The Benton Ranger will be competing for a Class 2A golf state championship at the Weibring Golf Club in Normal this weekend while in Bloomington the Hamilton County Foxes will be chasing a Class 1A title at Prairie Vista Golf Course.
Benton earned a trip to state by placing second in the Mattoon sectional. Hamilton County claimed the Robinson sectional title.
Although the Rangers placed second in the section, they believe a state title is within their grasp. Depth is the key.
At Mattoon on Tuesday, Austin Wills, who was playing in the sixth slot, led the team with an 80. Coach Reggie Norman said his team doesn’t have a true No. 1, but rather a 1-A, 1-B and 1-C.
“We’ve been like that all year,” Norman said. “You never know who is going to score. That’s a really good problem to have. It’s not a problem, it’s a blessing. That best part about it is, I get to spend another couple days with these guys.”
In addition to Wills, the top six for Benton include Derek Oxford, Gehrig Wynn, Robbie Moore, Brendan Luster and Jordan Richey.
“Any time we go up we definitely think we can play with anybody,” Norman said. “Quite honestly, one of our goals this year was to go into a meaningful tournament where all six play their best and see where we go.
“We’re yet to do that. I’d love to see that happen. If it does, who knows what number we post. We’re capable of playing with anybody if we have six guys play to the top of their ability.”
This is Benton’s first trip to the state tournament since 2009.
There will be several local individuals at the 2A tournament, including Brock Burnham of Massac County, Caleb Urshan of Centralia, Josh Green of Herrin and Harrisburg’s Garrett Jenkins.
Burnham, a senior, won the regional title and placed second at the sectional with a 74. He was ill last year and wasn’t able to play at state.
“I’ve always wanted to do really good at state and bring home a title for my school,” he said.
In Class 1A, Hamilton County nipped Teutopolis by a stroke for the sectional title. In fact, Hillsboro finished third, just two strokes behind the Foxes.
Sophomore Austyn Downen led Hamilton County with a 75 at the sectional. Nate Neal, a senior, finished a stroke back at 76.
This marks the fourth time in the past six years Hamilton County has qualified as a team.
Only one local player, Chester’s Baylee Modglin of Chester, qualified as an individual. Modglin shot a 78 in sectionals.