CARBONDALE – Benton finished third at the Carbondale 2A Boys Golf Sectional hosted by Hickory Ridge Public Golf Course on Monday to advance to the state tournament for the second time in the last three years.
“We are definitely back in, and that’s nice,” said Benton coach Reggie Norman. “We started out the front nine not exactly how we wanted to, but I’ve never been more proud of the way these guys bounced back on the back nine. All of them started poorly, which makes it all the more special because they didn’t get their heads down and they finished. We now have an opportunity to go up and see what we can do.”
Herrin seniors Drew Ringel and Logan Craft and Carbondale senior Drew Hudgins advanced as individuals for the first time in their careers, with Craft and Hudgins winning a two-hole playoff for the final two spots with three other golfers.
Defending state champion Charleston, won the sectional team title with a score of 297 led by seniors Ben Lanman at one-over par 73, Keegan Gowin (74), Preston Smith (75) and Robert Rardin (75).
“Very, very tough field with lots of good teams down here, and 310 doesn’t get out – that’s crazy,” said Charleston coach Randy Harpster. “No surprises today. We are who we are. We have six kids who can shoot in the 70s consistently.”
Former two-time state champion Belleville Althoff finished second, seven strokes behind Charleston, to advance to the state tournament for the second straight year and the fourth time in the last five years. The Crusaders won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012.
“Second year behind Charleston,” said Althoff coach Dan Polites. “Congratulations to Charleston – 297 is a great four scores – and to Benton for getting out. Our goal was 310, and we shot 304. Our number six, Kaleb Laramore, and five, George Orlet, played great and our one and two shot 72 and 73, so we were tickled. And for Herrin to shoot 310 at this venue and not get out is just exceptional.”
Sophomore Avery Irwin finished tied for medalist honors with Mattoon senior Tanner Romine with an even-par 72 forcing a playoff hole. He finished second when he three-putted the first hole.
Also scoring for the Crusaders were junior Jack Bruening (73) and sophomores Laramore (77) and Orlet (82).
The Rangers, who finished fourth at the state tournament two years ago, finished two strokes behind the Crusaders and four strokes ahead of Herrin for the final team qualifying spot. Senior Brendan Luster and junior Brad Hammond tied for the team lead at 75 to finish tied for sixth overall with four other golfers. Senior Robbie Moore and junior Jared Shaw finished with 78s.
Ringel also finished tied for sixth along with Alton Marquette senior Sam Cogen. Ringel opened on the front nine and got off to a good start with a birdie on the second hole. He then suffered back-to-back bogeys on four and five and another bogey on eight to make the turn at two over par.
Ringel got back a stroke with a birdie on 11 but suffered bogeys on 13 and 17 to fall three-strokes behind the pace.
“I told myself I’m good enough to make it, and I played pretty good today,” Ringel said. “Making it to state was my main goal this season. I put it on a piece of paper and looked at it every day to get there, and I’m glad I finally made it out.”
Craft started on the front nine and made the turn at one-over with a bogey on three. He ran into trouble on the back nine with two bogeys and a double bogey on the first three holes. He picked up two strokes with consecutive birdies on 14 and 15 but fell back even farther with a triple bogey. He closed out with two pars to finish at six-over.
“It took a playoff, but I’m going to state,” Craft said. “I birdied the second hole by running in a 15-footer. My day could have been better – I took a tough triple on 16 and a double on 12 – but overall my main goal was achieved. State has always been my number one priority, and senior year I made it.”
Hudgins also opened on the front nine and immediately fell behind with a double bogey on the first hole. He recovered nicely with a birdie, five pars and a bogey to make the turn at one-over.
However, Hudgins’ back nine featured three double bogeys and a single to go with two birdies to finish six strokes off the pace.
“I didn’t play very well, but I played well enough, I guess,” Hudgins said. “There were five in the playoff, and three of us made par to advance. On the second hole I picked my drive to go right because there was nothing over there. From there I hit an alright shot to the back of the green. I chipped it up to about three and a half feet. I knew at that point I had a good chance to move on because Herrin’s kid hit his ball to 25 feet on the green, and the Jacksonville kid hit his into a bush and took an unplayable lie. My putt had a lot of break to it, and I didn’t want to be too aggressive and missed it a little low, leaving a four-inch putt. It would have nice to have the birdie, but I’ll take a five and move on.”
Massac County senior Dakota Ball and junior Micah Troutt also qualified for the first time after they both shot 77.
Herrin sophomore Logan Baggett also finished at 78 — along with Lawrenceville sophomore Camren Ray and Jacksonville freshman Brady Kaufmann — to tie for the last two qualifying spots, but he fell out of contention with Ray on the first playoff hole.