ELGIN – Raghav Cherala picked the right time to catch fire Tuesday at The Higlands of Elgin, helping the St. Charles North boys golf team claim its first regional title in 10 years.
After finishing the front nine with a 4-over-par 40, Cherala fired a 3-under-par 33 on the back nine to finish with a 73 for 18 holes. That score was five strokes better than anyone else in the IHSA Class 3A Larkin Regional field.
The junior credited his low score to some strong approach shots.
“Basically, the last five or six holes, I put [the ball] within like 10 feet of the hole,” Cherala said. “And I made three of the birdie putts. I was playing well all day. On the front nine, the putts just didn’t fall.”
In fact, Cherala’s round started pretty ominously.
“He had a tough start,” North coach Rob Prentiss said. “He doubled the second hole and made a bad three-putt on a little par-3, so he was 3-over through four, but held it together, so we’re proud of him.”
Cherala, the two-time Upstate Eight Conference River Division Player of the Year, said he hopes to continue his strong play at next Monday’s sectional meet at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago.
“I’m excited,” Cherala said. “It’s always a fun time of year. Obviously, there’s more competition. I feel like Dan [Shepherd] and me kind of act as good leaders for the team, so I hope that the rest of the team follows through and I think they will.”
After blistering the front nine for a 34, Shepherd wound up at 78 and tied for second place with Larkin’s Jon Lenz.
“He didn’t hit the ball any differently on the back, he just got a couple bad bounces,” Prentiss said of his senior No. 1, who won last week’s conference meet. “He parred the last two holes after two big disasters, so it was nice to see him hold it together on 17 and 18.”
Jason McAleese added an 82 to the North Stars’ 318 team total, which was two strokes better than Geneva. Nate Desens and Colin Lillibridge each carded 79s for the Vikings.
“I hit the ball really well today, but my putting was pretty atrocious,” said Lillibridge, Geneva’s No. 1. “I had a lot of putts I should have made for birdies and only ended up making one birdie on the day. Seventy-nine was OK. There’s a lot of high scores, but I definitely could have shot much better.”
Junior Brett Hassels shot an 80 for Geneva, which finished four strokes ahead of third-place St. Charles East (324). A 79 by junior Connor McCadam was the best score for the Saints. James Thompson and Brad Riva each added 81 to East’s total.
An eagle on the 535-yard, par-5 sixth hole was the highlight of McCadam round.
“I missed a short putt on the hole before and I was pretty mad, so I put a pretty good swing on the tee shot and I put it out there pretty well,” McCadam said. “Then I hit a 5-iron and that rolled up on the green to about 25-30 feet [of the pin]. And I dropped that putt, which felt good.”
Batavia was not feeling too good after finishing in fourth place, one stroke behind East and out of sectional contention.
However, four Bulldogs (Danny Ritchason, Peter Rudd, Billy Zwick, and Jon Hvasta) will advance as individuals. Ritchason, a senior, led the way for Batavia with a 78.
A few players complained that a fairly strong easterly wind hampered their play, contributing to the day’s generally high scores, but Ritchason said it didn’t bother him.
“I played here Sunday and it was pretty windy,” he said. “It wasn’t as windy today. I was reading the greens real well. They weren’t playing as fast as I thought they would. There were a lot of two-putts.”