MOUNT VERNON — From tee to green, Carbondale’s Ian Davis was matchless Wednesday.
But to win medalist honors at the Class 2A Mount Vernon boys golf regional, Davis needed to do something different when it came time to make putts on the back nine.
“I just started seeing the lines to the hole better,” he said after carding a 32 on the back nine to beat Benton star Cy Norman by two shots. “That was really the difference.”
Davis riddled the tough Green Hills Golf Club layout for seven birdies and a 6-under 65, bettering an otherwise solid 4-under 67 by Norman. But Norman got his satisfaction from the Rangers’ team title, the first of three many think they’ll collect in the next week and a half.
Benton counted no score lower than a 73 in finishing at 2-under par 282 as a team, setting a program record for lowest score in a regional. Freshman Kash Cantrell was money with a 2-under par 69, while another freshman, River Stilley, and senior Andrew Bell bagged 73s.
Want to know just how deep Benton is? Bell is their No. 6 player.
“That’s a solid number anywhere you go,” Rangers coach Reggie Norman said. “That’s the beauty of having a deep team. Anybody can score. If a kid doesn’t play well, we don’t harp on it because he could be our number one scorer the next time out.”
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Massac County placed a distant second at 313 and Mount Vernon tapped into its home course advantage just enough to earn third at 321. Those scores earned the Patriots and Rams the same ticket as Benton into Monday’s Effingham Sectional.
Whether either team – or any team – can beat the Rangers if they’re playing well is another story. While it might be true that you can’t play defense in golf, it’s also true that Benton has a team full of guys who can at least threaten par, if not downright obliterate it.
Cy Norman, who will attempt to defend his sectional title on Monday, is one of those guys. So is Stilley, who blistered Kokopelli in Marion earlier this month for a 63. So is Cantrell, who was coming off a rare off-day Thursday at the SIRR Tournament.
“He played his worst round and didn’t make all-conference,” Reggie Norman said. “He was disappointed, but I know the kind of player he is and that player is going to be there more often than not.
“For the most part, this team has been very consistent and very good. Any time you can six and know any of the six can score, it takes so much pressure off the other guys.”
No amount of pressure was going to crack Davis on this day, particularly on the back nine. He produced birdies on both par-5s – 12 and 17 – as well as the par-4 14th and 18th holes. Davis’ only bogey occurred at No. 4, a 130-yard par-3.
At 5,941 yards, Green Hills wasn’t playing long by any means. But you just can’t bomb away on the course and expect success. Davis emphasized course management over raw power and saw his approach pay off.
“I scrambled it well,” he said. “You have to stay out of trouble. This course can bite you sometimes. You can go low on this course, but if you don’t make good decisions, it can go south on you in a hurry.”
There was one last bit of drama, long after the team and individual titles were settled. A five-for-two playoff was required to settle the final two individual qualifiers for Effingham. Ashton Hall of Harrisburg and Marion’s Hunter Henry cracked the code on the second playoff hole.
They, and every other golfer Monday, will be chasing Benton.
“We’re ready to go,” Cy Norman said. “We’ll use their next few days to prep and get ready to win another one.”