Moments after finishing lunch following their rounds at the IHSA Class 2A state meet, Kaneland boys golfers voted to take a field trip.
Forget the hotel. The Knights departed the clubhouse at Illinois State’s Weibring Golf Club in Normal and headed for The Den at Fox Creek in adjacent Bloomington.
The Den is the site of this weekend’s 3A meet, but the Knights had no interest in watching. They bellied up to the pro shop counter, paid for a few buckets and took aim at the range.
“We felt like we had a little more left in our tank and we wanted to practice and hit some range balls,” senior Sean Glennon said. “We thought we could use a little bit of a tune-up.”
Kaneland shot a handful of strokes above each player’s season average as tournament play opened Friday. A collective 57-over par, the Knights enter today’s final round tied for 10th among 12 teams, but still a manageable 20 shots behind co-leaders Belleville Althoff and Normal University.
“We didn’t come out and play like we wanted to, but looking at some of the scores, we’re certainly not out of it,” Knights coach Mark Meyer said. “If we can come out and play more toward our average tomorrow or under, we can maybe leave with some hardware. And we’ll definitely leave happy.”
At 55-over, Wheaton Academy stands in ninth place. The Warriors were buoyed by freshman Grant Gosden, whose 8-over-par 79 was tops among any Chronicle-area individual at Weibring or The Den.
In 3A, a trio of senior individual qualifiers all struggled. Dan Shepherd of St. Charles North and Geneva resident Liam Creamer of Marmion both shot 86. St. Charles East’s Max Kelly turned in a 91.
Deerfield’s Ian Kelsey and New Trier’s Jack Junge share the tournament lead at 1-under-par 71.
Like the Knights – who left Weibring due the absence of an afternoon range – Shepherd hit a few extra balls at The Den following his round. After parring four of his first five holes, Shepherd hit a snag, as tee shots in the water on Nos. 6 and 11 added up.
“Just need to put the ball in play and put it in the fairway,” Shepherd said. “I hit my irons well, I hit my putting lines well – though I didn’t really make anything. I just didn’t put it in play.
“I feel good and I’m confident. Just a little bit of a change for tomorrow will hopefully turn me around.”
Junior Matt Yonkovich paced Kaneland with an 83, and was followed by Luke Kreiter (85), Connor Williams (85) and Brody Kuhar (88).
Yonkovich, Kuhar and Glennon each notched birdies as they hoped to capitalize on experience from a 2011 practice round at Weibring.
Wheaton Academy, whose other scorers included St. Charles resident Danny Gryfinski (85), Zack Spear (86) and Kenneth Mill (89), also had a history with the course. Sometimes, that isn’t a stark advantage.
“When you play in this big of a tournament, no matter how much prep time you have, when they call your name to get to that first tee, there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it,” Warriors coach Scott Broman said. “Some nerves still are going to set in.”
Other area 2A individuals were Aurora Central Catholic’s Sean Harreld (84) and Burlington Central’s Andrew Sherman (85). Dan Mochel paced St. Francis’ contingent with an 85; Geneva resident John Stolte shot 88.
Normal University’s Adam Baracani leads the field with a 1-over 72.