WOOD RIVER — The Mississippi Valley Conference Tournament was wide open on Thursday at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River.
With no clear cut favorite on the horizon the Civic Memorial Eagles thought they had as good of a chance as anybody. Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way as Waterloo nabbed the hardware, carding a 318. Mascoutah was second with a 319 and CM slid in at third with a 339. The field rounded out with Triad (342), Highland (356) and Jersey (374) in the quick moving tournament that ended just after 2 p.m.
“This thing was completely up for grabs,” longtime Eagles' head coach Steve Carey said. “We had beaten everybody in the Valley in a dual meet except Waterloo, we haven't played them yet. Their depth was just a little too much for us and we didn't get the round from Alec (Hilliard) that he expected from himself. He got off to a bad start and couldn't recover, but I don't know if we could have shot 318 today even if we'd played our best, so congratulations to Waterloo on a great day of golf.”
It was sophomore Tristen Frank that paced the Eagles on Thursday. Frank fired an 83, shooting 39 on the front and 44 on the back. Accuracy guided Frank's day on the course.
“I almost missed one fairway driving the ball and my irons were all good,” Frank said. “I was probably 70 percent. Irons and driving were the best.”
Carey was proud to see the sophomore Frank turn in a good score on the big stage at conference.
“He was struggling last week and he hit balls on the range all week long prior to this tournament to try and get ready and he responded to those practice sessions,” Carey said. “He's got some skill and some talent and it's nice to see these young kids starting to play better at the right time of the year.”
Frank agreed with his coach though, he thought CM could have done more damage on the team front.
“We're a little upset because we think we should have won this,” Frank said. “We think we should have come out and played well enough to get the win and get the conference tournament title.”
Joining Frank in the team scoring for the Eagles were: Alec Hilliard (84), Parker Calvin (86) and Will Spencer (86). Frank and Hilliard finished in the top 10, making the All-MVC Team.
Mascoutah's Matt Hatley was medalist, carding a 70.
As for Hilliard's off-day, Carey doesn't expect it to become a regularity. He expects him to bounce back quickly.
“There's no question,” Carey said. “We have two regular season matches left, one here at Belk and one at Legacy, and the real season starts the next week at regionals at Rolling Hills and I expect Alec to be Alec and be somewhere near par the rest of the year.”
Frank thinks finding consistency and being mentally strong on the course will help the whole team improve before the Class 2A Marquette Regional at Rolling Hills on Oct. 6.
“With regionals coming up we just all need to be more consistent,” Frank said. “We can all shoot low 40s and high 30s and then come out the next time and shoot high 40s and cause high 80s and low 90s (in tournaments). We need to work on our consistency and make putts and focus on the next shot. You've got to stay in the game. If you make a bad shot you just have to forget about it and go to the next one. It's shot by shot.”
Carey said better course management is a huge part of the game and that's something the Eagles can improve upon, along with a few other tweaks.
“Course management is such a big part of this game, but we've got to get better putting the ball and that's hard to do this time of the year,” Carey said. “The greens are going to get quicker at each tournament you play, but if we start putting a little better I think our chances are going to be a little better to advance to the next level.”