ST. CHARLES – Pottawatomie Golf Course assistant pro Bill Ogiego downplayed the size and scope of the awards ceremonies that closed the St. Charles Junior Tournament Thursday.
A few athletes gathered around the leaderboard and a card table of trophies. Nothing flashy, just the facts.
For St. Charles East senior Colin Johnson, the set-up proved more than enough. Winning the Boys 16 and 17 title with a two-day 71 – eight shots better than East junior Daniel Haugen – was a product of a newfound, quiet confidence.
"Last year, if I broke 40 here [in nine holes], I'd be really happy," Johnson said. "But this year, I would expect to shoot, like, 36 every time. So it's helped. It's gotten a lot better in the last year."
The Day 1 leader of the 2013 tournament before finishing fifth, Johnson assured there would be no repeat behind a deft touch around the green.
He provided one such display – if not a harbinger for a first-place trophy – on the Par 3 fourth hole. With his approach shot resting on the fringe, Johnson followed with a birdie putt that stayed true from the start.
"I played here a lot last year, so most of the putts, I knew how they'd break," Johnson said. "It was good that I had that experience."
There's more on the way. In a new tournament provision, the overall boys and girls low-scorers both received a free Pottawatomie season pass for the following year.
St. Charles North senior Gianna Furrie, the overall medalist in 2013, won the Girls 15-17 title with an 84, four shots clear of East sophomore Kacie Gaffney.
A familiar foe in junior events in the past several years, Gaffney erased a three-stroke deficit after just three holes. She and Furrie remained tied through four holes before Furrie gained separation on No. 5, shooting a birdie to Gaffney's par.
"I've been kind of in a little hiccup these last couple tournaments," Furrie said. "I've been really heady with my playing, and I was kind of like that yesterday, so today I was just trying to have fun with it."
The tournament marked Furrie's final competitive action until North tryouts next month, although she's giddy about an upcoming vacation to California and Hawaii in which she'll play a few iconic courses. Flanked by her dad, Shawn, and sister, Ariana – who plays at Wagner in Staten Island, New York – Furrie plans to descend on Pebble Beach's Spyglass Hill Course as well as Kapalua.
When she returns, she's sure to find a friendly Gaffney in many of her groups in IHSA play.
"Whenever we play together, we usually get along," Gaffney said. "We'll talk about school and stuff and how the team's going for both of us. So definitely, we have small talk. It's not like, 'Oh, I don't like you.' Definitely, we get along."
East freshman Connor King edged Charlie Downing by one stroke for the Boys 14 and 15 crown. King's 85 featured a 7 on the closing, No. 9 hole after he hit his drive out of bounds to the right. As Downing parred, King recovered with an effective approach and short game.
"I was knocking them pretty close to the pin today. I think that was good," King said. "The drives, they weren't as good as they were yesterday, but I was hitting them close."
East freshman Grace Westerhoff, the only competitor in the Girls 12-14 division, earned a first-place trophy with a 127. She played in a foursome alongside Furrie, Gaffney and Marisa Kuchta (132).
Shortly after learning of Johnson's season pass prize, King wondered aloud whether his was coming. In a lighthearted exchange with Ogiego, he wondered why he didn't receive anything for winning.
Ogiego was quick to remind him of the trophy he was carrying.
No matter the stroke deficits golfers faced, many felt comfortable no matter where they stood given a familiarity with Pottawatomie.
"Knowing the course, it's just so helpful," said North junior Hank Zimmer, third in Boys 16 and 17 play with an 82. "You know where to put the ball, you know which holes are easiest, which holes you need to focus more on. It's just very helpful."