shot for medal honors at the Nike Invitational.

Mount Pleasant High School's Nick Matheney tees off during the Notre Dame-West Burlington Boys' Golf Invitational Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at the Burlington Golf Club.

Jirak’s round helped Van Buren County finish second in the team race, nine strokes behind Mount Pleasant.

A little skill and a little luck added up to a big win for Jirak.

“I was really lucky. I got new irons the other day and just felt like I was hitting them well today,” said Jirak, who has eight siblings and whose father, Kurt Kirak, was a wrestling coach in Van Buren County. “It was pretty lucky. I said, ‘I’m not the best golfer. I come here, I play and I have fun.”

Jirak, the Warriors’ No. 5 player, got the confidence boost he needed on his third hole, the 388-yard par-4 10th hole. There he stuck his approach shot above the water 10 feet away.

Jirak, like many of the competitors in the eight-team field, struggled to judge speed on the BGC greens.

Only 14 players beat 100 on the day. Of these, only eight broke 90.

Tyler Wade of Fort Madison High School takes aim during the Notre Dame-West Burlington Boys Golf Invitational Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at the Burlington Golf Club.

“My putts were uncertain. I felt like I could have done a little better on those. But everything else was on,” Jirak said.

Matheny, who had great success in the youth tournaments, put together a solid, if unspectacular, round for the Panthers. Mount Pleasant was the only team with four players under 100. Reece Kempker (85), Reece Coffman (95) and Nate Dismang (99) joined Matheny under 100 for the Panthers.

“I was hitting the fairways pretty well. I hit a few greens. Nothing spectacular,” said Matheny. “The team played well. They all played well. Our second and third players played well. It was just a tough day for everyone.”

Carter Loyd of Winfield-Mount Union tees off during the Notre Dame-West Burlington Boys Golf Invitational on Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at the Burlington Golf Club.

Fort Madison senior Tyler Wade and Notre Dame-West Burlington senior Kaleb Allen are tied for third, each with an 83.

“I learned where to lay down, where you want to be to attack those flags,” said Wade, who birdied the par-5, 518-yard 12th hole. “I played well from the tee, but on the greens I struggled one”. They were smooth. They are faster than what I am used to. “

“It’s a beautiful course. I just didn’t know how to play it,” said Fort Madison senior Jordan Simpson. “It wasn’t a very good round of golf by any means. I shot pretty badly. The greens were very fast. I don’t have a good turn.

Notre Dame-West Burlington's Kaleb Allen watches his putt on the green during the Notre Dame-West Burlington Boys' Golf Invitational on Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at the Burlington Golf Club.

Allen, the Nikes’ No. 1 player, struggled on the fast, undulating greens.

“I couldn’t reach the fairway. I couldn’t hit the green. I just didn’t give myself a chance to birdie, or even par. It was a tough day for me today,” Allen said. “I just have to improve. I have to hit the greens, get close and give myself a chance to birdie. At least two putts to go in the hole.”

Matt Levins is a sports reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Burlington, Iowa, which has covered local sports for 31 years. Contact him at [email protected]

Nike invitation


At the Burlington Golf Club

Footage: 6,301; By 72

Team results

1. Nice Mount, 360; 2. County of Van Buren, 369; 3. Fort Madison, 372; 4. Davis County, 384; 5. Notre Dame-West Burlington, 398; 6. Wapello, 402; 7. Union Winfield-Mount, 414; 8. Central Lee, 445.

Top 10 individual medalists

1. TJ Jirak, Van Buren County, 80; 2. Nick Matheny, Mount Pleasant, 81; 3. tie, Kaleb Allen, ND-WB and Tyler Wade, Fort Madison, 83; 5. Reece Kempker, Mount Pleasant, 85; 6. Riley Bruckman, Van Buren County, 87; 7. Easton White, Davis County, 88; 8. Emmet Kruse, Fort Madison, 89; 10. tie, Carter Loyd, W-MU and Reece Coffman, Mount Pleasant, 95.


Central Lee — Ashton Robinson, 116; David Wright, 113; Bo Herdrich, 128; Cale Clark, 115; Keatin Fuger, 101; Will Ferris, 141 years old.

Davis County — Easton White, 88; Noah Hamm, 92; Jack Bigsby, 101; Jackson Gru=im, 103; Michael Early, 107; Tucker Marshall, 105.

Fort Madison — TylerWade, 83; Brady Wade, 101; Brennan Ulik, 103; Aidan Pennock, 100; Jordan Simpson, 132; Emmet Kruse, 89/

Mount Pleasant — Nick Matheny, 81; Reece Kempker, 85; Reece Coffman, 95; Nate Dismang, 99; Ben Meador, 139; Isaac Zihlman, 122 years old.

Notre-Dame-West Burlington — Kaleb Allen, 83; Kyle Etka, 101; Carsen Jones, 103; Chase Richards, 111; Kody Allen, 120; Alex Ziegler, 118 years old.

Van Buren County — Riley Bruckman, 87; Dylan Richardson, 102; Anthony Duncan, 103; Lucas McEntee, 100; TJ Jirak, 80; Aidan McEntee, 111 years old.

Wapello— Casey Short, 110; Zach Harbison, 96; Garrison Cooper, 98; Coder Malcolm, 112; Dawson Tipps, 98; Aragorn Little, 114.

Winfield-Mount Union— Carter Loyd, 95; Nick Crow, 109; Andrew Brown, 105; Isaac Schurr, 114; Jacques Edwards, 107; Griffon Humphreys, 122 years old.