Boys golf: Kaneland gets back on track
Josh Pehl tamed some of the finest golf courses on the Aurora landscape last week.
Cody Ganzon gained nothing but greater confidence in anchoring the Kaneland boys golf team to its first sectional title in program history last fall.
Hagan Rank, like his two senior classmates, has three years of battlefield varsity experience for the Knights.
As the crucible of the high school golf season -- conference tournaments and the three-week state series -- approaches, the Kaneland triumvirate seeks to mold a final boys golf season to its liking.
To professional historians, they are known as counterfactuals; lay persons simply call them what-ifs.
Golf was one of only a handful of prep sports to be played last fall, but unlike its spring counterparts there was no true conclusion to the campaign without a state tournament.
The Knights not only captured their own Class 2A regional last fall but also prevailed, 314-322 over Crystal Lake South, for the first sectional title in program history at Freeport a week later.
But there would be no payoff, in the form of a traditional two-day state finals for the Knights due to the lingering impact of the pandemic.
"I never did receive an adequate answer as to why we couldn't have a one-day state tournament," Kaneland coach Mark Meyer said.
"I felt like we were finding our groove," said Pehl. "I felt like our team was really going to compete for that state title. It was tough, but it was still cool to break history and win the sectional."
Pehl had two days of envious play in Aurora last week at the Marmion and Batavia invitationals.
On Wednesday at the century-plus-old Aurora Country Club, Pehl navigated the treacherous greens and circumvented the capricious winds to earn medalist honors with a 74.
But Friday was even more impressive as he subdued Orchard Valley, a two-time men's state open venue, with the lowest score -- a sizzling 5-under 67 -- in high school competition to capture the 19-team Bulldog Invitational.
"I have thrown up some good scores, some red numbers," Pehl said.
Ganzon and Rank recorded scores of 76 and 79 as part of the Knights' commendable 301 total at Orchard Valley, which placed Kaneland outside only West Suburban Silver juggernauts Lyons Twp. (286) and Hinsdale Central (292).
Benet, another potential Class 2A state-hardware roadblock for Kaneland, was third at 296.
Kaneland vanquished 14 Class 3A programs on Friday, including such local standard-bearers as Geneva, Batavia and both St. Charles high schools.
"They are bigger schools, usually better players," Rank said of the Knights' regular-season competition against larger-class programs. "It helps us get a good goal to beat them."
Ganzon authored a third-place 75 to lead the Knights' sectional championship last October.
"The state of my game right now is that I believe I can throw down some good scores," Ganzon said. "I have been playing a lot better this summer (and fall) than I was last year."
The unquestioned highlight thus far for the Knights this season was conquering all at the Mark Rolfing Cup -- breaking the highly-symbolic 300 barrier in the process -- at Kishwaukee Country Club in DeKalb.
"We're all here for each other," Pehl said. "We have a lot of depth to put up some good scores. I hope we can find the right pieces for that."
Meyer said he has been experimenting with the bottom end of his lineup to identify the six most viable candidates for the Knights' conference and postseason roster.
The Knights' first task is defending the Interstate Eight Conference championship against a very dangerous Ottawa squad, which denied Kaneland 143-147 in the schools' league dual match.
"They're awfully good," Meyer said of Ottawa. "Hopefully we can get them at the conference tournament."
Ganzon is primed and ready.
"I am confident in my game," he said.
Brad Franck, Ryan Hahn, Rocco Rosati, Gavin Woods, Patrick Gampfer, Gabe Gooch, Kyle King and Brad Vohs round out the Knights' roster.