When Prairie Ridge senior Grant Klepitsch sank his putt for par in a playoff on the par-5 18th hole at Whisper Creek Golf Club in Huntley, he was under the impression he had locked up his spot at state.
Klepitsch had just won the second playoff hole and believed he was the 10th and final individual state qualifier at Monday’s IHSA Class 2A Burlington Central Sectional.
“Having that feeling of sinking a clutch putt and turning around and having my family, my friends and team rush me and congratulate me and high-five me,” Klepitsch said, “then 10, 15 minutes later saying it was all for nothing, and it doesn’t count, it’s definitely hard.”
Klepitsch, St. Viator’s Jack Lynch and Vernon Hills’ Dylan Josephson each shot 80 during Monday’s round. The golfers were told there would be a playoff between the three of them for the final two spots at state.
Only after the playoff, after Klepitsch thought he had secured his spot at state, did officials realize there had not been two spots remaining, but one. Klepitsch wound up being the odd man out.
The Wolves senior protested the decision, arguing that he would have played the playoff differently had he known there was only one spot. He hoped the IHSA would make an exception and allow him to compete at state, given the unique circumstances that led to the mistake.
The three golfers replayed the par-5 18th. Klepitsch called it a “risk-reward hole.”
“You can get pretty close to the green on your second shot and try to make birdie, or you can play it a little safer and lay up off the tee and lay up again, do a more traditional approach,” Klepitsch said.
Believing there were two spots for three golfers, Klepitsch said he played it safe.
“If knowing there was only one spot instead of two … I feel like everyone in that playoff would have approached that hole differently,” Klepitsch said.
Lynch birdied the first playoff hole to advance. Klepitsch and Josephson both bogeyed, which meant those two had to play another playoff hole to decide what they thought was the final qualifying spot.
The pair replayed the 18th hole yet again. Josephson bogeyed, Klepitsch sank his putt for par and celebrated with his teammates and family. Not until 10 or 15 minutes later did the officials realize the mistake. Klepitsch said there was never any discussion of replaying the playoff.
“What should have happened, I believe, is they should have presented that to us as a player and as coaches and given us the opportunity to play again the playoff with the correct information,” Klepitsch said.
Klepitsch spoke with IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson and said Anderson told him the IHSA had to follow the rules that only 10 individual qualifiers can make it through each sectional.
Klepitsch asked for an explanation in writing from the IHSA but said he has not received anything as of Wednesday evening.
“There was a final decision,” Anderson said Thursday morning by phone. “Our decision was, per our terms and conditions, we qualify 10 individuals from each sectional. We acknowledge that there were errors made by the host in announcing they needed to break a tie for the final 10th place. They incorrectly said there were two places remaining, when there was one.”
“We listened to the student and his parents. We listened to the school, and we listened to [Prairie Ridge boys golf coach Jonathan Powell]. The circumstances and information that we got back from the host, again, recognizing that they made the error, was that, when the hole played out, they clearly had a 10th.”
Anderson, in his fourth year as executive director, said this specific situation has not come up before, at least while he’s been with the IHSA.
He did cite an example Monday at the DeKalb Sectional where players had to come back the next day after darkness prevented them from completing a playoff.
However, he does not see a situation in which they would allow more than 10 golfers from one sectional to move on. Anderson said replaying the playoff with all three golfers, after the error was caught, was not considered.
“The player that ended up advancing won the hole convincingly,” Anderson said. “[Burlington Central athletic director Steve Diversey] shared with us [on Monday] that there was a two-shot difference in the playoff hole. We didn’t consider bringing them all back to play that hole again.”
Anderson said the IHSA will look into ways to prevent future mistakes like this from happening again.
“Obviously, our hosts know that there are 10 [qualifiers], and each location working with the local course has their own scoring mechanism, where they are calculating the scores,” Anderson said. “In the future, we’ll obviously encourage our hosts to double check as they go through the results to confirm that they have the right number.”
Klepitsch, who made it to state as a junior, won’t get that chance again.
“I mean, it’s a huge accomplishment, especially senior year and being able to get down there last year and trying to do that again this year,” Klepitsch said. “The thing that really helped me get through that playoff was that chance that I had to get down to state again.”