Huntley's home golf course is Pinecrest, but senior Ryan Craig has always considered Crystal Woods Golf Club his second home.
The Huntley standout lives about a mile from Crystal Woods, located on Illinois Route 47 in Woodstock. Thus, he has played it more times than he can count. That knowledge worked to his advantage Wednesday when the standout shot a 2-under par 70 to win the individual Fox Valley Conference Tournament title by 5 strokes, thereby leading the Red Raiders to their second straight FVC team title.
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Craig hit his irons well and needed only 29 putts to grab medalist honors over Jacobs senior Sean Kozak (75), Crystal Lake South senior Austin Wiggerman (77) and Cary-Grove senior Jarrett Kinney (77).
"I had one 3-putt, but other than that I rolled it pretty well," said Craig, who sank a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 16. "My iron shots were pretty solid. I didn't drive the ball that great, but I definitely put it fairly close on some holes and I usually made the putt."
Ryan Craig's effort was supported by a 79 from teammate Gage Jereb (sixth) and scores of 83 from Brad Spoeth (17th) and Trent Craig (20th). Their combined score of 315 lifted the Red Raiders past FVC Fox regular-season champion Crystal Lake Central (318) and FVC Valley regular-season champion Jacobs (318).
"I actually think this is better than winning (regular season) conference," Jereb said. "It's a bigger trophy."
"It's really gratifying for these kids," Huntley coach Jim Rolando said. "Four years ago these seniors went 0-fer; they didn't win a match. To be able to come back two years in a row and play well after starting something last year is kind of nice. I feel like last year was justified a little more by us coming back and playing well. It's awesome. We're excited."
The morning started off sunny and calm, but by the third hole of the shotgun start event clouds moved in and the wind picked up. Tough pin placements and fast greens resulted in higher scores than in previous outings at Crystal Woods. Only nine players broke 80. Jacobs' Chris Boyle and Crystal Lake Central's James Perrone, Max Bevill and Ryan O'Toole all shot 79.
Kozak and Boyle headed the Jacobs push, aided by Cameron Bodie's 81 and Jack Ramsett's 83. Kozak birdied 4 holes, bogeyed 3 and double-bogeyed 2 more.
"Overall we did all right," Kozak said. "A couple of guys struggled a little bit. I even struggled a little bit. I actually doubled my last hole.
We still did pretty good as a team, and we can still shoot decent. Conference doesn't necessarily matter. It matters more in regionals because we want to get to sectionals and get ourselves downstate if we can."
Crystal Lake Central finished with four players in the top 10 to take second place ahead of Jacobs. Cary-Grove took fourth in the tournament, led by Kinney's 77, a total of 81 from Daniel Deprey (14th), 82 from Nick Mathers (16th) and 86 from Brandon Diblasi (35th).
"I played a good front nine," said Kinney, who went out in 37 strokes. "I believe I was 2-over with 3 holes to go, but I finished double, bogey, par. I still played great. I credit a lot of it to my ball striking. I hit a lot of greens, a lot of greens."
Wiggerman's 77 was 9 strokes lower than his closest CL South teammate, resulting in a sixth-place finish for the Gators (338) behind fifth-place McHenry (331).
"There were a lot of high scores so I feel pretty good about it," said Wiggerman, whose low round this season was 73. "It didn't end well. I doubled my last hole. It was windy, cold and the pins were tough. A lot of people had a lot of trouble putting, but that was a big part of my game. I putted pretty well with 30 putts."
Rounding out the team race were Grayslake Central (347), Prairie Ridge (347), Johnsburg (356), Woodstock (356), Hampshire (358), Grayslake North (362) and Dundee-Crown (375).