Hunter Schultz was afraid he was going to live out his biggest fear.
He triple-bogeyed the 18th hole at Timber Pointe Golf Club in Poplar Grove for Tuesday’s Belvidere North 2A boys golf sectional and worried that score would knock him out of the hunt for state.
“I thought about that since the beginning. What if I blow it on the last hole and it came down to it, all I had to do was get a bogey and I just collapsed,” he said.
Too make matters worse, he had to wait around two hours to see, as PHS coach Duane Price described, the symbolic state qualifier star go up next to his name. That star went up as his 87 came in one stroke under the cut as the eighth individual qualifier,
“I knew I was right on that cut line. Seemed like the scores were coming in slower than molasses,” Schultz said.
Also advancing to state in 1A is Hall junior Pete Mautino, who posted the second-lowest score among individual qualifiers in the Elgin Sectional at the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin.
At Belvidere: Schultz was the lone Tiger to qualify with Princeton finishing eighth as a team. Price said the 30-40 mile per hour wind gusts wreaked havoc on the field and he spent most of the day trying to keep his players mentally in the competition.
“I still don’t think Hunter realizes how good of a round he played,” Price said. “As a coach, I had to remind him many times how difficult the course was playing and how high the scores would be. It took a lot to get him, and all the players for that matter, to understand that the par 72 course was playing more like a par 80 yesterday because of the wind.
“Hunter finally got a sense that he was in contention during the last few holes. He didn’t finish as well as he wanted to, but it was still commendable to hold it together just long enough with the wind and the pressure.”
Schultz said it’s a great feeling to make state for the first time, especially in his senior year. Schultz will compete in the 2A field at the Weibring Golf Club in Normal on the campus of Illinois State University beginning Friday.
“I always had it in the back of mind (about going to state) and never imagined that until I saw what the scores was that I actually had a shot. I knew I had it in me. I hadn’t played up to my full potential in a long time, pretty much ever,” he said.
“It will show me how playing against the big schools, because we’re right on that cut line for 2A. It’s going to put me up with these really good players. I’ve never really played in the big scene yet.”
Also scoring for the Tigers were Cole Evenson (93), Ian Nichols (94) and Zach Hicks (96) with Miles Rose (108) and Derec Roberson (110) rounding out the PHS card. With most of his players returning, Price said the bar has been set high for next year.
“As a team, it was important for players like Zach Hicks, Ian Nichols, Miles Rose and Derec Roberson to experience sectional golf. With all four returning next season and some other new players improving over the summer, we could again be very successful next season,” he said.
At Elgin: Mother Nature also blew in the Golf Club of Illinois, a links style golf course in Algonquin. Hall’s Mautino figured he’d take what Mother Nature gave him, trying to straighten his shots out with the wind and concentrating on his putting.
“I tried to hit it as straight as I possibly could. With that much wind, you really can’t hit it straight. You have to aim way left or way right,” Mautino said. “I tried to make my putting as close as I could because that’s where I gained most of my stokes. I tried one-putting every hole and I was pretty successful. That’s basically what saved me, was my putting, because everybody was hitting the ball everywhere in that wind. Once you got to the green, that’s what counted. It’s all about the short game.”
Mautino came out smiling like roses, advancing with a 9-over 80 to rank as the No. 2 individual qualifier. As a junior, he said the trip to state this weekend at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington will help him know prepare for his senior season
“I guess I’ll know what to expect for next year and I’l be ready for it and practice a lot over the summer and get better,” he said.
St. Bede freshman Jared Olson missed the cut by two strokes at 90 and Amboy/LaMoille sophomore Griffin Kozeal was three back at 91. Other area golfers were St. Bede’s Joey Dudek (93) and A/L’s Jake Lucas (104).
At Petersburg: Bureau Valley junior Ryan Young shot a 93 at Park Hills West Golf Course. The cut-off for state was an 84.