The boys golfers at the Class 2A La Salle-Peru Regional at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Club in La Salle on Monday couldn’t have asked for a better day as the sun illuminated the course and the cool breeze didn’t affect the ball.
Ottawa was the most pleased with the weather, the course and the result as it scored a 337 to earn the regional championship.
“We had freshman Jonathan Cooper come in clutch (83),” Pirates senior T.J. McDonnell said. “He’s been very consistent all season with low 80s. I told him, ‘We all need low 80s today. If we do, we have a chance to win.’ Nick Angus came through and shot in the low 80s (88). Everyone was just real consistent.”
Drake Stoudt shot an 89 for the Pirates and McDonnell also came in clutch as his 77 on the Par 72 course was the second best score of the regional behind Freeport’s Deven Stewart’s 76, who was the top individual not on a team to advance.
Now, McDonnell wants to get through the Class 2A Burlington Central Catholic Sectional on Oct. 14 at Whisper Creek Golf Course in Huntley to become a first-time state qualifier. McDonnell has barely missed the IHSA State Meet twice by one stroke and two strokes.
“I thought the front nine was going to be one of my worst outings at a regional throughout my four years,” McDonnell said. “I ended up getting out with a 42. On the back, the first couple of holes I was feeling pretty good. I birdied the second hole and after that I was hitting greens in regulation. I birdied on Hole No. 14 and finished the back with one-under par with a 35.
“I feel a lot more confident because in the beginning of the season I struggled and midway through I started playing consistent golf. Lately, I’ve been trying to stay in the 70s on 18 holes. I think if I shoot in the 70s, that will get me past sectionals and to state.”
La Salle-Peru and Rock Falls are also bringing their entire team to Huntley as the Cavaliers were second with a 339 and the Rockets carded a 341 for third.
Senior Mason Mitchell led the Cavaliers with an 80, while Alex Lenkaitis shot an 83, Ayden Sines carded an 87 and Coleman Rundle had an 89.
“We feel pretty good going into sectionals. I didn’t expect a 339 to place second, let alone be two-strokes off of a regional title,” Mitchell said. “We’re pretty confident moving forward and hopefully we can play well at sectionals.
“My mindset was to make sure I shot in the 80s. I wanted to make sure I at least made it to sectionals as an individual. This is my third time going to the sectional. Usually, a 79 or lower makes it to state. I’m hoping to cut my score and make it to state. I started golf my sophomore year and it was kind of more a less just a sport to throw in there. I kind of fell in love with it over the last couple of years.”
The Rockets qualified for sectionals last year as a team and made it back behind Kody Velazquez (83), Jalen Bickett (85), Grant Wasson (86) and Brayden Schulz (87).
Velazquez and a few other teams such as Ottawa and Sterling said playing in Saturday’s La Salle-Peru Invitational prepared them for the regional even though it was cold and windy compared to the regional’s calm sunshine.
“I shot an 83 here on Saturday, also. I did the same thing today as I did Saturday, I played better on the back than I did the front,” Velazquez said. “I just had a couple of holes that I had double bogies and I let them get in my head. I just kept playing and I had a birdie that helped me out. I basically just kept my head straight the hole day and didn’t let anything bother me. I noticed in my group I knew the course the most. I knew where to be and where not to be.
“We’ve been hoping all season that we make it to state. We will try to tighten things up and hopefully have a better round at sectionals than we did today. Hopefully, my teammates and I can shoot lower scores and we get to state.”
Mendota fell two-strokes shy of advancing as a team with its 343.
However, four Trojans are still going to the sectional as Colton Scheppers shot an 84, Ethan Hanaman carded an 87, Taylor Joyce had an 88 and Zeke Hessenberger shot a 90.
“We missed qualifying as a team by (two) strokes to Rock Falls,” Scheppers said. “That’s a tough loss but we have people moving on. That’s all that counts, really. We have four going, so it’s pretty much a team anyway. It’s going to be interesting because I’ve never been to a sectional. I don’t know what’s really going to happen but I have some good teammates with me that have been to a sectional before, so it should be a fun ride.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.