Scouting the boys golf state tournament / Northwest
What: Class 3A boys golf state championship
Where: The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course
When: Friday and Saturday
Defending team champion: Hinsdale Central
Defending individual champion: Ian Kelsey, Deerfield
The skinny: St. Viator and Prospect advanced from an extremely challenging Huntley sectional tournament to earn the right to compete for a state title. The Lions shot a combined score of 306 to finish second to Deerfield at Blackstone Golf Club in Marengo to advance. The Knights were right behind with a 307, a mark that bested such powerhouses as Lake Forest, Barrington and Jacobs.
St. Viator outlook: It'll be the Lions' first trip back to the state tourney since 2009, when St. Viator won the last of their three consecutive state titles. Leading the charge will be senior Robert Renner, whose round of 74 at Blackstone was tied for the third best score at the meet. The senior, who has committed to Florida Gulf Coast, has excelled all season for the Lions in becoming one of the state's premier players. Another senior, Hudson Luthringshausen, fired a 79 at Marengo, while classmate Ryan Fitzmaurice, a long hitter, shot 78 while sophomore Liam Warner carded a 75. "Most of the highlights of our season have come in the last couple of weeks," said long-time St. Viator coach Jack Halpin, who guided the Lions to their three state crowns. "We finally got it together at regionals with a season-best 299, and it continued with our score at the sectional. Robert (Renner) has been the story all season, with a season-long average of 72.8. He's an absolute terror on the course, driving the ball over 370 yards at times. The Den should be a great course for him." Also competing for the Lions will be sophomore John Carlson and senior Connor O'Grady.
Prospect outlook: The Knights qualified under extremely difficult conditions at Huntley, and coach Tom Martindale says he couldn't be more proud of his team. "No disrespect to the other sectionals," said Martindale, "but you saw how well we had to play at Huntely in order to advance." Prospect senior Josh Johnson has grown into one of the top players in the state, and he showed his mettle by posting a sectional medal-winning score of 71. "Josh had a phenomenal day from beginning to end," said Martindale of the senior's sectional triumph. Johnson was a tourney machine in 2013, earning medals at the Rolling Green, Zion-Benton and Inverness Invitationals, all with top-10 finishes. Looking forward to Bloomington, Martindale says that the Knights "know the course fairly well, so that's good." Competing for the Knights at the Den will be senior Ralph Tenuta (75 at Marengo), seniors Jacob Schwister and Reid Dahlstrom, and juniors Grant Gavin and Jack Kavanagh. "It'll be a challenge for us," said Martindale. "You look at some of the scores in the other sectionals, and some of them really jump out at you. It's an excellent field and we know we're going to have to play as well as we possibly can."
Individually, junior Joey Batliner moved on to state to represent Mid-Suburban League champion Barrington. Some excellent playoff putting from Batliner, who fired a 76 at sectional, saw him advance in a seven-player playoff.
Other competing teams will include defending champion Hinsdale Central, Glenbrook North, New Trier, Evanston, Wheaton Warrenville South, Benet, Quincy, Normal Community, Deerfield and Lincoln-Way East. The teams will hope for better weather than in 2012, when thunderstorms washed out the second day of the tournament.
Players to watch: Ricky Costello, Providence Catholic; Brian Ohr, Glenbrook North; Jackson Mihevc, Evanston; Brendan O'Reilly, Hinsdale Central; Nick Hardy, Glenbrook North; Will Kelly, Wheaton Warrenville South; Tommy Dale, Wheaton Warrenville South.
-- Bill Esbrook