ALGONQUIN – Crystal Lake Central sophomore Bayden Hubacher was all smiles Tuesday after catching a lucky bounce on the first hole at the McHenry County Junior Golf Association’s Golf Club of Illinois Open.
“I got kind of lucky,” Hubacher said. “My drive hit right off the cart path (in the middle of the fairway), and it got onto the green. I didn’t really know it was on the green. Everybody else had to tell me.”
Hubacher made birdie on the par-4, 323-yard No. 10 and rode it all the way to a personal- and tournament-best 4-over-par 75 to secure the boys junior division title at the first MCJGA tournament of the summer.
The 75 was good enough for Hubacher’s best 18-hole score in a tournament setting.
“I put myself in good spots,” said Hubacher, who shot even-par on the back nine with three birdies. “I didn’t give myself too many downhill putts. This is my first time playing out here in probably three years. It’s a links course, so there’s a lot more wind but no trees for me to be behind, which is nice.
“My driver was working well. I missed two fairways. I was getting each wedge in really close.”
Elgin Academy’s Jonathan Vogt finished two shots behind Hubacher with a 77. Crystal Lake South sophomore Evan VanderSande (82) was third.
Hubacher advanced to sectionals as a freshman, and he’s hoping to go further in his second year at Central.
“I’ve worked pretty hard since the end of the season,” Hubacher said. “I’m definitely hitting it straighter and more consistently. Last year, my ball-striking was poor, so it was nice to come out and hit everything solid.”
Jacobs junior Kyle Schutt held off Wauconda’s Matt Szmajda in a playoff for the boys senior division title. Schutt and Szmajda both shot 82s in regulation with Schutt making par on the first playoff hole, the par-4 No. 1.
Szmajda almost sank his par chance from about 25 feet away, but the ball stopped short of the hole and curled around the lip. Crystal Lake South graduate Griffin Coakley (84) took third.
Schutt started a summer job at the Golf Club of Illinois two weeks ago and signed up for the tournament two days ago. Schutt had never competed in a playoff at any event before Tuesday.
“I’ve never been in a playoff like that, so I was a little nervous,” said Schutt, who helped lead the Golden Eagles to a regional title last year. “It’s pretty wide open, and it’s very forgiving if you can’t get a good shot right off the tee. You’ll almost always have a look at the green.”
Johnsburg junior Gracie Berthoud took first in the girls senior division, firing a personal-best 89. Hampshire senior Gianna Farinella (92) took second, and Berthoud’s high school teammate, junior Ellie Johnson (95), was third.
Berthoud, whose Skyhawks won their first regional title last year, never shot better than 90 before Tuesday.
“It’s pretty cool to do that right away,” Berthoud said. “My goal is to break 85. Being able to break 90 at my first tournament is kind of crazy.”
Berthoud works at Ivanhoe Club in Mundelein, but hasn’t had much time for golf outside of some light range work.
“I’ve been practicing after work, a little chipping and putting, but I haven’t been able to play much. I didn’t use my driver or any of my woods today because I haven’t had time for a lesson. I teed off every par-4 or par-5 with my four-iron.”
The Golf Club of Illinois Open was the first of 14 summer tournaments in the MCJGA series.