By Kyle Daubs
The time has come to crown a new Apollo Conference champion.
Can Charleston make it five years in a row?
Can Mattoon live up to its high expectations?
Will a sleeper team find its way into the mix.
Find out here in the complete preview of the Apollo Conference boys golf championship. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Charleston, the defending Apollo Conference champion, is on a four-year championship run, having battled with Mattoon each season – and the team figured to be a top contender to challenge the Green Wave on Monday.
Pierson Smith figures to be a top contender for All-Apollo, but others on the team have been stepping up in recent matches. Josh Will led the team in scoring on Thursday, while newcomer, Cade Landrus, has found himself in the top tier of scoring. As of late, freshman Preston Phillips has solidified himself as a back end golfer.
“He played singles and won both. He was steady,” Dow said Tuesday at match play. “He’s played the course. He’s my number five, but I put him number two in singles and I’m super proud of him. He was awesome. Cade Landrus and Peyton Daugherty played together and hit it a long way. This is both of their first year playing high school matches. They struggled a little bit in the first round because they put some pressure on themselves and not being used to this format. They played a lot better in the second round.”
Effingham enters with an inexperienced squad and a 2-8 record overall. At the St. Anthony match play on Tuesday, Effingham came in last place behind Mattoon, Vandalia, Charleston, St. Anthony, Oblong, Paris, and Teutopolis.
“We have probably the least amount of experience in the tournament,” said coach Jeff Shafer. “Our two seniors, Preston Latch and Max Woelfer, are playing their first year of golf. We finished six shots out of third at the Mt. Zion Invitational and are hoping to find a way to make up a few of those strokes. We are looking for four scores in the 80s and if we do that I will be very pleased.”
Count Shafer as one of the believers in the Green Wave as the top contender for the Apollo.
“Mattoon is the team to beat,” said Shafer. “They have been ultra-consistent and have a real solid top six. Lincoln has been missing some golfers so who knows about the rest of the teams. I would pick Colton Romine of Mattoon to win, if I had to choose one player. He has great course management and can consistently get his ball around the golf course.”
Lincoln has beaten Taylorville and Effingham this season, but the Railsplitters have also lost to Mount Zion. Dylan Singleton, the returning Apollo Conference champion, figures to contend once again.
Mount Zion coach Colby Burdick believes that Lincoln could contend for the team championship.
“Individually, Dylan Singleton of Lincoln is the defending individual champ and best player in the conference,” said Burdick. “His presence on Lincoln’s team also makes Lincoln a dark horse contender as a team. Being on their home course, I expect Dylan to play really well. If a few other Lincoln players could step up and play well, they could sneak up on some teams.”
Mahomet-Seymour is led by Zach Courson, who owns a medalist victory at Lake of the Woods Golf Course. He shot a 42 earlier in the season. Behind him, Brian Coyne (43) and Dyllan Kelly (48) round out the top three. As of late, the Bulldogs are on a three-match win streak and sit at 7-4 on the year.
Entering the contest with an 8-1 overall record and three tournament championships, the Green Wave can feel the love. Mattoon posted another low team score, 323, in Friday’s Stan Adkins Charleston Invitational. From a coaching standpoint, Bill Behrends knows that his team has the ability to win the Apollo.
“I feel like our team is the top contender to win based on our performance so far this season,” Behrends said. “We have been playing great golf lately, so I feel like we are peaking at the right time. I think there is a good chance that we play our best golf of the season at the conference tournament. Winning this tournament has been one of our goals since the beginning of the season.”
Behrends feels that he has plenty of golfers that could place in the top-10.
“I also think we have several individuals who should contend for all-conference honors: Colton Romine, Meade Johnson, Stewart Druin, and Blaine Powers,” Behrends said. “They have been steady all season, and they have had top 10 finishes at several 18 hole tournaments this season.”
With only one senior, Mt. Zion enters as one of the more youthful teams on paper. Cole Purdeu, a Sectional qualifier last year, is the team’s lone senior. He is joined by juniors Brent Hansen and Jack Driscoll. The rest of the lineup features sophomores Weston Grohne, Riley Taylor, and Evan Griffith. Hansen won Friday’s Stan Adkins boys golf invitational with a 76.
“They all are so close in scoring average this year,” said Braves coach Colby Burdick. “We don’t have a clear cut top player and all six of my guys have been major contributors to our success this year.”
Burdick sees Mattoon as the favorite to win the conference, but believes Charleston and his team are close contenders.
“We had a great chance to beat Mattoon last Friday at the Mt. Zion Invitational, but the experience of Mattoon’s top players contending in tournaments as a team that went to state last year allowed them to pull through for the win,” said Burdick. “Their top three players played really well in the last six to seven holes to secure the win.”
However, the team’s focus is on winning, something that has not happened in a long time for the Braves.
“Some of our guys have struggled a little bit as of late, but they just have a few simple things in their games to get cleaned up and they should be ready to go on Monday,” Burdick said. “Our kids are really excited and have worked really hard the past year. They know that Mt. Zion is long overdue for an Apollo Conference Championship, and they really want to be the group that gets it done. We’ve been in a full rebuild for the last few years, and are really excited to finally be back in the upper echelon of the conference.”
Taylorville enters the Apollo tournament with a dismal 1-20 overall record. Juniors Briar Dempsey and Ryan Johnson, as well as senior Jonah Nagle have been the team’s top three golfers. According to head coach Paul Millburg, the three have been “interchangeable” at the top of the golf card.
“Those three have been interchangeable for the top three spots match in and match out,” said Millburg. “Those three have the most experience. The rest of the team has not had the experience nor have they played as much. If we could get some production from the 4, 5 and 6 spot, we could contend in most of our matches.”
Millburg sees four different teams contending for the conference championship.
“As for the Apollo Conference, Mt. Zion, Mahomet Seymour, Effingham and Lincoln are always contending for that top spot,” said Millburg.
Teutopolis will compete in its first Apollo Conference golf match, but likely won’t be a contender. The team competed Monday at Effingham Country Club where it defeated Windsor. Thompson was medalist with a score of 50. Others in the 50s included Tyler Pruemer (52) and Peyton Tegler (56).
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