Stewart Druin (above) captured last week’s Apollo title. (photo/Roy Druin)

By Mike Monahan

The end of a very strange golf regular season, one that survived COVID-19, heads into the postseason even though it will not include a state tournament.

However, there will be a sectional, so that’s the final goal for both Mattoon and Charleston who compete in today’s nine-team IHSA Class 2A Regional at Paris’s Eagle Ridge, a 6,024-yard par-72 course.

Mattoon should be the favorite after having captured the Apollo Conference title last week at Lincoln Elks Golf Club by carding a 317, which was 25 shots ahead of second-place Lincoln. Since then, they beat Sullivan (Class 1A) and Paris. The Green wave have also win several regional tournaments.

“The only team we have not seen that is in the regional is Meridian,” said first-year Mattoon coach Bill Behrends, whose team finished 10-1 i dual matches. “It was Sullivan’s first loss of the year and first in three years. We beat them twice in tournaments. We have no reason but to be confident. We got a favorable draw in a field that we have seen and that makes a big difference in the kids’ approach and level of confidence. They feel comfortable on that course and are excited.  We want to keep our momentum and play well and go to Centralia for the sectionals.”

The sectional is scheduled for Oct. 13 at Greenview Golf Course. 

One difference this post season is the fact that the top two teams and top four individuals not on an advancing team advance to the sectional. In the past, it had been three teams and eight individuals not on an advancing team. 

Stewart Druin and Colton Romine will be strong contenders for the medalist honors after tying for low score at last week’s Apollo tournament. Druin, a sophomore, captured the individual title after beating his teammate in a one-hole playoff.

“He (Colton) is well-rounded and his mental approach is as good as anyone out there,” said Behrends. “He has a game plan and sticks to it and doesn’t get too down. He does a great job of managing the golf course. A bad hole for him is a bogey. He is certainly one of the better players in the area this year.”

Behrends says Druin has a strong short game. “His short game is really good,” he said. “His wedge and putter are great. When he is in trouble off the tee, he can scramble and find ways to make par.”

Both senior Meade Johnson and sophomore Blaine Powers have shotin the 70s this season.

Charleston, which posted a 16-5 dual match record, is the only team to have beaten Mattoon this season.

“It will be much harder to advance with only the top two teams and top four individuals (not on an advancing team),” said Dow. 

The Trojans, who finished third at the Apollo, will have two golfers return after being quarantined for two weeks.

“I am not sure how those two are going to play as they haven’t golfed in a few weeks,” said Dow. “If we play well, we definitely have a chance to get out as a team.”

Dow says he believes his golfers pressured themselves too much last week without its regular starting lineup. Said Dow: “It has been kind of a weird ending to the regular season.”

Both Mattoon and Charleston played at Paris in a 14-team invitational a few weeks ago. The Green Wave won the title and Romine earned medalist honors with a 76. Mattoon shot 323, eight strokes ahead of Effingham St. Anthony, the runner-up and a team that is in Class 1A.  Charleston was third with a 342 as Pierson Smith led the way with an 83, which was 10th overall.  Smith, a senior, leads the Trojans with a nine-hole average of a 40, while Jackson Becker is second with a 41. Preston Phillips averages a 42.5 and is followed by Cade Landrus with a 43.  Josh Will and Peyton Daugherty average 43s as well. 

“I have seen Peyton and Cade working a ton on their game and they will earn a letter,” said Dow. “I am proud of them. They have worked extremely hard.”

Eagle Ridge is one of the hilliest courses Charleston has played on. 

“The back nine is hilly and there are a lot of trees,” said Dow. “There are a lot of fairways that slop right to left and there are some hills on the front nine as well, but not as many. There is a lot of elevation change throughout a large part of the course.”

Behrends said the South Side Course in Decatur has some similarities. 

“We have talked about how crucial the tee shots are,” said Behrends. “We talked about making sure they have a stick (club) that they feel confident with whether it be a driver, hybrid club or iron. Understanding the best way to play that hole and minimize trouble is key as we want to avoid getting big numbers. You have to know how to manage the golf course to get into position.

Dow said one of the keys is course management. 

“Some of the holes can hit the right side of the fairway and kick down into a hazard because it slopes to the right,” said Dow. “We are definitely familiar with it.”

Tee times begin at 8:30 a.m.

Last year, Charleston won the regional in a tiebreaker with Mattoon and later took the sectional , too, but both teams reached the state tournamnet where Mattoon placed 11th and the Trojans 12th. 

“The key for us is to stay steady,” said Behrends. “Golf can be a roller coaster and you can’t allow yourself to be too excited when things are going well and not too down when you are not playing well. Even when we have had some tough holes we have been able to bounce back, and that bodes well mentally.”

Other teams in the regional include Arcola/Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Effingham, Mount Zion, Olney, Paris, Meridian/Decatur Lutheran/Decatur Christian and Lawrenceville/Red Hill.