ELGIN – There were plenty of seniors playing the front nine in a big Upstate Eight Conference River Division dual meet at Bowes Creek Country Club on Thursday, but it was a diminutive freshman who came up with the biggest round of the day.
Geneva’s Graham Lillibridge fired an even-par 36 to lead the Vikings (7-0 overall, 4-0 league) to a 159-165 victory over previously unbeaten St. Charles North.
“I didn’t hit the ball great, but I chipped and putted extremely well,” Lillibridge said. “I got up and down a bunch. Coming out of the rough – I only hit two fairways – I was very good. I hit a lot of greens.”
The greens were where Lillibridge separated himself from the competition.
“I tried to keep my head down in putting because I hit a lot of lag putts,” Lillibridge said. “Any clutch putts I had, I made, which was huge to keep the round going.”
A prime example of that came on the ninth hole when Lillibridge sank a 20-footer for birdie.
“I knew it was up the hill and was going to break a little right,” he said. “So I tried just to hit it hard enough to get up there. It got in on the edge and I was fortunate for it to go in because that pin placement is brutal. If I missed it, it was probably all the way down the hill and was going to be a tough putt coming back.”
Lillibridge’s round was four strokes better than the next best score of the day, turned in by North’s Matt Samuelson.
“I played well,” Samuelson said. “I feel like I could have went lower, but you can say that after every single round. It was windy and, overall, I’d say 40 on a day like today is OK.”
Samuelson said the Bowes Creek course is one of the tougher ones he sees in high school play, especially in windy conditions.
“There are no trees out here and there are a lot of hazards on the course,” he said. “When it gets windy, that brings them into play even more. You really have to keep it straight and make putts, but if you play well, you can go low.”
J.T. Grill shot a 41 and Raghav Cherala and Tharyn Duncan each finished with a 42 for the North Stars (6-1, 2-1).
“This was probably the biggest match of the year so far,” North coach Rob Prentiss said. “We’re disappointed tonight we didn’t defend our home course a little better. We’re looking to learn from what happened out there today. I have a lot of seniors on the team, but I wouldn’t say they have a lot of experience in big matches. It was a big match tonight and for some reason, as a group, we didn’t answer the challenge.”
Geneva had three players finish at 41 – Brett Hassells, Alex Schreiber, and Mac Feehan.
“I always look at the North team as one of the top teams in the conference,” Geneva coach Bill Koehn said. “You have to beat them. To come here and win on their course is quite an accomplishment.”
The Vikings hope to continue their strong play when they host Batavia in another key conference dual meet Tuesday at Mill Creek.
“It’s different guys every night that are stepping up,” Koehn said. “Grant Lillibridge is playing extremely well as a freshman. He’s been our leader the whole season. … We had a sophomore step up and play really big for us tonight, Mac Feehan. That might be his best round so far in the conference.”