Durant girls golf team rode emotional roller-coaster with coach through wife's car accident, son's birth
As Durant senior Blayne Barker prepared to hit out of a fairway bunker on the 18th hole at Lincoln Park’s West course on Thursday, her coach pulled her back.
Tanner Dupree wanted his best player to look at the crowd awaiting her at the green, and appreciate the moment in her final Class 5A state golf tournament.
“No matter what you make on this hole,” Dupree told Barker, “we win and you win.”
It was only a slight exaggeration. Barker made par for a two-round total of 146 to win by four shots over first-day leader Jaelynn Unger of Noble. And Durant stretched a four-shot lead into a 14-shot win over Duncan in the team race.
“I was really surprised I would be leading by that much,” Barker said. “It was surreal. I never thought I’d be in this position.
“It was a really good feeling to take it all in.”
Dupree and the Lions have taken to appreciating moments, big or small, more regularly lately.
Over the last six weeks, as the team was grinding through its season and preparing to make its run at a state title, the players watched their coach ride an emotional roller-coaster so dramatic it was difficult to comprehend.
Roughly six weeks ago, Dupree’s wife, Emily, was in a bad car accident at 38 weeks pregnant. Their son, Montana, was born April 1, and though he slept through most of Thursday’s excitement, he’s healthy and doing well.
Emily was at the course both days and doing well, though she has continued to battle medical issues.
“Four trips to the ER with her,” Tanner said. “She’s been back in and out of the hospital a couple different stints with some postpartum issues.
“We’ve had a wild ride this golf season.”
The team didn’t just watch what was happening to their coach. They rode the waves with him.
“It’s been hard to go through that, knowing everything that was going on, and keep our focus and get our goal accomplished,” said senior Abbey Hunt, who played a key role Thursday, shooting a 78 after a first-round 91. “But we’re happy that they’re doing better and that we still were able to get it done here today.”
Barker and Hunt — two of Durant’s three seniors, along with Madison Feltman — were starters on the 2016 team that won a state title as well. The senior trio provided leadership at times when family needs prevented their coach from being with them.
“We’ve just been trying to stick together and be a team, and try to get everyone motivated to practice,” Barker said. “We had to keep pushing through. It was hard, but we did it.”