MARION — Playing in a light rain at Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion, Althoff and Marion took the first steps to dethrone two-time champion Centralia, with Althoff edging Marion by 10 strokes to win the 18-hole South Seven Boys Golf Preview Thursday.
“Even though it was a little soupy out there, beating Marion on their home course by 10 shots we’re very happy with that,” said Althoff coach Dan Polites. “As we see year in and year out in this very competitive South Seven, every team will improve.”
Althoff has won four South Seven titles since 2010, including back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, then again in 2014 and 2015. Marion has won three boys titles since 1999, including titles in 2012 and 2013.
“I believe the entire South Seven is a little depressed this year as far as the depth of skill, so I believe that brings several of us into play by the end of the year,” said Marion coach Stan Stout. “I’m hoping to be able to cut easily 20 shots off my top four by the end of the year. I wouldn’t mind going lower, but with my young bunch, 330 would be a great goal.”
Centralia ruled South Seven boys golf in the late 2000s, winning six straight titles from 2004 to 2009. They returned to the top the past two years, besting Althoff by four strokes last year and Mount Vernon by 14 strokes two years ago.
However, Centralia lost four seniors from last year’s team and is fielding a team that includes three sophomores, a junior, and two seniors. Marion has a more veteran team led by two juniors and two seniors to go with a sophomore and a freshman.
Althoff’s first traveling squad was missing two juniors in its No. 1 Jack Bruening and its No. 5 Carlo Armorado, but sophomore Avery Irwin had a good showing tying with Marion junior Isaac Hammet for medalist honors with a 76.
The course was playing difficult, so Isaac Hammet and Avery Irwin (co-medalist at 76) had nice scores there,” Polites said. “We’re pleased because we knew the scores were going to be high - missing Jack Bruening, who was co-No. 1 with Avery last year.”
Irwin played in the first threesome with Carbondale senior Drew Hudgins and Centralia senior Hunter Martin.
“My start was a little rough,” Irwin said. “The rough is really thick out here, and a couple bad drives led to bad scores. I did not want to play bad today. I just wanted to get back to good golf, and I eventually did.”
However, he rebounded to make par on the next 12 holes. After suffering a bogey on hole 16, he finished with two more pars to come into the clubhouse as the leader with a 5-over par 76.
“After the first three holes I didn’t putt much better, but I did focus more,” Irwin said. “I didn’t have many long putts, but I had some good chips and other shots. I had a good up-and-down on nine from about 20 yards to get within a foot. On the long par 4 hole 15, I hit 4-iron to a good 30 feet and two putted.”
Hammet played in the second threesome with Centralia junior Matt Garnier and Althoff junior Connor Wilson. He also started on hole one and got off to tough start with bogeys on holes two, three and six along with a double bogey on eight to make the turn tied with Irwin at 5-over.
“The front nine wasn’t my best - my tee-shots were going right,” Hammet said. “I’ve been playing out here all summer, so at the turn I knew I could shoot way better by staying patient. Finally, on the back nine I just played the fade and I hit a ton of fairways.”
Hammet took the lead with a birdie on 12, but dropped back into a tie with a bogey on 15 and remained tied when he closed out with three pars.
Hudgins also got off to a bad start with a double bogey on hole one followed by bogeys on two and four to tie with Irwin. After both made par on the next three holes, Hudgins pulled into the lead with a birdie on nine to make the turn at three-over.
However, two double bogeys on the back nine dropped Hudgins into third place with a 7-over 78.
Rounding out Althoff’s scorers were sophomore Kaleb Laramore with an 85 to finish fifth, Wilson with an 86 to finish sixth and junior Ben Michael with a 93.
For Marion, junior Brett Lewis shot an 82 to finish fourth followed by senior Cooper Smith with a 95 and freshman Karsten Stotlar with a 97.
Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Centralia’s Martin in seventh with an 87 and Mount Vernon junior Simon Wilson, Centralia sophomore Dane Burrus and Carbondale senior Riley Coffer tied for eighth at 90.