BENTON — Saturday afternoon provided Southern Illinois River-to-River golf fans with beautiful 83 degree weather at the Benton Golf Invitational.
The Mississippi division was represented by the host Rangers, Massac County and Murphysboro in a 25 player competition at Benton Country Club. Each school scored its Top 6 performers, while Murphysboro had two less golfers (7) than the other two schools did with nine apiece.
Benton was led by sophomore Cy Norman with a score of 69 that earned him the first-place trophy in Saturday’s contest. Norman shot a 35 through his first nine holes before shaving off a stroke on the back-nine with a 34.
“Obviously I’ve seen about every pin location we could have here, but you still have to pull off the shots to make the puts,” Norman said on playing at home. “I like to think that my short game is my biggest strength right now. If I put the ball on the green I expect myself to knock in any birdie chance I get.”
Norman’s biggest challenge came on his fifth hole of the day when his ball struck a tree, which led to his only shot over par on the day, and third bogey of the season.
“I hit a tree that was about 45 to 55 yards from the green and it threw me back into the trees about give or take 120 yards,” said Norman.
The first-place finish for Norman was a milestone that he’d been waiting for. The sophomore continues to cut down on his drives to position the ball better, which is something he believes will come with enough reps after struggling on Saturday.
“So far, through high school, that’s the best score I’ve shot through 18 holes,” said Norman. “I was kind of all over the place off the tee, and I’m hitting my irons well, but I was putting myself so out of play that I had to scramble more. I’ve just been working to get myself as many birdie looks as I can and so far it’s been paying off.”
Massac County’s Hayden Summers shot a score of 76 to place second and put the only blemish on Benton’s Top 5 finishes. Finishing behind Summers for the Rangers was Peyton Sieveking (77), Luke Melvin (80) and Keaton House (82), who all took home medals.
Summers trailed Norman by one stroke after the front-nine before struggling on the back-nine to help earn the Patriots second-place with a score of 356. Murphysboro came in third behind Eli Caraway’s score of 85 and Logan Vestal’s 92.
The Rangers Top 6 scores were the reason for their victory. Sieveking believes that he and his teammates can still get their scores low enough to break a team score of 300 at some point this season. The only challenge for Benton is finding enough competitions in a shortened season to complete the team's goal.
“I felt really good out on the course today but I left a couple puts out there that could have easily gone in,” said Sieveking. “I’m pretty happy with what we accomplished today as a team, but we can still shoot lower. We look on the scoreboard and see we missed on 300 by eight and it makes us want it more.”
The Rangers return back to Benton Country Club on Tuesday in a Quad Meet against Herrin, West Frankfort and Du Quoin at 4 p.m.
Massac County returns home on Tuesday against Carterville and Vienna at 4 p.m.