BARRINGTON – Huntley senior Ryan Craig lived with the disappointment for a year, trying not to dwell on it, yet still thinking about it quite often.
As a junior, he fell one stroke short of qualifying for the IHSA Class 3A Boys Golf State Tournament. He lost on the third playoff hole to his younger brother, Trent, who was a freshman then.
Craig had no equal on Monday at Makray Memorial. While the gusting winds wreaked havoc on most scorecards, Craig’s sparkled. His 70th stroke epitomized his round as Craig drained a 30-foot putt on No. 18 to finish at 1 under par and win the Class 3A Barrington Sectional by three strokes.
Deerfield’s Ian Kelsey was second at 73. Cary-Grove senior Jarrett Kinney (78) and Jacobs senior Sean Kozak (79) were the other two local qualifiers from the sectional who will move on to the state tournament in Bloomington on Friday and Saturday at The Den at Fox Creek.
“Going to state is going to be sweet,” Craig said. “At the start of the year, my motto was kind of ‘State or nothing.’ This is a huge relief, especially after what happened last year. Now, I’ll go out on a high note.”
Barrington (314), Lake Forest (320) and Highland Park (325) qualified as teams. Highland Park edged Carmel on a fifth-score tiebreaker for the third spot. Craig and Kinney will be making their first trips to state, while Kozak is a repeat qualifier.
“The Barrington coach [Mike Kallenbach] said anytime you play out here it’s usually three or four strokes higher than a lot of courses,” Huntley coach Jim Rolando said. “You have to make putts and stay away from big numbers. What a great thing for Ryan after last year. He’s had a great summer and he knows how to go low.”
Craig could have been lower had it not been for a triple-bogey 6 on No. 17. His first shot went out of bounds and he three-putted the hole. His tee shot on No. 18 also was out of bounds, but he recovered and knocked in the long putt to go under par. He narrowly missed a hole-in-one on No. 7 when his tee shot stopped inches from the cup.
“I made a couple of clutch 5-foot putts early and got some confidence,” Craig said. “I putted and chipped really well. Other than one bad shot on 17, it was a really solid day.”
Kinney was one shot from joining the Craigs in the playoff last year at the Fremd Sectional.
“I played outstanding,” Kinney said. “The whole time I was just trying to make bogeys or save pars. I was just taking it shot-by-shot and handled it well. After I got a 39 on the front nine, I settled in. This is still like a dream. It’s just amazing. I heard [from playing partner Ian Mankoff of Lake Forest] that state’s really fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Kozak sweated out qualifying from last week’s Crystal Lake South Regional with the final spot and tied with five golfers at 79 for the last qualifying spot Monday.
“I played the back nine first and had a 38. I was pretty happy with that,” Kozak said. “On the front nine, my swing wasn’t there, I had some wayward tee shots, but my putting was good. At state last year I played the front nine pretty well each day, then shot 45s on the back. I’ll work on everything until Thursday and hope I can put 2 and 2 together and shoot decent rounds.”