Rockets’ Weber as good as advertised

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(Photo provided)
Matt Weber of Burlington Central is the Kane County Chronicle's Boys Golfer of the Year.

Matt Weber spoke calmly and clearly while uttering the following shortly after the Class 2A boys golf state tournament concluded Oct. 19: “I’m probably going to take a few weeks off and not play any more tournaments this fall. Then I’ll hit the offseason training with my coaches pretty hard, get ready for collegiate golf at Indiana.”

The Burlington Central senior still plans to compete for the Hoosiers, but an ongoing bout with mononucleosis has taken Weber’s absence from the course out of his hands.

Weber’s mother, Jeanne Hem, guesses her son was playing with the condition brewing en route to a runner-up finish at the Class 2A state tournament, an accomplishment that cemented Weber’s standing as Kane County Chronicle Boys Golfer of the Year.

“It hit him like a brick on the Sunday right after state,” Hem said.

A resident of rural St. Charles, Weber’s golf reputation preceded his arrival on campus in the fall of 2010.

Longtime Rockets coach Deb Twenhafel remembers then-Central upperclassmen skeptically talking among themselves about the would-be golden boy before he even stepped to a high school tee box.

Their tone shifted quickly enough.

“Everybody goes, ‘Oh, God, you’re going to get this golfer, you’re going to get this golfer,’ because he had been playing for such a long time and was already being talked about,” Twenhafel said.

“The guys are like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s not this good, he’s not that good,’ and then when he started playing they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s pretty good.’ ”

Weber left no doubt well before his final state series, which began with a medalist round of 66 at the Aurora Central Catholic Regional at Phillips Park and ended just short of the top of the podium at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.

His two-day, 1-over-par 143 was a stroke behind state champion Danny Gorman of Rockford Boylan, who was grouped with Weber.

Parring the par-3 No. 17 hole allowed Weber to draw within a stroke, but he missed a chance to tie Gorman when his birdie putt from about eight feet lipped out. Both players bogeyed No. 18, but Weber found himself at peace with whatever happened even before he approached a buzzing gallery on the final green.

“I was kind of thinking back on all the experiences and all the things I learned being here at Burlington,” Weber said. “I really didn’t think about what was going on with the round.”

The first NCAA Division I golf recruit in BC history certainly had plenty to ponder. As a sophomore in 2011, he finished tied for 13th in the 2A state meet. In his freshman season, a final-round 79 boosted him up the leaderboard into a six-way tie for eighth.

Ostensibly, only a September 2012 IHSA ruling prevented Weber from making four career state appearances. He was deemed ineligible after playing in an out-of-state youth tournament in West Virginia early in his junior season.

Hem said miscommunication and confusion among IHSA and junior golf officials in part kept Weber from taking advantage of an IHSA bylaw change allowing elite athletes to compete in non-high school events. In any case, she said there were no hard feelings about what happened.

Returning to the state meet with his teammates this season after representing Central as an individual in 2011 especially enthralled Weber. Later in his career, he embraced his role as a mentor, working with younger players during the summer and before the Rockets’ meets.

“To bring your team out there to state, it was a real nice way to go out,” Weber said.

Soon after Central finished fourth, returning players including juniors Austin Niesel and Andrew Sherman began bantering about accounting for Weber’s graduation by shaving a few strokes here or there in 2014.

Twenhafel had no doubt the Rockets were up to the task, but she also remained sure of another thing.

“It’s great to have someone like a Matt Weber on your team because it gets your freshmen fired up,” Twenhafel said. “Somebody like that to look up to, it’s awesome to have. I’ll never have another Matt Weber again, even if I coach for another 20 years. I don’t think I’ll ever have another Matt Weber.” 

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