After winning the Hickory Stick Tournament at Belk Park Golf Course on Monday, Marquette Catholic made another statement on Tuesday.
The Explorers finished second at the annual Alton Tee-Off Classic at Spencer T. Olin Golf Club on Tuesday, firing a 332 as a team, trailing only champion Edwardsville, which shot a 319.
“I remember playing in it when I played at Marquette and I think that's the only time we actually won it as a team,” said Marquette head coach Pat Moore. “Coming in second this year with the caliber of kids we have and I think we're the smallest school here, so it's a great showing. It shows a lot of determination, moxey and stamina.”
It was sophomore Michael Holtz leading the charge for the Explorers. He carded a 75, which tied him with Springfield's Sam Funderburg for the top score, but unfortunately lost on a scorecard playoff to finish second. The back nine determined the scorecard playoff and Funderburg shot a 38, while Holtz fired a 39.
“I feel great about it,” Holtz said. “I played a good round. I missed some key putts though that could have been really important, but it was pretty nice getting second. I would have liked to go into an actual playoff hole instead of a scorecard playoff though.”
Moore was happy to see the improvement in Holtz just from Monday to Tuesday. He shot a 79 at Belk Park on Monday and struggled at times with his short game.
“He had a rough go yesterday at Belk. He shot a 79 and had 39 putts, having 39 putts and shooting a 79 isn't too bad,” Moore said. “Today he was 1-under for awhile and then ran into a couple holes on the back, but finished up well, shooting a 75 and tied for medalist. The kid can play.”
He was joined by teammates Andrew McCluskey (80), Nick Messinger (88) and Max Goepel (89) to formulate the team score. Steven Elliot also played, carding a 93 as the fifth player. McCluskey received a 10th place medal Tuesday for his showing individually.
It wasn't quite enough to overtake EHS for the top spot though. The Tigers received 77s from Ty Zeller and Justin Hemings, an 81 from freshman Ben Tyrell and an 84 from Cale Ambuehl to round out the team score. It was EHS' first win at the Alton Tee-Off Classic since 2008 when the Tigers went on to finish third in the state. The Quincy Blue Devils won the Alton Tee-Off Classic in 2013.
Edwardsville head coach Dene Schickedanz, a Marquette alumnus, was pleased to see his alma mater grab second on Tuesday.
“As the former head pro here I can tell you this was set up about as difficult as I've ever seen it and we loved it. The course was in great shape,” Schickedanz said. “With the level of difficulty it was a very good score (for us). Anything 84 or lower was an excellent score.
“As a Marquette alumnus I'm also very proud of them. Michael Holtz, what a great round for him. It's great to see some Alton kids playing well and if we're not in the same field with them we're pulling for them. Pat Moore is an old friend of mine. We both went to Quincy University and Marquette.”
As for the host Redbirds, they entered two teams in the tournament, finishing 11th with their A team, shooting a 353, while the AHS B team carded a 370, good for 16th.
“I'm happy with my team's progress,” first-year Alton head coach Zach Deeder said. “I think it's a good start for us and hopefully we can build on that. This is about what we expected. This is a very strong field and this is a tough conference and I expect it to get tougher as the year goes on. We see these teams about three times a week, so it's a lot.”
Alex Rubin led the charge for the Redbirds, carding an 81, which earned him a 12th place individual medal.
The rest of the Alton A squad rounded out with: Nicholas DeLoach (90), Nick Jamison (91) and Mitch Klug (91). Sam Ballard produced a 92 for the fifth score.
On the B squad, Max Hunter paced the Redbirds with an 82, followed by, Phyllip DeLoach (91), Jake Skrabacz (95) and Andrew Campbell (102). The fifth score was a 120 from Pat Klockenkemper.
“I was happy with Rubin,” Deeder said. “He's our standout No. 1 this year, he's a senior and he's playing really consistently. An 81 is actually kind of high for him. He can shoot four or five strokes lower than that on average, but it's the first tournament out.”
Following Edwardsville and Marquette, the team scores rounded out with: Centralia (336), Springfield (336), Althoff (337), Chatham Glenwood (340), O'Fallon (343), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (347), Waterloo (347), Belleville East (352), Alton A (353), Pleasant Plains (357), Granite City (358), Quincy (359), Belleville West (363), Alton B (370), Collinsville (375), Triad (377), Columbia (389) and Highland (400).
Jacksonville had two players participate individually and East Alton-Wood River's Drew Sobol also played individually, firing an 86.
Now the teams will prepare to get back in action at 1 p.m. Thursday at Gateway National Golf Links in Madison for the Madison County Tournament.
Moore believes playing against the caliber of programs the Explorers competed against on Tuesday will help them at the MadCo and beyond this season.
“We know we're the smallest school here,” Moore said of the Alton Tee-Off Classic. “The kids know they're going up against Edwardsville, Quincy, the Springfield schools, they're huge schools. Now we're in Class 2A for our second year in a row instead of 1A so that's a big difference. Now we're playing against Columbia and other much larger schools. It just shows how well these kids can play. They can play with anybody right now.”