Once they escaped the "Fox Trap," it was all good.
Holes five, six and seven at Bloomington's "Den" course at Fox Creek Golf Club are known as the Fox Trap due to their extreme degree of difficulty -- especially the par-4, 410-yard sixth, which is widely considered one of the toughest to navigate in Illinois.
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But in the latter stages of day one of Friday's Class 3A boys golf championship tournament, and especially on the back nine, St. Viator righted the ship.
The Lions struggled early as most of the 12-team field did, but recovered to post a 3-over par score on the final nine holes, finishing in seventh place with a 314 heading into Saturday's final round.
Another area qualifier, Prospect, put together an impressive showing as well with a 311, good for sixth position on a day that was dominated by defending champion Hinsdale Central on the par-72, 6,926-yard course.
Central's 7-over 295 put them 7 strokes ahead of their nearest competitor, Glenbrook North, while Spartans senior Brian Ohr (68) holds the individual lead along with Conor Dore of Whitney Young.
Robert Renner of St. Viator led the local contingent with a 2-over 74 on a typically cold and windy mid-October day in Bloomington.
The senior birdied holes 10 and 15 in a back nine 35 that left him in 12th position, just 6 shots back of the leaders.
"I'm a lot happier right now than I was earlier in the day," said Lions coach Jack Halpin after his team's strong finish. "Our guys saved their best for last.
"We were 23 over after 9 holes and we finished 26 over, so that tells you how unbelievably well the guys played on the back nine."
Sophomore Liam Warner make a big contribution to the Lions' cause by firing a 78, a round that included 11 consecutive pars midway through.
"I was hitting the ball into the wind early, and I struggled," said Warner. "Five through seven are the toughest holes for sure, and I was hitting some drives off line. I was out of bounds on two and in the water on five.
"I was 6 over after the first few holes, but after that I started striking the ball well instead of scrambling around the golf course like I was doing earlier."
For the Knights, senior Josh Johnson (Huntley sectional medlist) fired a 76.
"That was absolutely a nice score in these conditions," said Prospect coach Tom Martindale, "and Josh got a lot of support from Reid (Dahlstrom, who shot 77), Ralph (Tenuta 78) and Jacob (Schwister, 80)."
This is Johnson's third trip to the state finals, but the first with his teammates along -- and he's enjoying it immensely.
"There's just something about going out and playing for your team," said the senior. "There's a lot of pride in it, and we all played solid today."
Jack Kavanagh and Grant Gavin added outstanding scores of 82 for the Knights while the Mid-Suburban League's Joey Batliner of Barrington, competing as an individual, birdied the ninth hole en route to an 82.
Ryan Fitzmaurice carded an 80 for Viator while John Carlson completed the Lions scoring with an 82 as the golfers look forward to their final round.
And hopefully, the unpredictable weather will cooperate, as opposed to last year's meet when the final day was rained out.
The forecast calls for another day of less-than-perfect conditions.
"It was a little bit cold and cloudy today," said Johnson, "but the sun came out later on and we were able to put ourselves in a good position. Now we've just got to out Saturday and play as well as we can and see what happens."
"On the back nine," added Renner," the wind calmed down a little and we were able to take a few layers of clothing off, and that helped us to swing better. We're going to practice as long as we can today, have dinner, call it a night and look forward to tomorrow."