Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect a correct score of 80 for St. Edwars’s Michael Mattas.
By John Radtke
FREEPORT — Deb Twenhafel paced. And paced. And paced.
That’s really about all a golf coach can do during a sectional tournament.
It wasn’t that Twenhafel was all that concerned about her team taking home the championship plaque, although that would have been icing on the cake.
What the longtime Burlington Central coach wanted for her team more than anything was that familiar phrase heard at golf courses around the state Monday —”Just get out.”
And get out Twenhafel’s Rockets did. They shot a 317 to finish second in the Class 2A Freeport sectional at Park Hills West, becoming just the second BC golf team to advance to a state final tournament.
“I know the boys wanted to make history and win our first sectional,” said a relieved Twenhafel when she realized her team was one of the top three. “I just wanted to get out because now it’s a new game — you get to start all over.”
Rockford Boylan won the sectional title with a 310. Sterling nabbed the third and final team qualifying spot with a 331. Aurora Central Catholic (5th, 334) and Kaneland (6th, 335) just missed qualifying, while Vernon Hills (8th, 345) and Antioch (11th, 361) were also part of the field.
Dixon High School senior Ryan Dixon was the meet medalist with a 1-under par 71 on the 6,627-yard layout.
Individual qualifiers included ACC senior Sean Harreld (76), Wheaton Academy sophomore Grant Gosden (77), Kaneland senior Matt Yonkovich (78) and Wheaton Academy junior Zack Spear (78).
The 36-hole Class 2A state tournament is Friday and Saturday at Illinois State University’s Weibring Golf Club in Normal.
Burlington Central shot a 152 on the front nine and had a 3-shot lead over Boylan at the turn but the Titans proved to be a bit more consistent on the back nine, which the top teams and players had to battle through increasing winds.
Senior standout and Indiana-bound Matt Weber led the Rockets with a 2-over 74, which tied Boylan’s Kyle Slattery and Richmond-Burton’s Jordan Hahn for second best score of the day.
“I played a lot better than the score would denote,” said Weber, who made the turn at even-par. “I hit a lot of decent shots but I double-bogeyed on 16 and that hurt. But I came back with a birdie on 18.”
Junior Austin Niesel had an 80 while junior Andrew Sherman, who qualified as an individual last year, shot 81. Freshman Joe Sherman had an 82 for the Rockets.
“I’m pretty pleased,” said Niesel. “I had a rough stretch on 10, 11 and 12 but other than that I played solid. I wanted to be in the 70s but I’ll take an 80. I got a birdie on 17 and that kept me going.”
For Weber, who figured to be an individual qualifier even if BC didn’t make it as a team, getting to play his final rounds of high school golf with his teammates at the state finals fulfills a season-long goal.
“It was definitely a big goal of mine for us to get down as a team,” he said. “I really wanted us to accomplish that. I felt some of that pressure but I just tried to push it aside. I knew it would be close because I knew Boylan was playing well. Not a bad day, but a little frustrating.”
Twenhafel, whose only other state qualifying team was in 2008, praised Weber’s leadership and her team’s hard work.
“They have really worked hard,” she said. “Matt always works hard and he’s been a great leader for the boys. Austin played a lot and his scores have gotten a lot better. I’m so proud of them. It’s a great group of boys. They’re pretty special. They’re peaking at the right time and you want to peak now.”
ACC and Kaneland were left out of the team hunt but each was able to send one player to ISU this weekend.
“I just hit the ball straight and made putts,” said the Chargers’ Harreld. “The wind was spinning all around the place but my putting was awesome and I was just real consistent all day.”
Senior Justin Prince had an 82, senior Daniel Miller an 85 and freshman Mac Cowen an 86 for ACC.
Kaneland’s Yonkovich was one of the first players in the clubhouse and had to wait it out to see if his 78 would make the cut, which it did as the final score to qualify.
“It was rough out there,” said Yonkovich, who made it to state last year with the Knights as a team. “My approach shots weren’t working at all but I turned my attitude around about mid-round. I realized you can’t keep your head down, you just have to keep trying as hard as you can.”
Senior Stephen Cannell (85), senior Brody Kuhar (86) and junior Jeremy Faletto (86) also scored for the Knights.
Wheaton Academy’s Gosden and Spear also got to experience state last year as members of a qualifying team, and this year they’ll compete as individuals.
“I was hitting the ball really well today,” said Gosden. “The course was tough with the wind and I knew the scores would be high. I just played my game and played to the best of my ability. I tried to hit a lot of knockdown shots and stay under the wind. That was the key, and I putted pretty well.”
“I didn’t have my best stuff today but I was able to grind out some decent holes,” said Spear. “My driver was going pretty good and my wedge shots were good.”
It was a disappointing day for St. Edward senior Dan Winters, who shot a 79, missing a shot at state by 1 stroke. That came on the heels of the Green Wave missing a team qualifying spot for the sectional on a fifth score tiebreaker at the ACC regional. Michael Mattas shot an 80 for St. Edward Monday and John Butzow had an 83.
Other area individual competitors included sophomore Nick Swierczynski of Hampshire (87), senior Geoff Beck of Hampshire (89), junior Drew Doran of Hampshire (83), senior Bobby Teevans of Wheaton Academy (85), junior Mike Barry of Lakes (92), sophomore Kyle Reynolds of Grayslake Central (84) and senior Mike Gertz of Wauconda (94).
Antioch was led by junior Dillon Kreutzer with an 87, while juniors Ricky Schmidt and Bo Manso each had 85s for Vernon Hills.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.