Barrington takes 2nd at Rockford East sectional
Experience, both as a noun or a verb, was certainly part of every story at the Class 3A Rockford East boys golf sectional.
For the second straight year, Barrington experienced finishing second to Lake Forest, this time by just four strokes (289-293).
Since last October, the experience of losing a tiebreaker to be third team advancing to state fueled Stevenson's every practice and meet. Redemption came Monday as the Patriots and other golfers dealt with an ever-increasing wind that began to play havoc with shots and putts late in the afternoon.
The experience of winning a playoff for medalist on a second hole elated Highland Park's Noah Fishbein, who edged Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge's Ethan Farnam after both carded amazing three-under par 69s on Rockford's Elliot Golf Course.
"I missed a putt on the first (playoff) hole and had to remind myself to stick to the plan regardless of the wind," Fishbein said. "The second hole is a par three, so the idea was hit the green and two putt the hole. It worked."
Having simply tied for second in 2014, Farnam could view falling short of medalist with the experience of a junior:
"It might be a little disappointing, but it didn't really matter as far as getting back to state," the Prairie Ridge junior said in aiming to surpass last year's tie for 17th in the state meet. "On the plus side, I won't be making the trip alone and am glad Kevin (Kearney) qualified."
There's the surreal experience for many of the golfers having to wait anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to know for certain the three teams advancing to the Oct. 16-17 finals at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington. That plus the algebraic calculation of figuring out the top 10 individuals after excluding the golfers from the three advancing schools.
"The waiting feels like it takes forever," admitted Warren's Karl Tolentino, whose 74 tied for 12th overall but put him within the sixth to ninth individual places. "The key for me was the principle of putting bad shots behind you. I tripled on No. 7, but got an eagle on No. 8, and a birdie on No. 9. Obviously I'm hoping my score will make the cut."
Would he rather see where 74 landed or be among those still on the course trying to shoot for a low score with wind gusts having gone from 5-10 in the morning to around 25 mph in the afternoon?
"No thanks. Plus I've got no sympathy for those still out there because we've all been golfing long enough to have to endure less than ideal weather at some point," noted Tolentino, who joins senior teammate Zane Blevins (72) at state.
Slots three through nine covered those at par, one over and two over, but the final individual qualifier would have to come from among a group of five who all carded 75s.
Ironically, Deerfield's Jacob Krugman, fresh from being in the very last group to finish 18 holes, was still in rhythm enough to make a chip shot on the first playoff hole.
"No question Brett (Parola) gave it go," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said after his birdie attempt lipped the cup, leaving him and fellow junior Tyler White short of moving on after both scored 75s as part of the Mustangs' 303 total which meant fourth.
"Being one spot away from advancing as a team is rough, but it's still our highest finish and it says something about the North Suburban to have three of the top four teams in this sectional," Parola added.
"Getting (that 75) was just a matter of grinding out every hole," the younger Parola said. "You always have to know that if you hit a bad shot, come back focused for the next one."
"You never want to feel like you let your teammates down," Mundelein's Ryan Magee added. "You battle through the wind or whatever because every stroke becomes critical and you hate the feeling that you left a few strokes on the course."
Another golfer who seemed to have no trouble in that regard was Barrington's Burke Barsamian, who followed up an opening 37 with a 33 on his back nine.
"Having eight pars, one bogey and no birdies through the turn, I felt good and got in a zone," Barsamian said. "After birdies on 10 and 11, lipped out on 12, I just missed an eagle on 13 was feeling it despite the wind. Being in a really competitive group helped as well, so I just kept going for pars the rest of the way.
Barrington went from sectional runner-up to third in the state last year and Barsamian and his coach agreed that experience made a difference this year.
"As coach has told us, 'you're a grizzly group,' meaning we've been there and done that," Barsamian said. "So we were focused today."
"They really were a team on a mission," coach Mike Kallenbach insisted. "No question this group worked for it and deserved it."
Barsamian's 70 was backed up by a 73 from Sawyer Smith and 75s from Tom Calbi, Sean Dolin and Timothy Lin.
"Since last year we knew we had another chance at state with our returnees and some good JV additions," noted Lin, who led the Broncos in the 2014 state meet by tying for sixth individually. "After the 11th hole, the change in wind was dramatic and I had a couple bogeys I'm not too happy about. But as a team, we took care of business."
For Stevenson it was all about not leaving things to chance.
"Since last year when we didn't get that last team slot based on the fifth man's scorecard, the goal was to make it by not leaving anything to chance," coach John Rueth said. "Today was a combination of that plus being prepared for less than ideal conditions. We played in some really windy events, our conference meet was terrible weather, so it all helped."
Freshman Jackson Bussell led the Patriots with a 73 that tied him for ninth overall. James Dvorak (74) and Jedi Jhu (75) followed him while Kamaren Sandhu and Jake Labow both shot 76 and Zach Orlowsky finished with a 77.
"I'll take the 74 considering the conditions," Dvorak said. "The last hole I was down wind and thought I'd leave it short but it blew the putt past the hole. Thankfully I had several clutch putts earlier in the round."
"As a senior, getting to state is everything," Sandhu said. "As a team, we've pushed each other all season, so now we've given ourselves the opportunity we all want."
The individual state qualifiers include Cary-Grove's Kyle Irlbacker (72), Jacobs' Billy Walker (74), and Libertyville's Jacob Mueller (74).
"Kyle's 72 under these conditions was an awesome score," Cary-Grove coach Chris Gotsch said. "I saw a lot of kids struggling out there, but I think his club selection was very good."
"Adjusting to the wind and just trusting my feel for the right club made for good shots," Irlbacker explained. "Not making it to state last year was a big disappointment, so this means to me to shoot this well in this meet and get a shot in Bloomington."
"Right now I'm excited to see where the (cut) line will be," Jacobs' Walker said immediately after finishing at two over par. "My putting was actually off today, I believe I had five three-putts. Maybe that's not bad considering today, but I'm confident I can do better."
Huntley had a trio of golfers hoping for better, but it was not the case for the Red Raiders, including a senior who was hoping for a unique double. Jake Grabner, son of Huntley soccer coach Kris Grabner, followed in the footsteps of his dad and an aunt in being state qualifiers in tennis. The younger Grabner competed in the state doubles competition the previous two springs and was a sectional golfer last fall.
Although Crystal Lake South wasn't able to have anyone from its four-member contingent move on, coach Curt Wadlington was ecstatic over the experience his Trojans had in Rockford.
"No question we'll miss the senior leadership from Ryan (Benoit), but for (junior) Nate (Zacher) and our two freshmen (Griffen Coakley and Casey Hunter), today should really light a fire for them," Wadlington said. "They've got the measuring stick experience out of the way, and I know they have the poise to get better so next year should be a fun one."