MADISON — The Marquette Catholic Explorers made plenty of noise on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Gateway National Golf Links in Madison.
The Explorers fired a 308 as a team and junior Michael Holtz carded a 71, both were good for top billing in the annual Madison County Tournament. Marquette even shocked large school champ Edwardsville (312) for the overall tournament championship. The Explorers were small school champs last year and it's the second straight medalist performance for Holtz, who won at Gateway last season also.
It was the second title for the Explorers this week, who also won the Hickory Stick at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River with a 311 on Monday.
“It's awesome,” Marquette head coach Pat Moore said of beating Edwardsville and winning the MadCo tourney. “We were determined to do that. They (Edwardsville) know they are the best big school and we want to prove ourselves as small school. To do it here today at Gateway it's pretty exciting and to beat a team like Edwardsville, everyone knows they are a great, amazing program.”
As for Holtz's performance, Moore was equally impressed with that.
“For my kid to go out there and show that determination and grit the way Michael played today, two bogeys, two birdies,” Moore said. “He birdied 10, then bogeyed 13, went in the water and then birdied his last hole on 18 to finish it up. It's great, you can't ask anymore from your junior and No. 1. Without having any seniors it's really great to see a bunch of juniors show up and play that well.”
Holtz was joined in the team scoring by sophomore Jack Patterson (77), junior Nick Messinger (79) and freshman Kolten Bauer (81). Junior Duncan McLain (85) and freshman Sam Cogan (109) rounded out the lineup. Patterson was third overall in the small school scores, while Messinger was fifth, Bauer was sixth and McLain was ninth. Medals were given to the top 10 golfers.
“It was pretty good out there,” Holtz said. “It was good scoring conditions, things weren't too hard today. I hit the ball pretty accurate off the tees, so that really helps a lot. If you hit the fairway you can make a lot of pars and a lot of birdies. If you miss the fairway it's a grind, you've got to get up and down for pars, but I hit a lot of fairways today so that really helped me.”
While the Explorers corralled the overall championship and the small school title, EHS rolled to the large school crown. The Tigers were followed by Collinsville (333), Triad (361), Granite City (366) and Alton (378) in the large school standings.
The Warriors got scoring from Gavin Grote (80), David Keel (91), Drew Wielgus (96) and Riley Brown (99). Grote's day earned him the fourth best score in the large-school field.
As for the Redbirds, Max Hunter (89) led the way. Hunter was followed by: Sam Ballard (90), Austin Erthal (95), Ryan Boyd (104).
Second-year Alton head coach Zach Deeder said it was tough for the Birds Thursday, who had their own Redbird Tee Off Classic washed out by rain on Tuesday at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course. Thursday marked the first competition for AHS this season.
“The course put up a fight today and it put up more of a fight than we were ready for in our first actual tournament of the season,” Deeder said. “It was a learning experience and we're going to move on from it, but we need experience. We've got two guys (Ballard and Hunter) who played in tournaments last year that have come back. We've got to get these guys experienced and get over the nerves and focus on the golf.
“We were so excited (for Tuesday). It was our home course, everything was going our way, had it set up the way we wanted and then it gets rained out after five holes. It was like waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. The course was fair for everybody today, we just putted too many times and had a lot of penalty shots. I think this is going to be our worst tournament of the year. I think it's only going to get better the rest of the season. These guys have a lot of potential.”
In the small school ranks it was Civic Memorial following Marquette with a 347. The rest of the small-school field rounded out with: Highland (370) and Metro East Lutheran (449). Roxana and East Alton Wood River didn't field full squads to figure into the team scores. The new kid on the block, Father McGivney in Glen Carbon sent one golfer to the tournament also.
CM's scoring came from, Alec Hilliard (78), Tristen Frank (83), Parker Calvin (85) and Chase Spanhook (101). Hilliard was fourth in the small-school individual rankings, while Frank was seventh and Calvin was eighth.
Drew Sobol of EA-WR was second to Holtz with a 75. It followed up his performance as medalist Monday at the Hickory Stick. Other Oilers at Gateway Thursday were: Hunter O'Brien (90) and Brendan Allen (91).
Zach Carlisle of the Shells placed 10th individually with an 86. He was joined by teammate Scott Anderson (93) on Thursday.
Messinger explained that the Explorers are hungry this season. After failing to advance to state as a team in 2014 and not even sending an individual to state, Messinger believes the two tournaments in a week are a precursor for a solid season out of Marquette.
“I feel like everything is kind of clicking right now,” Messinger said. “Our whole team is playing pretty good and we've got a deep team, so I think with that experience last year that will help us going into this year.”