Boys golf: Crystal Lake Central edges Burlington Central for FVC crown
A simple change in approach has made a world of difference for Prairie Ridge's Joe Pokonosky.
"I was thinking too much," Pokonosky said, "so I decided to stop thinking so much."
The senior kept his thoughts to a minimum Thursday and continued his hot shooting at the Fox Valley Conference boys golf tournament at Pinecrest, firing a 2-over-par 74 to become the first Prairie Ridge boys golfer since Ethan Farnam in 2016 to capture the tournament's individual title.
Pokonosky, who shot a 73 last week at the Dundee-Crown Invitational, knocked in birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 and finished his round with 12 pars.
Pokonosky was one of only five players to shoot 80 or lower in the windy and chilly conditions.
Crystal Lake South's Bryce Sturm was runner-up with a 75, Burlington Central's Tyson Malak finished third with a 79, and Crystal Lake Central's Eric Klutke and Crystal Lake South's Nate Stewart tied for fourth with 80s.
For Pokonosky, the key to winning was simplifying his approach.
"Every time I went to hit the ball, I spent way too much time thinking," Pokonosky said. "I kind of decided one day to just walk up, not think about my swing or anything like that, and just go ahead and hit the ball.
"Decide my shot, walk up, and hit it, and it's been a lot better, especially my putting. I've really started to heat up."
Pokonosky said his 18-hole tournament scores have been a lot better than his dual-meet scores. With the postseason starting next week, he's hoping that carries over.
Prairie Ridge, along with Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Harvard, Marengo and Marian Central, will compete at the Class 2A Marengo regional on Wednesday at Marengo Ridge.
"I haven't played well in [duals], but the 18-hole tournaments I've been doing really well," Pokonosky said. "I'm not really making a lot of mental mistakes and I'm feeling ready for regionals, sectional and hopefully state."
Crystal Lake Central beat Burlington Central for the team title on a fifth-score tiebreaker after the teams were tied at 332. Huntley, which went 9-0 in FVC duals, was third with a 337. McHenry (338) was fourth, and Prairie Ridge (345) was fifth.
Klutke led the Tigers with an 80, Bayden Hubacher (81) finished sixth, and Christian Wakeford (82) was eighth. Jack Bice, Ethan Bass and Charlie Polash all had 89s to help win the team title.
Malak (79) had the Rockets' best score, followed by Cody Leon (81) in sixth, Chaz Rutke (85) and Ivan Larson (87). Burlington's fifth score was a 92.
With the narrow victory, the Tigers repeated as the overall conference champions, followed by Huntley in second and Burlington in third. A win by Burlington would have given the Rockets the overall season title and bumped Central to third.
"It was just such grinder of a day," Tigers coach Matt LePage said. "It was hard to kind of predict where we were. I thought we finished strong. ... Bayden birdied his last hole, Eric parred two of his last three. Those guys who came in with 89s were good 89s. It was a tough day, but it was tough for everybody."
Central's 332 actually was its worst score of the season. The Tigers had a 309 at last week's D-C Invite and average about a 315, LePage said. Wakeford said the windy conditions and tricky pin placements were a challenge.
"I was struggling a little bit with the wind," Wakeford said. "But overall, I think we did a really good job. This was the second year in a row we've won, so I'm just really happy we were able to beat Burlington. We've been working really hard to get to this point."
Malak, who is hoping to go to state as a senior, posted a birdie on the par-5 No. 16 and made a great recovery for par on the first hole after hitting a tree. He said Burlington is aiming to make it out of the Class 2A Sandwich regional next week, but there will be stiff competition.
"I'm trying to win the regional," Malak said of his individual goals. "I know there's a few good kids gonna be there. [Kaneland's] Josh [Pehl] is playing there. But I can't worry about them, just play my game and see where it takes me."
Although Sturm came up one shot shy of Pokonosky, his runner-up performance gave him the season-long FVC points title, which combines conference duals and the FVC tournament finishes. Sturm beat teammate Nate Stewart, who took second. Klutke was third, Malak fourth and Wakeford fifth.
Sturm had some trouble on his final hole, smacking a tree, but felt his overall day was a success. Sturm knocked in a birdie from 66 yards out on the par-4 No. 7 and ended his round with three birdies and 10 pars.
"I was striking the ball good today, a lot better than I usually am," Sturm said. "I just feel so much more confident when I'm hitting my driver well, getting up and down a lot more, so that's a real great feeling."
Sturm is excited to keep it going next week at regionals.
"Just seize the opportunity, strike when I need to, play smart and just keep grinding," Sturm said.
Nooa Hakala (83), Cole Modrich (84), Josh Good (85) and Brendan Busky (85) had counting scores for Huntley. Ethan Jensen (82), Sam Huff (85), Will Currie (85) and Max Bogenski (86) scored for McHenry.
Prairie Ridge's Charlie Pettrone shot an 87; Dundee-Crown was led by Jake Russell (84), Chris Przybylak (85) and Mason Morawski (89); Cary-Grove's Tom Fornelli and Maddux Tarasievich had 84s; Jake Laube (88) and Eric Brown (89) led Hampshire; and Jacobs was led by Barrett Rennell (83), Jason Seaholm (87) and Justin Cunningham (89).