Knoll shoots Naperville N. to state
Beginning his inward nine on Monday afternoon at St. Andrews with back-to-back birdies, Raymond Knoll played an indifferent chip shot for his second at the par-3 13th hole.
But the Naperville North senior, bound for Iowa, drained the comeback effort from 15 feet and had his fourth consecutive 1-putt on his next hole for yet another birdie.
Coming home with five stress-free pars, Knoll tamed the blustery conditions in West Chicago to fire a 3-under 68 for the Huskies at the Class 3A St. Charles East boys golf sectional.
With his medalist performance Knoll realized a prophecy of sorts.
"I knew I would have to shoot in the 60s for us to get through (to the state tournament as a team)," Knoll said.
In a repeat of the corresponding sectional at Bartlett Hills last fall, the same three teams -- Hinsdale Central, Naperville North and Lyons Township -- advanced to the state finals in Bloomington this weekend with respective scores of 301, 302 and 304.
With his second postseason triumph in as many tries, Knoll directs the Huskies downstate as a team for the third straight year.
"Once I make a birdie, it really gets me going," said Knoll, who had several quality looks for more birdies after his fourth birdie through 13 holes against a lone bogey. "I gave myself a lot of good looks for birdie today."
Patrick Henrickson, Michael Doherty and Nick Harris all fired rounds in the high 70s to frame the Huskies' 302 total.
"To have one of the best kids in the state and the Midwest is nice, but the other kids still have to come play," Naperville North coach Ryan Hantak said. "We're going to have to have all pistons firing this weekend."
Naperville Central was the odd man out of the team race as its 310 total was 6 shots off Lyons' pace.
"It wasn't even close (for third)," Naperville Central coach Barry Baldwin said. "You can beat your head against the wall all you want (on the merits of the field). It is what it is."
The Redhawks did have two major consolation prizes, however, as Peter Mandich and Scott Dunsire earned at-large berths; the former was runner-up to Knoll with a 73.
"I'd say (the genesis of my low round) all starts with my putting," Mandich said. "I didn't hit the ball straight off the tee at all. It only takes one good shot to make a par."
Benet was sixth in the 12-team field, but Bryson Vargas' 77 fell a shot lower than the individual cut for the Redwings.
"I felt like I didn't even make a par on the back nine," Vargas said after three consecutive birdies early in his inward nine was followed by another trio of bogey or worse holes.
Sebastian Dobon became the first 3A state qualifier in Fenton history, and Michael Suzao is the first Wheaton North qualifier in six years.
Returning to the scene of their Upstate Eight Conference River tournament from last month, St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Geneva had varying degrees of success.
St. Charles East edged York for sixth place behind the play of Max Kelly, who earned his first bid to state largely courtesy of a level-par 35 on his second nine (the front nine at St. Andrews).
In the process, the Saints' senior earned a measure of redemption.
"Last year (at Bartlett Hills) I was even through 13 but then had a quad and a double coming in," Kelly said of his near-miss last year.
Kelly reversed the results in more ways than one.
After a rough start, Kelly canceled his lone bogey with a birdie to make the individual cut line by a shot.
"I knew I would be hovering toward the line if I could get to even (on my second nine)," Kelly said.
Three shots separated Kyle Jacobs, James Thompson and Brad Riva for the Saints in their collective 317 showing.
"There won't be anymore tears come Columbus Day next year," St. Charles East coach John Stock said. "There is no disgrace in finishing fifth at this sectional. We had a solid team effort."
St. Charles North and Geneva were in the lower half of the team field after respective rounds of 324 and 328.
But Dan Shepherd became the first state qualifier for St. Charles North in nine years with his back-to-back 37s at St. Andrews; the senior was the individual champion at the venue last month to lead the North Stars' team title.
"The best part of my game today was the mental aspect," Shepherd said. "I really didn't start scoring until the eighth hole. I would love to be down there with my team. I'm going to have fun down there."
Rob Bremer earned the North Stars' last state berth at the Class AA tournament in 2003.
Nate Desens' attempt to become the third Geneva at-large qualifier in as many years unrivaled in his four-man playoff.
Pitted against Liam Creamer (Marmion), Jason Marrs (Waubonsie Valley) and Ryan Wolfe (Bartlett) for two final spots to the state tournament after matching 78s, Desens' wayward tee shot on the par-4 first was his undoing.
Desens rallied to save an improbable bogey with a long putt from off the green, but Creamer and Wolfe emerged triumphant with a birdie and par.
"It feels good to birdie the playoff hole to secure the spot," said Creamer, who becomes the first 3A state qualifier in program history.
Creamer was an integral member of the Cadets' Class 2A team runner-up squad from last year.
Wolf snared the final bid with a 4-foot par bid, ensuring that Bartlett coach Tommy Boyle will have one last weekend to his career as the Hawks' director.
"My goal this year was to go downstate," Boyle said of his rapidly concluding coaching stint at Bartlett. "I was hoping it would be with the team. I always thought in the back of my mind that Ryan would be the guy to go. He's been a real part of this program for four years."
Wolfe is the first Bartlett state qualifier since Trace Pomplun.
The senior thought he was toast at the end of regulation.
"I thought for sure I had to make par at the last hole," Wolfe said.
Wolfe overcame a slow start as a double-bogey on his second hole (No. 11) could not be easily surmounted. "I knew I had to start playing better," Wolfe said.
In the playoff, Wolfe said the combination of pressure and the huge throng following the group proved a surreal moment as he stroked his par effort.
"You dream about having this putt to win the state championship," Wolfe said of his mental approach