CARBONDALE — On a day that started in a steady rain, the Nashville Hornets needed their fifth scorer to break a tie with Anna-Jonesboro to win their 10th straight Mississippi Division title.
Meanwhile, Benton won its fourth straight Ohio Division championship at the River-to-River boys golf championships hosted by Hickory Ridge Public Golf Center Thursday.
“With the course conditions being a little wet, the possibility was there for it to come down to the wire — and we were very fortunate today,” said Nashville coach Jason Guest.
Benton beat Herrin by five strokes, with all four of its scorers winning All-Conference medals. Senior Brendan Luster successfully defended his Ohio Division individual title by two strokes over Herrin senior Logan Baggett. Luster also bested his teammates, senior Robbie Moore and junior Brad Hammond, by three and four strokes, respectively.
“My goal coming in was to repeat,” Luster said. “I was thinking with the weather conditions to keep my head down and stay focused, because I knew there would be bogeys and mistakes by everyone. The rain ended around the seventh hole.”
Moore finished third at 76, Hammond fourth at 77 and junior Collin Miller ninth at 82. Senior Eldon Owens just missed the cut with an 83.
“Winning conference is one of our foul goals we have every year and we got it done today,” said Benton coach Reggie Norman. “There weren’t any surprises today, but when we talk about it tomorrow I’m sure they’re going to tell me what they can do to get better because they want to be on this course again one more time this year at the sectional.”
Nashville and Anna-Jonesboro finished tied at 346. The tie was the smallest margin for the Hornets since winning by seven strokes over Carterville in 2015. Last year Nashville beat Anna-Jonesboro by 36 strokes.
Nashville’s top five scorers were senior Jordan Harre, with a 76, sophomore Gabe Kreid and junior Terry Peiczynski at 89 each, and seniors Jacob Maschhoff and Pierce Paszkiewicz, who both shot 92. All five earned All-Conference medals.
Anna-Jonesboro hadn’t won the title since winning back-to-back titles before the Hornets began their winning streak.
The Wildcats were led by freshman Luke Laskey, who won the title with a 74, followed by senior Carson Reynolds (82), junior Peter Hauser (90), sophomore Trent Mason (100) and freshman Ayden Bailey with a 108 for the fifth score. Lasley, Reynolds and Hauser earned All-Conference medals.
“We’ve had conference champs two of the last three years with Lasley joining Mr. Levi Hall from 2016,” said A-J coach Brandon Bierstedt. “I’m pretty pumped about that, but it seems I can’t knock off this Jason Guest guy. Him and I are really good friends and it’s been fun. At the end both groups of kids were out there on 18 and it was pretty cool. Like the saying says, ‘every stroke counts’ and today we proved that.”
Lasley won the title by two strokes over Harre to become the first freshman to win a boys golf title in the River-to-River Conference since Massac County’s Dalton Korte won the Mississippi title in 2009.
“I knew I had a chance to win because I’ve been playing pretty good lately,” Lasley said. “I just came down to staying within myself and not getting mad – I’m pretty bad about that sometimes. I bogeyed one and I wasn’t too happy about that, and then I chipped in on two and got my esteem back up.”
The Mississippi Division started on the front nine, and Lasley also played in the second threesome, while Harre played in the first. Harre traded a birdie on two and a bogey on nine to make the turn ever par, while Lasley had an up-and-down front nine, carding four bogeys and two birdies on the first seven holes. He finished with two pars to make the turn at two-over to trail by two strokes.
“My original goal coming in was to shoot two-over on each side,” Lasley said.
The back nine was a turnaround for both golfers. Lasley started with five pars before bagging a birdie on hole 15. He lost that stroke with a bogey on 17 to finish the back nine at even par and the round at two-over.
“I was not happy about that bogey because I had a chance to break my record for my lowest score and ended up tying it,” Lasley said. “Now I that I got my first championship I’ve got to try to keep that going.”
Harre dropped back with two double bogies and a single bogey before finishing with a birdie on 18.
The Mississippi Division defending champion Nashville junior Carson Parker, who won last year’s title after a one-hole playoff with Harre, carded a 95.
The Ohio Division opened on the back nine, with Moore teeing off in the first threesome and was leading at the turn at one-under by two strokes over Hammond, three strokes over Tyson Elko from West Frankfort and by four strokes over Luster and Drew Ringel from Herrin.
“I was thinking at the turn to give myself some birdie putts because I knew I was a few shots back of the lead and felt no pressure,” Luster said.
Luster came roaring back with birdies on hole two, four and five and his first high school eagle on six to jump from four back to take a six stroke lead. He lost three strokes over the final three holes, with a double bogey on seven and a single bogey on nine to finish his round with lowest nine-hole score of the day at two-under on the front nine.
“The birdies on two, four and five I hit my approaches within eight feet and made my putts,” Luster said. “On six, I hit driver and got a lucky break when it hit the car path, and the ball shot forward and left me with 190 yards to that green. I then hit a 6-iron to about 15 or 20 feet and made the putt for eagle.”