Colton Romine (above) tees off at the par-4 No. 15 at the Stan Adkins Charleston Invitational on Friday.

By Kyle Daubs

Luckily, Tanner Romine came back home. 

The older Romine in the family is a former sectional medalist for Mattoon, a two-time state qualifier, and a sophomore for Illinois College’s golf team. When COVID-19 took over, the golf course became limited, but that was not going to stop a couple of brothers from competing. 

“When he came back from college, him and I would grind it out in the garage,” said MHS senior Colton Romine. “We didn’t have courses open. It was just a way to motivate each other to get better.”

The younger brother is one of five returning players from a Mattoon squad that qualified for the state meet in 2019. They have regularly dominated local events.

The Green Wave are 8-1 in dual matches and have won three tournament titles and finished runner-up in two others, including the Stan Adkins Charleston Invitational on Friday when Romine carded an 82. Mattoon finished one shot behind St. Anthony’s but well ahead of Apollo Conference foes Charleston, Effingham and Mt. Zion.

With all the top guys back, an Apollo Conference title, a regional title, and a trip back to state were all in the back of everyone’s minds. 

When COVID-19 appeared, it forced everyone to turn to unconventional practice tactics, but Romine at least had a practice buddy and someone who might try and push his buttons. 

“There was a whole lot of trash talking going on underneath,” said Romine. 

Who’s the better talker?

“He’s a different animal than me,” said Romine. “We’re both ambitious in the same way, but we’re both different, which has made us pretty good golfers. I’m the better trash talker, but he’s the one that can back it up.”

As the golf season heads towards the finishing stretch, Romine has consistently placed near the top at every golf match. Despite having a veteran team to turn to, Romine said it has been nice to have a close ally in his corner at all times. 

“There were a lot of concerns about my game that I was really stressed over and he kinda pulled me aside and reminded me about his game his senior year,” said Romine. “It was relaxing to know that he gave advice to overcome it. We stay in tough and I’ve played over at Illinois College with his team. He’s like a role model when it comes to overcoming obstacles in golf.”

Romine is hopeful that Mattoon can back up the high expectations for the team going forward. After placing third in the Apollo in 2019, the Green Wave are heavy favorites to win the title on Monday at Springfield’s Lincoln Elks Golf Club.

Romine tees off at 9 a.m. on Hole No. 1, playing in a group that includes Charleston’s Pierson Smith, Lincoln’s Dylan Singleton and Mahomet’s Zach Courson.

Charleston graduated two of their last major core pieces from a four-year stretch that featured four straight Apollo Conference titles and two state championships. Lincoln finished second in the conference last year, but with three seniors in Meade Johnson, James Shamdin, and Romine, to go with two returning sophomores in Blaine Powers and Stewart Druin, there’s a lot of optimism for what this team can do. 

“I think we have the best chance to do it,” said Romine. “I’d like to see it come from the Wave because we haven’t seen a conference championship since 2015. I believe this is the team to do it.”

Several coaches believe Romine will likely be a contender to win the individual championship. He will face some stiff competition from teammate Meade Johnson and Singleton. 

Romine said he hasn’t talked to his older brother yet about a game plan, but he knows exactly what he would say if he did. 

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it yet, but I’m sure he’d tell me to just get the job done,” said Romine. “I’m looking for a great round at the conference and I’d like to see a win.”