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updated: 9/5/2013 5:08 PM

Burlington Central, Weber on track for memorable season

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  • Burlington Central senior Matt Weber lines up a putt Tuesday at the Elgin Country Club boys golf invitational.

      Burlington Central senior Matt Weber lines up a putt Tuesday at the Elgin Country Club boys golf invitational.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Golf usually isn't one of those sports where coaches talk about leaders. The individual nature of the game, most times anyway, takes away from the team concept most high school sports have.

But when you have a Matt Weber on your team, you tend to talk about leaders. Just ask Burlington Central boys' coach Deb Twenhafel.

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"Matt is a totally different boy from the beginning of last year to now," said Twenhafel Tuesday as Weber and the Rockets warmed up for the Elgin Country Club Invitational. "He's become a great leader. He took the boys out this summer and worked with them. The kids voted him captain and he's taking that job very seriously. That's the kind of boy you want on your team."

Weber, a senior who resides in rural St. Charles, has not taken anyone by surprise this season. He won his first three invitationals, shooting a collective 10-under par, then finished second on a scorecard tiebreaker at Tuesday's county club invite, where he wasn't the least bit happy about shooting a 74 on his home course.

But that perfectionism is what has turned Weber into a Division I recruit. He will play golf at Indiana next year, a path he hopes concludes with his PGA Tour card.

And with Weber's return to the team (more about that in a bit), Twenhafel believes this might be the best chance the Rockets have ever had to bring home team hardware from the Class 2A state tournament next month.

"We've had some good teams," said Twenhafel, now in her 24th year as the program's head coach. "But, yes, this team could, if they all play well, contend in the postseason."

The Rockets have already shown their mettle, winning the CL South Invite, taking second with a school record 298 at Geneva and then second at the country club on Tuesday. A program whose best finish ever at state was ninth in 2010 has every reason to think it can better that finish, if not bring home a trophy.

It's also a young team, with Weber and Jeremy Crosby the only seniors. That's why Weber's presence is even more important this season.

"Matt's such an important part of our team," said junior Andrew Sherman, a state qualifier last year. "He's a great leader and he has a fantastic golf game. We have great camaraderie on this team. We all get along so well and having Matt definitely helps to set higher expectations for our team and keep us going at the level we expect to play. It brings it up a notch."

"(Weber) brings confidence back to our team," said junior Austin Niesel. "His practice routine and his influence make me want to practice more."

Weber will become the first Burlington Central golfer to play the game at the Division I level. He's played since his family joined the Elgin County Club when he was 7 and in early July was ranked the 143rd best junior player in the nation.

After winning an AJGA tournament in Wisconsin in the summer of 2012, Weber elevated his game this past summer, competing in the Illinois Open, his first tournament competition against professional players. He finished 18th, shooting 1-over for the three rounds. He was the sixth-best amateur in the field and the only junior golfer to make the cut, and he was able to have Niesel caddie for him in the qualifying round and Sherman at the tournament. He also finished tied for 17th at the Western Junior Championship in Indianapolis, shooting four rounds at even par. He was the highest finisher of the 17 Illinois players in the field, only two besides him making the cut.

And with the way the high school season has started, there's no reason to believe Weber can't contend for an IHSA championship as well.

"I've been hitting the ball real well and keeping it in front of me," Weber said before Tuesday's tournament. "My putting hasn't been where I want it to be yet but my ball striking has been good."

Weber's story can't be told without touching on last year. He made the decision to play in an AJGA tournament after the high school season had begun. It was a conscious decision and he knew the consequence -- the IHSA ruled him ineligible for the remainder of the season. After finishing tied for eighth at state as a freshman (the highest finish of any BC golfer in program history) and 13th as a sophomore, there would be no trip to Bloomington-Normal for his junior season.

"We really didn't have any other decision and the team understood it," Weber said. "I explained it to the team and they understood. It was a bigger deal to the press. There was nothing touchy about it."

Twenhafel made sure when Weber returned for his senior season that it was for good.

"We talked to him at the beginning," she said, "and told him he's not going to start and stop this year and if he is to not come out. He said he's here to stay and you can see that being a senior, and the maturity that comes with that, has made a difference. I really enjoy him being around again."

Weber and his teammates know they have the potential to do something no BC team has done -- earn state hardware.

"I think we've been stacking up pretty competitively with the 2A teams we've seen," said Weber, who will study business at Indiana. "We've been beating a lot of 3A teams, too. We've been playing well and I know we can contend."

And when it's over, Weber will turn his sights on Bloomington, Ind., and the red polo shirts of Indiana. The Hoosiers are one of the top 50 college golf programs in the country. While at Indiana, Weber hopes his golf game becomes one that someday pays the bills.

"Hopefully I'll have a bright career on the team at Indiana and they can groom me for my best shot to play on the tour someday," he said.

For now, Twenhafel, Weber and the Rockets would be just fine with the final tour stop of the high school season being the awards podium at the state finals.

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