MARION — By his own admission, Herrin senior Drew Ringel wasn’t a good putter Tuesday, except when he needed to make one in a one-hole playoff for medalist honors at the Class 2A Marion Regional.
Then, Ringel learned from an earlier failure and knocked down a birdie to best Carbondale’s Drew Hudgins and cap off the Tigers’ sweep.
After edging Benton by two strokes for the team title with a composite 308, Herrin tacked on Ringel’s win to what was already a good day. Ringel shot a 1-over par 72 despite hitting 14 of 18 greens, largely because he endured four three-putts.
“You hit enough greens, eventually you’re going to make one birdie,” Ringel said.
Length, precision and a repeat putt gave Ringel the birdie he’d sought all day on the playoff hole. Playing the 369-yard par-4 first hole, Ringel launched a drive of nearly 300 yards, although he missed the fairway to the left.
However, Ringel caught a break when his ball sat up in the rough near a tree, giving him the best angle to attack a pin that was set near a bunker at the back left of the green. Using a 58-degree wedge, he tucked the ball within about 15 feet of the cup.
It was in the same spot where Ringel missed his first birdie putt of the day, fanning it to the right. Moments after Hudgins, who outdrove Ringel but left his approach shot shorter than he probably wanted, missed his try for birdie, Ringel made his.
When the ball went in, Ringel pumped his fist and his teammates cheered.
“I’m very proud of the team,” Ringel said. “We haven’t beaten them all year but coach (Eric Ewell) told us to keep grinding and never give up. All of Benton’s guys may not have played to their potential, but give credit to our team. We played very well.”
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The Tigers started strong, getting a 34 on the front nine from Corbin Preston, who finished at 76. Ringel used a 35 on the back nine to make up a two-stroke deficit on Hudgins, while Logan Craft carded a 37 on the back nine and checked in with a 77.
Ewell said his team’s victory was simply a matter of being more consistent than it had been in other matches against the Rangers.
“We had practice yesterday and I told them, ‘Never count yourself out of a match.’ I see kids get down on themselves and not play like they should,” Ewell said. “I just told them to keep working and never give up.
“It’s never going to go the way you want it to, but as long as you don’t hit stupid shots and play the high-percentage shots, you’re going to have a chance. And today, we did that just enough to get it done. This is a big win for us.”
Benton coach Reggie Norman targeted 305 as a possible winning score, but while his team didn’t have to count anything higher than an 80, they also had to count a 78 and 79 in addition to a 73 from Brendan Luster.
“I knew that we had to play well to win, and 310 wasn’t where we wanted to be,” Norman said. “We didn’t play well enough and Herrin shot a good number. They played well and they deserved to win. Hopefully, this will motivate us.”
Marion finished third at 337, grabbing the final team spot for Monday’s sectional at Hickory Ridge in Carbondale. Isaac Hammet’s 76 was the Wildcats’ low score.
Ten other individuals also earned spots in the sectional. Massac County‘s Hayden Summers beat teammate Brandon Burnett in a one-hole playoff for the last individual berth.