'That back nine was pretty special': Conant's Simon made history at state golf tournament

Nicolas Simon didn't wake up on the Saturday of the IHSA boys golf state final tournament with any visions of grandeur.

But the Conant senior also hadn't counted himself out of the running for a state championship, despite shooting a 4-over par 76 in the first round, a score that left him 5 shots off the lead.

Simon has been around the game long enough to know anything can happen in a two-day tournament, and that's exactly what happened on Oct. 7 at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.

Maybe Bill Murray's epic “out of nowhere” line from “Caddyshack” would be appropriate here as Simon, who went to the back nine on Saturday with an even par score for the day, shot a sizzling 5-under 31 to finish with a 67 for the day.

Then he waited until the final tallies were in and his high school golf journey was completed with a state championship. He beat out Moline freshman Isaac Rumler by 1 shot for the title.

Simon was joined on the top of the medal stand by Class 2A champion Regan Konen of Marmion.

“After a rough finish on Friday, having to play some of the toughest holes in crazy wind and rain I wasn't frustrated,” said the 18-year-old Simon, who tied for fifth at state as a sophomore and finished 18th last year.

“I kind of just shook it off knowing how hard it played that day. But going into Saturday I did my normal routine. I did my daily Bible study and really just was excited to get back out there because I know how well I have been playing, especially after winning sectionals. I didn't have any expectations for Saturday. But I knew crazier things have happened. I just wanted to post a score.”

Simon, an Elk Grove Village resident who has an older sister, Isabella, and a younger sister, Bianca, took us through his memorable back nine.

“That back nine was pretty special,” he said. “After nine pars on the front I felt I left a few shots out there, especially after not making birdie on the 9th, which is a par 5. I birdied 10, birdied 11 and saw that I was only 2 shots off the lead. I looked at one of my coaches and said, 'Crazier things have happened.' Now with momentum going my way I birdied the 12th hole. I strung a few pars in a row then on the 17th tee I saw I was one shot off. I hit a great shot into the island green par 3 17th and had about a 15-footer for birdie to tie for the lead. I ended up making it. Now knowing I was tied for the lead on the 18th tee I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. Some thoughts to the extent of, 'Gosh, don't wing this out of bounds,' but most of the thoughts focused on making a birdie to hopefully put that last nail in the coffin. After a good drive I left myself with 118 (yards). I hit a gap wedge to about 12-14 feet and made the putt. (It was) one of the most fulfilling moments of my career.

“The feeling of being a state champion is really cool, but I feel so blessed. I give thanks to the Lord for blessing me with the opportunity to compete- all glory to him.”

Simon, the son of Partrick and Lorie Simon who became just the third Mid-Suburban League boys golfer to win a state title, will continue to hone his skills this winter and next spring before heading off to the University of Michigan, where he will play golf for the Wolverines.

“In the winter I will practice indoors hitting on technology called Trackman that allows me to improve my game with statistics,” he said.

Consistency key for Konen

Konen, a junior at Marmion, shot 70-71 to hold off Sacred Heart-Griffin's Cal Johnson by 1 shot for the title at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.

“My day on Saturday was very steady,” Konen said. “I had some good momentum going into the back nine after shooting 1-under on the front. My coach, Lou Solarte, helped me out both days. We communicated really well, especially in those really tough conditions. I tried my best to stay present and not get too far ahead of myself. I never knew where I was all day. I do not check the leaderboard. I love just to play my game. As I was walking up to the 18th green, I asked Lou how many shots I was up, he said 1. I didn't leave myself an easy 2-putt as I was about 80 feet short left of the pin. I was able to lag my putt up to a couple inches and that's when it really started to sink in. I tapped in and that is when all of the emotions hit me.”

Konen, the 16-year-old son of Brian and Ann Konen, recalled his feelings when he knew he was a state champ.

“As I realized I was state champion I felt relieved and just so joyful,” said Konen, a Sugar Grove resident who has two older brothers, Nathan, 22, and Charlie, 20.

“It was just a really long two days and I was never able to let my guard down. I was so thankful. I couldn't have done it without the support of my parents. There have been so many times they waited for me to come home in the dark after long days at the course. They are always there with me no matter what happens.”

Konen has some specific goals for his offseason.

“This winter I am going to be working a lot,” he said. “I will be in the gym trying to get stronger and improving my ball and club speed. I also will be working on my swing and putting indoors. Golf is not a game of perfection, but I want to get my game as good as I can. It certainly is not fun hitting off mats indoors but there's always something I can improve on. I will take a couple trips down south over the winter to work more on my game and try to put the things I work on indoors out on the course. My goal is to play college golf and I am in the middle of my college recruiting process. I am trying to find a school that is the right fit for me and has a good group of guys.”

John Radtke can be reached at

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