The Denison High School boys’ golf team qualified for the state tournament four consecutive years from 1990-93.
Derek Knief, who graduated from DHS in 1993, was a member on all four Monarch state golf teams and was crowned the Class 4A individual medalist his senior season.
Knief, who qualified for the state meet as an individual in three of his four years in high school, shot a two-day total of 152 (76-76) at the Ottumwa Country Club to bring home the individual state championship.
Knief won the state title by one stroke over Ottumwa’s Michael Emanuel, who was a member of the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state championship teams in 1991 and 1992.
"A lot of the guys who played at the state tournament were guys who I played with during the summer, so I was pretty familiar with a lot of the players," commented Knief.
"I knew the Emanuel kid from Ottumwa was a real good golfer and the one to beat. He was a good putter and just a solid player who mentally knew how to win," he added.
Knief remembers trailing by a slim margin going into day two.
"Yeah, I think I was down two or three strokes to Emanuel. I remember just telling myself not to do anything crazy and play patient. I played conservative for the most part on the second day and fortunately I was able to win the state title," Knief said.
"It was a sense of accomplishment. It was my goal for four years to win an individual state title and I was finally able to do that my senior year, so that was pretty special," added Knief, who had qualified for the state tournament individually as well as a freshman and sophomore.
Knief placed ninth overall at the state meet as a freshman.
"As a sophomore, the state tournament was reduced to 18 holes instead of 36 because of rain. I think I might have finished in the top 20, but I was pretty distraught because I didn’t play very well," Knief said.
"Then I didn’t qualify as an individual my junior year and that was pretty disappointing. I remember thinking at the time that I wasn’t going to let that happen again," remarked Knief, who a year later as a senior concluded his career at Denison with that elusive state title.
Knief had always aspired to play professional golf and that drove him throughout his final season of high school eligibility at DHS.
"It’s really all I thought about. It was always my goal to play professionally. I had a lot of fun my senior year because I knew a lot of good things were ahead for me," stated Knief, who initially competed in golf at Wallace State in Alabama.
"I debated over a lot of schools, but Wallace State was just coming off a national championship and it sounded like the right route for me," Knief said.
"I was in the top five early on, but then I returned home after the first semester and competed at Indian Hills in Ottumwa before playing two-plus years at Memphis University in Memphis, Tennessee."
"I was a top-five player on the team at Memphis during my time there," Knief said.
After using up his college eligibility after two and a half years at Memphis, Knief in 1997 took off for Palm Springs, California, to start his professional run.
"It felt really good in Palm Springs. I actually played professionally for seven years before I returned to Iowa at the age of 28 or 29. I remember thinking it was just time for me to do something else," Knief said.
As previously mentioned, Denison qualified for the state tournament as a team all four years during Knief’s career.
"We didn’t fare that well at the state tournament as a team, though," Knief said. "I remember it was our goal to qualify for state every year and we did that," stated Knief, who along with his wife, Allison, reside in Grimes with their two daughters, Kylie, 13, and Kenna, 12.
Derek is a residential mortgage banker and real estate investor, while Allison provides daycare in her home.