By Kyle Daubs

It has been more than 24 hours and it still hasn’t set in. 

Stewart Druin, Apollo Conference boys golf champion. 

“Honestly, no, not yet,” said Druin. “It’s still just kinda crazy.”

Heading into the conference match, there was not a single opposing coach that pegged Druin (above) as a contender for the boys champion. Most considered defending champion Dylan Singleton of Lincoln, or Mattoon seniors Meade Johnson or Colton Romine as the top contenders. 

But it was Druin who drilled his drive down the middle of the fairway, hit an iron about 100 yards, and sank his second putt to capture the title in a one-hole playoff after he had tied Romine at 5-over-76 in regulation. 

Afterward, Romine said he “was proud of Druin” while Johnson was pumped up for his sophomore teammate. 

“Meade came up and congratulated me because he was already finished,” said Druin. “He knows how much work I put into this. Colton was a little struck for a little bit because he was also wanting to win and he’s a senior. In the end, we want the team trophy and that was more important.”

The team title, which was the first in four years for the Green Wave, is nice and all but everyone has to love an underdog. 

Today, he helps lead the Mattoon boys into the IHSA Class 2A regional at Paris’s Eagle Ridge.

Druin has never consistently been the team’s No. 1 golfer. That is not his fault given the talent on the team. However, Druin owns the confidence that he can play like a No. 1, which is why a meeting with his hitting coach, Tim Krouse in Effingham, was warranted. 

“He doesn’t really change much whenever we work on things,” said Druin. “However, he always says I’m a little bit off. We talked about my mental game the last time I saw him.”

The missing link was the mental side of the game. According to Druin, the skillset has always been there, it was changing his approach to the mental part of golfing. 

“It was what I would be thinking before I would hit a shot,” said Druin. “What goes through my mind during the pre-shot routine. Basically, I needed to think about what I could control. I can control my own game. I can control where I want the ball to go. I don’t need to worry about where it could go.”

It turns out the minor fix played huge dividends for Druin. After a sluggish start, Druin just kept powering through and controlled his own score. 

“When I started off with a double, I didn’t let it affect me,” said Druin. “I turned it around and shot 1-over on the back.”

Even when Singleton was winning halfway through, that didn’t bother the sophomore either. 

“When I heard he was winning, I knew I had an easy stretch,” said Druin. “I knew I just needed to birdie a few holes. I could put it together. Then, I heard he choked on a couple holes, so I knew if I took it one shot at a time and kept my head up, I could finish strong.”

Singleton ended up bogeying four of his next eight holes, blowing up with a seven on the 15th hole. With six holes to go, Druin was just two strokes off the lead. Across those holes, Druin pulled himself for a tie for first place and the rest is history. 

While golfing to a title was hard, the first action as a champion was easy. 

“I walked off the green and hugged my dad,” said Druin. “We were just humble. I trained for this and wanted to do it so bad and it happened when we didn’t expect it.”

Added Druin: “I guess it was kinda a diamond in a haystack.”