MARION — Marion junior Isaac Hammet survived a triple bogey to win the South Seven Conference boys golf title by two strokes for the first time on his home course The Links at Kokopelli on Friday afternoon.
“You never know in golf if it’s going to be a good day or a bad day, so you just take one shot at a time and keep on going,” Hammet said. “My putting was really good today. I’m excited to win the conference and it gives me some confidence going into regionals.”
Hammet opened his round on the sixth hole and got off to a shaky start with a bogey. He rebounded with three pars and got a stroke back with a birdie on hole 10 and a par on 11.
“You always want to start off good, but I had a 12-foot putt for par and left it short,” Hammet said. “I had 100 yards left on 10 and hit to five feet and then made the birdie putt.”
However, the par 5, 518-yard hole 12 and par 4, 355-yard hole 13 proved to be unlucky.
“On 12 I teed off and it went left of the bunker,” Hammet said. “I found a Titleist 4, which was what I was playing, and I hit it. I wasn’t thinking because in the sun it looked like my marking and stuff, but when I got up to the fairway I looked closer and it wasn’t my ball. So I went back and found my ball in the lip of the bunker in grass. I just went from there and made bogey, but then a two-stroke penalty.”
Hammet suffered a bogey on 13 and then went on a tear with two birdies and six pars over the next eight holes. He lost another stroke with a bogey on four and finished with a par to take the lead from former conference champion Jack Bruening from Belleville Althoff, with a three-over par 74.
“The two-stroke penalty kind of made me mad, but it also kind of fired me up a little,” Hammet said.
Bruening, who won the conference title two years ago as a freshman, was already in the clubhouse with a five-over 76 after a round of two birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey.
Althoff regained the team title after a two-year absence by edging Marion by 12 strokes with a team score of 327. Two-time defending champion Centralia finished third five strokes behind Marion. The Crusaders also won the South Seven Preview to open the season by 10 strokes over Marion.
“Yeah, we got it back after the Orphans had it for two years,” said Belleville coach Dan Polites. “We last won it at Stone Wolf in 2015, Jack had a good round with 76 and Avery Irwin with 77 and then went a little difficult with an 84 and 90. We’ve been to Kokopelli three times this season, so it’s nice to get the South Seven here. It’s a great conference. There was talk of Althoff maybe being kicked out of the conference, but we’ve got a really healthy rivalry with golf and all the coaches are close, so I’m tickled first to stay in the conference and second to win it back. I always love winning the conference.”
The Crusaders placed four on the All-Conference team. Following Bruening were sophomore Avery Irwin with a fourth place score of 77, sophomore George Orlet with an 84, who won a two-hole playoff to finish sixth, and junior Connor Wilson with a 90, who won a five-hole playoff with two other golfers to finish ninth.
Marion had three golfers make the All-Conference team. Joining Hammet were junior Brett Lewis in eighth place with an 85 and freshman Karsten Stoltar, who lost the playoff to Wilson to finish 10th. Senior Cooper Smith also shot a 90, but he was eliminated early in the playoff to finish 11th.
“Isaac is one of the hardest workers I’ve had in my 17 years of doing this,” said Marion coach Stan Stout. “To see all his hard work pay off in a conference championship just warms my heart. He’s one of the best things to happen to Marion golf in a couple years. I can’t wait to see him back here Tuesday at regionals to punch his ticket to the sectionals. We’ve got a lot of youth on this team, so I can’t wait to see the future of Marion golf.”
Carbondale senior Drew Hudgins won the one-hole playoff for third against Irwin and Centralia senior Hunter Martin, captured third place with Martin falling to fifth. Centralia sophomore Sam Beggs finished seventh after losing the playoff to Orlet.