DEWITT — Rielly McGranahan spent countless hours of his upbringing on a golf course.

“I really didn't have a choice,” he said.

With two older brothers and a father who enjoyed the game, McGranahan either had to follow along or stay at home with mom.

A senior on the Central DeWitt boys golf team, McGranahan has been home-schooled all the way through his education.

“(Physical education) class was me going to the golf course and playing,” he said. “I’ve had twice as much time to play as (my teammates). It’s been great.”

All those extra hours have paid off for McGranahan and the Sabers.

Central DeWitt heads to the Class 3A state tournament at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge on Thursday and Friday seeking to defend its state championship.

McGranahan has been the catalyst of a deep and talented lineup.

Headed to Black Hawk College this fall to continue his golf career, McGranahan has been a fixture in the Sabers’ lineup since ninth grade.

He averaged 77.71 strokes for 18 holes as a freshman, 74.33 as a sophomore, 74 as a junior and 73.75 this spring, including a low round of 68.

“I thought I was really good as a freshman, and I feel like I’ve gotten worse but I’ve scored better,” McGranahan said. “I was shooting more solid rounds as a freshman, but this year I’m more sporadic. It is just a case of knowing all the courses. If I get down, I can bounce back since I’ve been there before.”

The Sabers return four players from last year’s title squad with McGranahan, sophomore Tucker Kinney and juniors Tanner Steffens and Jacob Brainerd. Freshman Dylan McAleer and junior Drew Eden have joined the lineup.

The goal last season was just to reach the state tournament. The mission this season has been to return and repeat.

Central DeWitt (73-1) has won every tournament it has competed in this spring other than a second-place finish at Solon in the second meet of the year.

“It has put some pressure on us a little bit at some of the meets,” Brainerd said. “We had never won the Wamac meet before, so that was very good winning that. It boosted our confidence going into sectionals.”

There has been plenty of competition within the team.

McGranahan and Kinney each have scoring averages below 80 while the next three golfers — McAleer, Steffens and Brainerd — are separated by less than 2 ½ strokes.

In a meet at Maquoketa this spring, Steffens shot 79 and his score did not count among the team’s low four.

“There is a lot of competition,” Steffens said. “You have to fight for your spot. No spot is guaranteed on our team.”

Even so, it is a tight-knit group.

They’ll often have evening putting sessions at Springbrook Country Club in DeWitt before heading over to McAleer’s house to watch movies, play Fortnite or hang out.

“We don’t leave anybody out,” McAleer said. “We’re all together.”

The Sabers have the best 18-hole scoring average of any team in the 3A field at 311 despite graduating their Nos. 2 and 3 players.

Central DeWitt shot 309 on its home course to win sectionals and 306 last Friday at Manchester to claim a district title. Kinney was the district medalist with a season-low 69. 

In comparison, the Sabers averaged about 316 a season ago.

“This team is better than last year’s team,” McGranahan said. “We’ve embraced the target on our back for the whole year.

“The difference between us and most other teams, we have experience because we’ve done this before, and we have depth. If one of us plays bad, we’ve got two other guys that can step up real quickly.”

Central DeWitt hopes for one last hurrah with McGranahan. 

"It is going to be a blast," McGranahan said. "We were always trying to just qualify in the past. Now, we know we can beat all the teams there so let's go and do it."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.