NORMAL — The Marquette Catholic Explorers' boys' golf squad had hoped to bring home some hardware, but seventh place in the state isn't too shabby.
The Explorers carded a two-day total of 656, or plus-88, at the Class 2A state tournament at Illinois State's Weibring Golf Course in Normal to finish seventh, just two strokes behind Belleville Althoff.
Morton won the 2A title with an impressive 615 (plus-47). Morton finished 23 strokes ahead of second place Wheaton (St. Francis), 638 (plus-70). Dunlap earned the third-place trophy, shooting 639 (plus-71).
The rest of the field rounded out with: Vernon Hills, Oak Park (Fenwick), Althoff, Marquette, Geneseo, LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy), Normal (University), Centralia and Lemont.
“Every single one of my 1-6 has all this experience from what we all went through these last three days and it's pretty exciting,” Marquette head coach Pat Moore said. “Yeah we didn't play as we normally do. A lot of it had to do with conditions and these greens are like putting on glass. I just can't say anything more about these kids and how they grinded it out all season long. I'm just very, very proud of these kids.”
The Explorers got scoring from juniors Nick Messinger (154), Michael Holtz (157), freshman Kolten Bauer (171) and junior Duncan McLain (179). Freshmen Jack Patterson (179) and Sam Cogan (199) rounded out the lineup for Marquette.
Messinger, who was a key component in last season's squad that failed to advance anyone from the Waterloo Sectional, admitted it was gratifying to play on the big stage at state on Friday and Saturday.
“It's an amazing feeling,” he said. “I feel like all the hard work we put in this season finally got us here. Hopefully next year we can come back, because we have all this experience.”
Bauer echoed the same sentiment as Messinger, believing the experience he and his fellow freshmen gained in the first year of their prep careers will be crucial to next year's success.
“This was a lot of fun,” Bauer said. “Our goal was to get to state and we accomplished that, so I feel it was a successful season.
“We know exactly what we're going into next year and we know we're going to be competitive because we're all going to come back and it's going to be better.”
Civic Memorial was represented at state on Friday and Saturday, too. Senior Alec Hilliard advanced individually and ended in a four-way tie for 37th place with a two-day total of 163. After Day 1 Hilliard was in a five-way tie for 28th place with a 79.
His consistency helped with his finish. Over the two days he had four birdies and and 13 pars over 36 holes. He shot 84 on Day 2. Hilliard plans on playing golf in college.
Messinger and Holtz were the guiding force for the Explorers, like they have been for the majority of the 2015 season.
Messinger found himself tied for 17th at the conclusion of Friday's play, carding a 77. He finished tied for 18th on Saturday after firing another 77 on Day 2. He had just two birdies, but 20 pars and no double bogeys.
Holtz was a little uncharacteristically inconsistent to finish in a four-way tie for 25th. That was up from 36th place on Friday. Holtz shot 81 Friday and 76 on Saturday. He totaled four birdies and 17 pars. Three of his birdies came on the front nine on Day 2. After blowing up with a triple bogey No. 5, Holtz buckled down and posted birdies on his next three holes.
“Those are our go-to guys,” Moore said of Messinger and Holtz. “That's our (Michael) Jordan and (Scottie) Pippen. We feed off the momentum of our Nos. 1 and 2, Michael and Nick. They played great. It's impressive how they held their composure and kept the big numbers out of the question, especially Michael. He had his first triple all year on that par-4 and then he comes back with three birdies in a row. That's just gumption. That was amazing and you could see the momentum change. I was like, 'Here we go. Here he comes.' And Nick, he grinded all day long. He had a birdie that got him going and his par streak, that's what you've got to do here, pars are huge.”
Drew Miles of Winnetka (North Shore Country Day) was the 2A individual state champ with a 140.
In Class 3A across town at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington, Edwardsville senior Justin Hemings brought home the individual state championship. Hemings shot a 145 overall for a two stroke victory.
He became the first metro-east area golfer to finish on top at state since Staunton's Ryan Brown in 2001. Belleville West's Phil Caravia was the last to win the large school competition when it was just two classes in 1995. Hemings is the first golf state champ for the Tigers.