As much as golf is an individual game, the sense of team pride and camaraderie is not lost on local area golfers.
Last season, eight individuals from the area advanced all the way to the state tournament, a goal of any serious high school golfer. But talking to players, advancing as a team would be just as, if not more, rewarding.
Huntley, for example, made it through the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division undefeated before losing to Jacobs in the conference tournament.
In the postseason, the Red Raiders were one shot away from the school’s first state appearance. Huntley, which advanced from the regional on a tiebreaker, finished one stroke behind Prospect, ending its season with a fourth-place finish in sectionals.
Trent Craig led the Raiders at Blackstone in Marengo that day, shooting a 4-over par 76 and qualifying for state as an individual. Six other golfers posted the same score, including Huntley’s Jake Grabner, which ended up being the cutoff for advancement.
It was Huntley’s best finish in school history, but Craig said that he would use it as fuel and as a reminder to push his teammates.
“It definitely gives you extra motivation to work harder,” said Craig, who also qualified for the state tournament as a freshman. “We were so close and it would have been great for Huntley golf. I can’t imagine how the five [seniors] felt, but I wouldn’t want to go through that again.”
Huntley wasn’t the only team to come up just short of ultimate aspirations.
Crystal Lake Central won its regional, but finished 10th in sectionals. In Class 2A, Marian Central and Richmond-Burton were both on the outside looking in. The Hurricanes fell two strokes short of advancing to state, while only a tiebreaker separated the Rockets from a sectional berth.
R-B’s Jordan Hahn, a Wisconsin commit who took third in the Class 2A state tournament, said the team goal is just as important as any individual accomplishments.
“Being a senior, it would be kind of surreal [to win state],” Hahn said. “It’s hard to put into words, but it would be cool do it for your school with your coaches and your teammates there. My biggest thing is getting there as a team. You can’t beat that.”
A wide-open field: Parity should once again rule the local golf scene, with five out of last year’s eight state qualifiers graduated.
In the FVC, Huntley and Jacobs, with returning seniors Justin Lenzini and Joe Addante, are considered preseason favorites, while Cary-Grove, Central, the defending FVC Fox champs, Hampshire and Prairie Ridge, led by 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Farnam, all return competitive squads.
Farnam, who finished 21st overall in Class 3A state as a freshman, has begun his sophomore season with two titles. On Thursday, he shot a 5-under-par 67 at Boulder Ridge County Club, one shot short of the course record.
The Trojan's Kyle Irlbacker was runner-up in the McHenry County Junior Golf Association's senior boys division. The Whip-Purs return two sectional qualifiers from a year ago in Drew Doran and Nick Swierczynski, and McHenry returns two in Cameron Justen and A.J. Folino.
In the Big Northern Conference, R-B brings back four seniors and is a threat to compete for regional and sectional titles.
Marengo and Harvard cannot be counted out, either. The Indians bring back Hunter Simonini, who advanced to Class 2A state last season, finishing 23rd overall, and the Hornets return Jeremy Coffman, who missed out on state by a couple of strokes.
Johnsburg is back in the BNC and returns a pair of sectional qualifiers in Jake Doherty and Grant Fisher, who recently won the MCJGA's junior boys division.
Marian Central, meanwhile, make the switch from the Suburban Christian Conference to the competitive East Suburban Catholic Conference, and are led by seniors Brian Powers and Kyler Hardie.