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Getting better was the only option for Max Kreikemeier.

The traits that helped the recent Lafayette High graduate earn a NCAA Division I men’s golf scholarship to Missouri State began well before those types of goals were even formed.

“Whenever you’d walk up to the range to give a golf lesson, Max would be over there working on something and he’d always benefit from a little extra time with the golf professionals or a little chipping game,” said Marvin Herrod, the head golf professional at Forest Hills Country Club, where Kreikemeier is a member.

“He was constantly working at his game. Even as a young golfer, he’d wear out his grips. He’d hit a ton of golf balls.”

Kreikemeier had very fundamental reasons for wanting to improve as a golfer.

He learned to love the game with his grandfather, Tom Mohan, and strived to spend as much time together on the course as possible.

“It was a bonding thing with my grandpa,” Kreikemeier said. “I wanted to get better to play with him more on the championship course at Forest Hills.”

Kreikemeier said he had to “graduate” to the Clarkson Valley club’s championship course as a youth both with his performances and general knowledge of the game’s rules and etiquette.

At this point, he has advanced well past the threshold of shooting low enough scores on Forest Hills’ nine-hole valley course in order to play with his grandfather.

“When we started playing together, I probably gave him a shot on every hole,” Mohan said. “Now he gives me a shot on every hole.”

The Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys golfer of the year, Kreikemeier is continuing to reap rewards from his dedication to the sport.

His recently completed Lafayette career was capped last month with a third-place finish in Missouri’s Class 4 boys golf state tournament.

It was the best state finish for Kreikemeier, who earned all-state honors — which is a top-15 individual finish in Missouri — all four of his seasons with the Lancers.

“He’s just a great kid,” Lafayette coach Gaylen Laster said. “He’s a great player, but he’s very good with the other players and when they’ve got questions, he’s always there to answer them. He’s got that leader type of attitude about him.

“He’s always focused on trying to be the very best he can be day in and day out, and when you’re a good player, it’s tough not to just focus on yourself. But he does focus on the team and what’s going on and really tries to keep everybody grounded.”

Kreikemeier shot a 2-under 70 at Silo Ridge in Bolivar for his best state tournament round ever on the opening day of the 36-hole tournament.

His senior season also included a 3-under 69 to win the Bulldog Battle medalist title at WingHaven, which was the third time Kreikemeier shot 3 under as a Lafayette golfer. He tied for other medalist victories as a senior in the Class 4 Sectional 2 tournament at Woods Fort and the Greg Bantle Memorial at Missouri Bluffs.

“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Kreikemeier said. “I’ve played well in some tournaments that matter and I’m happy with all the tournaments I’ve been able to get into and participate in. There’s been some awesome stuff I didn’t know was out there. It’s been exciting just to enjoy that grind.”

In particular, Kreikemeier had a memorable 2018 summer, including a 36-hole victory in the Gateway Junior PGA Championship on his home course at Forest Hills. That earned him a spot in the Junior PGA Championship tournament for the second consecutive year.

Kreikemeier also did good work away from the St. Louis area, winning the Nike Junior Invitational title in Norman, Okla., in August of 2018.

Additionally, Kreikemeier has represented the St. Louis area the last two falls as a member of Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association’s team in the Mid-America Junior Cup against the top junior players from Kansas City.

“If you have a certain attitude and a certain work ethic, you can enhance your talent,” Herrod said. “To have a hard-working, bright kid with a good attitude — that’s exactly what Max is — that’s going to make your team better.”

After a brief break after the high school season, Kreikemeier has gotten back to work — both on the course and, well, on the course.

Kreikemeier works both at Meadowbrook Country Club in Ballwin in the bag room and as a caddy on the weekends at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta.

He’s got a full summer of playing on tap, too, as he prepares for his Division I career at Missouri State. There are a pair of junior tournaments planned, but next up is a spot in the Missouri Amateur Championship from June 18-23 at Hickory Hills Country Club in Springfield.

“It’s definitely a step up,” Kreikemeier said. “There will be college players and top amateurs from all around Missouri. It’s going to be good for me to get in there and get used to playing against some really good players, day in and day out.”

Kreikemeier also said he’s planning to play July 22-23 at Meadowbrook in the qualifying tournament for the 119th U.S. Amateur.

The next big step for Kreikemeier will be joining his Missouri State teammates in Springfield in about two months.

It’s a journey he earned by spending many hours honing his game. That includes time training by himself, with Herrod or former Forest Hills pro Gideon Traub, or his teammates and coaches at Lafayette.

Birdies and bogeys aside, the man who taught him first is proudest of what doesn’t show up on the scoreboard.

“He’s a perfect gentleman on the golf course,” Mohan said. “Everybody takes note of that. Everybody at Forest Hills knows who he is, not just because he’s a very good player but because he is such a great kid.”

And all these rounds later, Kreikemeier enjoys making as much time as possible to get on the course with his grandfather.

"We play quite a bit — once or twice a week," Kreikemeier said. "I enjoy going out there with him, especially since he's the one who got me into (golf)."

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