ELBURN – Part of Matt Yonkovich’s even-keeled credo defies longstanding logic that could help him at this weekend’s Class 2A state boys golf tournament.
“I’ve had a couple good comebacks throughout the course of conference and matches before. Stretches of birdie, eagle, birdie,” Yonkovich said. “So never keep your head down. Always focus on the next shot.”
Never keep your head down? That really isn’t advisable if you’re looking to score low or follow Yonkovich, a Kaneland senior, and his pursuit of a title at Illinois State’s Weibring Golf Club in Normal.
“Very consistent, has all the tools, can hit every shot in the bag,” Knights coach Mark Meyer said. “And even when he starts off poorly, he always seems to make a big comeback.
“And when he starts out well, look out, because he can go real low.”
Yonkovich earned one of the final individual qualifying spots from Monday’s 2A Freeport Sectional by tying three others with a 78 at Park Hills Golf Course.
Unable to duplicate last season’s team advancement, Kaneland finished sixth in the team race, carding a 335 that stood four shots behind third-place Sterling.
Yonkovich would rather have his fellow Knights in tow again, but finds charting his own rounds often provides enough drama. Two weeks ago, he finished the final six holes at 4-under-par to take third individually at the Northern Illinois Big 12 tournament with an even-par 72.
A similarly slow start threatened his round at the Aurora Central Catholic Regional at Phillips Park. Naturally, Yonkovich recovered to deliver a 4-under-par 67, one stroke behind medalist Matt Weber of Burlington Central.
Falling a stroke shy of winning a regional for the second straight season didn’t seem to faze Yonkovich, who’s always pushing toward improvement.
“If I have a bad round one day, I forget about it and say there’s another day ahead of me, another day to go out and shoot your best score,” Yonkovich said. “So I always look forward to those days coming. That’s really all I do.”
Yonkovich grinned in knowing his regional round provided positive data for college recruiters. He has been in contact with a few coaches, he said, but there is nothing concrete.
He’s in similar limbo about a possible major, considering business and accounting at this early juncture.
Wherever he winds up, Yonkovich hopes not to lose a grip on an admittedly laid-back style that emerged from his first days as a golfer. At age 5 – or was it 6? – Yonkovich remembers accompanying his mom to the range at the Sugar Grove Family Fun Center, where he began by hitting from the concrete, not the mats.
“After awhile, I guess” Yonkovich learned where to position his feet and the best ways to strike the ball.
Yonkovich was 1-under after three holes of the second round of the 2012 state tournament at Weibring, determined to remove the memory of an opening 83 the day before.
Inclement weather eventually shortened the tournament, and Yonkovich didn’t quite get the redemption he was after when he fired an 80 at Weibring during summer junior play.
This weekend brings another chance to improve. Yonkovich couldn’t be happier.