Cary-Grove boys golf coach Kelly Muzzy was simply hoping his team could survive the loaded Class 3A Crystal Lake South regional.
Instead, his players thrived.
A week after they finished fourth at the Fox Valley Conference Tournament with a team score of 327, the Trojans surprised the field at Red Tail Golf Club in Lakewood by traversing the par-72, 6,550-yard layout in 297 strokes to secure the first regional title in program history.
Second-place Huntley (301) and third-place Barrington (307) also qualified for next Monday's sectional meet at Makray Memorial Golf Course in Barrington.
"What makes it so good is I really didn't think we had a chance to win it," said Muzzy, Cary-Grove's 17th-year coach. "I thought we were vying for third at best with Fremd and Barrington being the No. 1 and 2 seeds. And I knew Huntley was good, (Crystal Lake) Central was good and Jacobs was good. On any given day I think any one of those teams could have taken third. To think we'd have a chance to win this thing was not really even a thought in my mind."
Those thoughts began to change after Cary-Grove sophomore Peter Kalamaras, playing in one of the first foursomes to finish, turned in a 1-under par 71. Meanwhile, senior Jarrett Kinney, still on the course, was 7-under par through 13 holes. Though Kinney stumbled down the stretch and finished tied for third with an even-par 72, his strong showing, along with competive scores from Daniel DePrey (76, tied for eighth) and Nick Mathers (78, tied for 14th), helped the Trojans grab some unexpected hardware. Mather broke 80 for the first time this season, Muzzy said.
"The team's looking great," Kinney said. "We played OK at conference, but Peter and Daniel and Nick Mathers really handled the pressure. They really came through."
Teams missing the cut included Fox Valley Conference Fox Division champion Crystal Lake Central (312), FVC Valley champion Jacobs (313), Palatine (314), Fremd (328), Crystal Lake South (334), Lake Zurich (336) and Dundee-Crown (369).
Barrington senior Greg Conrad was the regional medalist. The Miami (Ohio) recruit carded a 70 to nip Kalamaras by a stroke for the individual title.
"It feels really good," said Conrad, the 2011 Mid-Suburban League champ. "There are a lot of birdie holes out there, so I took advantage with 5 birdies. I just really stayed within myself and didn't make many mistakes. I putted well and I hit it off the tee pretty well. I put myself in good positions and I was able to take advantage of a few drivable par fours. I made some long birdie putts, and those always help."
Kalamaras shot his second-lowest 18-hole score this season.
"My goal was to just help my team get through," Kalamaras said. "It's an added bonus that I played real well. On the first nine I was hitting greens and I was rolling it pretty nice. I'm very pleased."
Huntley's Trent Craig (72) and Ryan Craig (73) led the charge for the Red Raiders. Trent, a sophomore, finished tied for third. Ryan Craig, who won the FVC Tournament at Crystal Woods last week, took fifth. The Red Raiders also enjoyed strong performances from Brad Spoeth and Tyler Ross, who each shot 78 to finish in a 6-way tie for 14th place.
"We knew we were going to have to shoot some good scores to make it out and we did, so that's good." Trent Craig said. "This is one of my best rounds so far this year. I played well. My short game was good. It just went well."
The first of the top 10 golfers not on a qualifying team to advance were Gabe Askam of Jacobs and Palatine's Will Baumgartner. Each registered a 3-over par 75 to tie for sixth.
"The course was set up pretty easy," Baumgartner said. "I accomplished what I needed to. I put a good swing on it and everything felt pretty good."
Other sectional qualifiers included Palatine's Tom Broder (76), Crystal Lake Central's Max Rand (76), Paul Schlimm (76) and James Perrone (78), Lake Zurich's Adam Schulte (76), Austin Wiggerman of Crystal Lake South (77) and Jacobs' Chris Boyle (78) and Sean Kozak (79).