Josh Johnson was shooting for something bigger than personal glory in Monday's Huntley Class 3A boys golf sectional tournament at Blackstone Golf Club in Marengo.
The Prospect senior had already qualified twice for the state tournament as an individual. This time he wanted his teammates to come along for the ride this weekend to The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.
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And as the final scores trickled in, a big roar came from the Knights' contingent in the Blackstone clubhouse. Led by Johnson's 1-under-par-71 medalist performance, the Knights' 307 was good for the third and final qualifying spot behind Deerfield (302) and St. Viator (306) and just ahead of Huntley (308).
"It's a thrill, an absolute thrill," said 11th-year Prospect coach Tom Martindale of his first team to make it to state. "I'm so proud of the kids. I can't speak enough of how proud I am of that group."
This was also the ninth time Prospect had been to a sectional under Martindale. But Johnson, senior Ralph Tenuta (75), junior Jack Kavanagh (79), senior Jacob Schwister (82), junior Grant Gavin (83) and senior Reid Dahlstrom (84) made sure this would be a breakthrough joyride back home.
"I'm feeling really good but my goal was to get down with the team," Johnson said as he waited for the final team scores to come in. "I've done it by myself twice now and my goal is to play for my team and get my team down there.
"Not to carry my team, because I know my team is good, but to put up a number to really help my team."
Johnson did just that on the 6,541-yard layout to finish ahead of Deerfield's Ian Kelsey (72), Carmel's Jared Moore (73) and four players at 74 that included Viator's Robert Renner. Johnson, who finished 20th at state last year, nearly shot 69 but had par putts lip out on the ninth and 18th holes.
"He's a good player, and maybe a great player, but I think today he was a phenomenal player," Martindale said.
"I hit a lot of good shots and a lot of solid shots," Johnson said. "I didn't hit a lot of bad shots and played smart. My putting was solid as well and that's the key out here. No three-putts."
Tenuta came in at the low end of the 75-79 range he said he is usually in for 18 holes. Kavanagh had a big birdie on No. 17 into the wind for the Knights.
"I don't think everyone is as happy as they could be," Tenuta said of their scores, "but I think we all played pretty solid."
Viator also ended a drought by returning to state for the first time since it won three straight titles from 2007-09. Sophomore Liam Warner shot 75, Ryan Fitzmaurice parred his last two holes for 78, returning state qualifier Hudson Luthringshausen birdied three of his last four en route to 79, John Carlson shot 81 and Conner O'Grady had 88.
"This was unbelievably tight," said Viator coach Jack Halpin of the final margin. "It's a huge deal for us. Once you get down there you never know because anything can happen.
"Renner has been phenomenal all year. Liam Warner played really well and Ryan had a career round, a superb round. He really gutted it out."
Renner showed how pumped up he was by driving the green into the wind on the 352-yard opening hole.
"I'm really excited," Renner said. "Being on a (qualifying) team will be fun, especially because we are playing well. Everyone is coming together and everyone definitely did their part today."
Barrington finished eighth in the tight team race with 314 as junior Joey Batliner shot 76 and advanced from a seven-player playoff for the final four qualifying spots. Huntley's Trent Craig and Mundelein's Bret Cigelnik grabbed the first two spots on the first extra hole while Batliner hit a long putt to move on to the second playoff hole with freshman teammate Tom Calbi, Buffalo Grove's Brandon Matchen and Jacobs' Chris Boyle.
Another big putt sent Batliner to Bloomington along with Boyle in near darkness.
"My first one was a pretty easy putt ... and I lipped it in and got lucky with that," Batliner said. "Then I just got up and down for my par (on the second playoff hole)."
Barrington also got 81s from Burke Barsamian, Cole Kempinski and Brad Powell and an 83 from Timothy Lim. Hersey's Ken Mleko nearly made the playoff after shooting 77.