By Mike Monahan
CENTRALIA — No matter what happened Tuesday in the IHSA Class 2A boys’ golf sectional this was the final match for Mattoon and the other seven teams as there is no state tournament due to COVID-19.
After the match the Mattoon team didn’t think they didn’t do real well as the lowest on the team was an 83 by Colton Romine, good for 10th place out of 65 at 13-over-par on the 5,744-yard par-70 course.
“It was definitely not what we had hoped for,” said Mattoon coach Bill Behrends before learning of other scores. “The course was playing tough and firm and fast and the wind was blowing also. I think we just didn’t get the start we wanted to and then struggled to keep our heads up at times. At this point of the season and with the level of competition you just can’t afford the mental mistakes and it just caught up with us today.”
It turned out the Green Wave had four people finish in the 80s. Sophomores Stewart Druin and Blaine Powers finished with an 84 and 86, respectively, while Meade Johnson had an 89 and placed third overall as a team.
“We practiced Friday and most of them came back one other time to play so we had seen the course at least a couple of times,” said Behrends. “We played in similar conditions in our practice round. I felt we had a good understanding of how we should play the golf course. It just boils down to execution and we just didn’t execute today.”
The course was tough and the scores show it as only three golfers finished below 80. Benton’s Cy Norman finished with an impressive 2-under-par to win with a 68. Highland’s Evan Sutton and Marion’s Hayden Burns finished with a pair of 77s on a day with temperatures in the mid 70s. The average score was 88.4.
“It was a pretty good golf course,” said Druin. “It was in pretty good shape, most of the course. I just didn’t do my best today. At least I have a couple more years. Over the winter and summer, I can get better. I am definitely looking at the future and learning my lessons and see what I can do next year. The problem today was mainly my putting. They were a little inconsistent speeds and so I was hitting them far and short and that kind of got into my head. It is crazy that this is the last tournament of the year.”
Druin said the team usually has more home matches, including the Mattoon Invitational, which he hopes takes place along with an entire season next year.
A golfer who finished strong, which was a big help for the Green Wave, was Powers. Mattoon finished with a 342 out of eight teams, which was just four strokes better than Jacksonville.
“I picked it up at the end and on the last four holes I parred out,” said Powers. “The difference was I was hitting the greens. On this course if you miss long, left, or right you are out of bounds or have a tough chip through trees. It is a tough course. You have to stay short on all of the holes pretty much. My irons were key. That is how I parred the last four holes.”
Freshman Evan Diedrich finished with a 98, but he knows this year will help him for next year.
“My drives were going pretty straight,” said Diedrich. “I didn’t think we would get through the season (COVID), but here we are.”
James Shamdin who is one of three seniors on the team along with Johnson and Romine, shot a 93.
“I am proud of the team,” said Behrends. “It wasn’t the finish we wanted today, but as I told them this doesn’t diminish anything they accomplished during the season. It was still a great season and something they should look back on feel proud of. I am just thrilled we got a chance to play this much. At the beginning of the year I had no idea. I didn’t think we would make it and be able to play this far. It is a blessing that they got to and so I hope they made some good memories.”
As coach Behrends began to figure out that Mattoon was going to finish third, the Mattoon players were surprised, but elated. Benton won the meet with a 318, which was 18 shots better than second-place Highland.
In a normal year the top three teams would have advanced to state.
“Finishing third place is great,” said Behrends. “In a normal year would have been state-bound. That is a good thing to add to the year. We would have got one more chance to play and who knows we could have got there and shook things up and gave it a chance. It is nice to know. After a tough day, it is good to know.”
Mattoon won the Apollo Conference and the Class 2A regional this year. Johnson and Romine finished their four years playing in the sectional all four years, participating in state one year and were a part of two regional titles. Shamdin was part of three sectionals, one regional title and one state appearance.