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updated: 10/12/2012 7:01 PM

Persistence pays for Prospect's Johnson, Barrington downstate

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By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

Prospect junior Josh Johnson refused to get down on himself after struggling in the early going at Friday's Class 3A boys state golf championship tournament in Bloomington.

Johnson started his round triple-bogey/bogey on the first two holes, but instead of giving up, the junior tore up the Fox Creek Golf Course the rest of the way.

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His final 16 holes were played with in 1-over par, a stunning turnaround that saw Johnson finish the day in the top 20 individually with a 5-over 77.

"I didn't get mad at myself," said Johnson of the less-than-stellar start. "I knew I had 16 more holes to go, and 18 more the next day.

"After the first two holes, I just played solid golf and hit a lot of greens. Now I've got to go out tomorrow and play the next 18 like I did the last nine today."

Knights coach Tom Martindale said Johnson played some of his best golf on the notorious "Fox Trap," holes 5 through 7 on the Arnold Palmer-designed "Den" course at Fox Creek.

"The sixth hole is the toughest hole on the course," said Martindale, "and Josh started out on that hole with his top drive of the day."

Matching Johnson with 77s were Barrington's Michael Ross, a senior who fired a 36 on the back nine, and Brad Powell, a junior.

The solid scores from the teammates put the Broncos in a great position to compete for a state title heading into today's final round.

Barrington finished Friday in the sixth place -- but only 11 shots behind leader Hinsdale Central as the field is tightly bunched in what promises to be one of the most thrilling final days in years.

Jack Junge of New Trier and Deerfield's Ian Kelsey share the one-day lead, both carding 71s.

It's been a dramatic rally for Kelsey, who had to win a playoff just to get out of the St. Viator regional meet and advance to the Makray sectional -- where he shot the second-best score (73).

Greg Conrad (80) and Nick Schippel (83) contributed to the Broncos' strong performance, but it was Ross who started the Barrington charge by recording birdies on the first two holes of the back nine.

"I'm extremely happy with the way the guys played today," said Broncos coach Mike Kallenbach. "They went out there and battled, especially considering they had the disadvantage of starting on the front nine, and playing the "Fox Trap" when it was still cold and windy."

"It was cold -- I think it was about 45 degrees when we teed off," said Ross, "and I think nerves might have gotten the better of some of us at the start. But then it warmed up and the wind died down, and I was able to settle down and play well on the back nine. I was striking the ball well and making putts."

St. Viator junior Hudson Luthringhausen had three birdies en route to an 81, while two Maine West players had some shining moments at the "Den."

Senior Tom Kukec found himself near the top of the leader board in the early going and finished the day with a solid 84, while classmate Justin Mustari was in the top 20 for most of the day before finishing with an 80.

Now Barrington looks forward to today's final round with anticipation -- led by junior Powell, who carried over his strong performance at the Markray sectional (74) into the state tournament.

"We've definitely got the talent on this team to win a championship," said Powell. "We've just got to come out and play our game."

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