ANNA — The Anna-Jonesboro boys golf team won its first regional title since 2007 on Wednesday on its home course at the Union County Country Club.
Steeleville junior Avery Hamilton won a three-hole playoff to take medalist honors.
“It was a beautiful day to play golf - absolutely stunning,” Hamilton said. “I had just an average day - not too bad. I had a couple birdies - glad to have those - and not to many big numbers. Today my main focus was to get as many pars as I could. That’s what it takes. It was a great feeling to win regionals considering I won conference this year for my first time, so to get both of them under my belt feels very good.”
Anna-Jonesboro (329) edged Steeleville by six strokes (335) and West Frankfort by 24 strokes (353) with a six-stroke spread between its top four golfers with its fifth golfer missing the cut by just one stroke.
“After winning the conference a year ago we came up short this year and got second, so given a choice between winning the regional and winning the conference again I’ll take the regional every year.” said Anna-Jonesboro coach Jim Woodward. “We put a lot of emphasis on the end of the season because that in where the main hardware is. This time of the year is about moving on and getting to the sectional and then to state and we haven’t done that in a long time.”
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Hamilton and Wildcat senior Luke Lasley shot par on the first two playoff holes.
“The first tee shot was very nerve wracking,” Hamilton said. “I got down the right side where I punched it below the tree onto the green and two-putted for par. On hole two, I hit a driver just to the right side leaving me just short. I then up-and-downed from there. Before the hole three, I could sense it was coming to end soon, so it was good it was on my side. I was just long on my first shot and two-putted for the win.”
Lasley sank a birdie on the last hole of regulation play to pull into a tie for medalist honors with Hamilton.
“I didn’t play too well today and still seemed to be able to get into a playoff,” Lasley said. “On 17, I thought he was six over and I was seven over, so I tried to ram the putt in to tie him, but I ended up hitting it way past and I three-putted. On 18, I learned on the tee box he was seven over, so I had to birdie. I hit a perfect drive and a good two shot. I had a bit of an iffy birdie putt after hitting my eagle putt pass leaving me with a right to lefter downhiller and I hit it in the cup.”
Lasley had a chance to win the playoff on the second hole, but couldn’t capitalize.
“On the second playoff hole I hit a good 3-wood leaving me with a really easy shot I had got up-and-down from there a 100 times, but I hit a lousy chip,” Lasley said. “I got lazy on it and it rolled over. On the third hole I was confident with the club, but I got quick and nervous and chunked it short. I then hit another lousy chip. I have a chip on my shoulder now and a lot to prove next week.”
Hamilton trailed by one stroke after the first nine holes suffering back-to-back double bogies on the seventh and eighth holes and Lasley bagging his first birdie on hole eight.
“I started off rough with a bogey on one, two double bogies, but I figured it out,” Hamilton said. “On seven, my second ball landed right up against a tree and I had to take an unplayable, which is a one-stroke penalty. On the second one, I had to punch twice from the trees, so that was a little frustrating, but I got it together on the back.”
On the first hole of the back nine, Hamilton led by one stroke with a birdie on 10 while Lasley had a bogey. Hamilton extended his lead to two strokes on hole 13 with a par while Lasley had a bogey
“I hit a good tee shot and put my second one up close and up-and-downed it,” Hamilton said.
Then Lasley pulled even when he sank a birdie and Hamilton a bogey, but Lasley fell behind again on 16 with a bogey and Hamilton holding par. Both golfers had bogies on 17 to maintain Hamilton’s slim lead. Hamilton closed out with a par on 18.
“Those late bogies were because I wasn’t in it mentally then - I couldn’t focus at those times,” Hamilton said. “It was good to end with a par on 18.”
Goreville senor A.J. Johnson finished third a stroke behind Hamilton and Lasley to advance to the sectional.
“A.J. played a great round today he was right in the thick of it and in the hunt right to the very end,” said Goreville coach J.R. Russell. “He missed a putt by inches, I mean within inches, to finish a stroke back. He’s had a fantastic season. A.J. was medalist in very single match outside of two when he finished second coming in, so this is a great cap to a great season and a great senior year. I’m really looking forward to him doing well up at sectionals and hopefully get to Bloomington.”
Joining Anna-Jonesboro, Steeleville and West Frankfort and Johnson for the 1A Sectional at Green Hills Golf Club in Mount Vernon next Monday are nine other individuals.
Also advancing are sophomore Brock Naile (85), junior Garrett Franklin (89) and sophomore Zach Compton (94) from Trico. Compton earned the 10th and final advancing spot by winning a one-hole playoff with two seniors his teammate senior Logan Cleland and Cole Roberson.
Three junior members of the Chester team Chance Mott (85), Gage Hasemeyer (87) and Clayton Andrews (88) also advanced as well as Vienna seniors Dawson Hill (85) and Tyler Votava (86) and Eldorado sophomore Canon Weatherly (92).