By Kyle Daubs
No Apollo coach could offer a clear favorite to win the boys golf conference title this season.
With that said, Mattoon coach Bill Behrends isn’t going to concede on repeating as champions. The Green Wave return the individual medalist in Stewart Druin and reload with some top talent that should have Mattoon back in the fold for a team championship.
Joining Druin is junior Blain Powers, who placed 13th last year. Freshman Madden Johnson already owns a win over Druin this season. With Evan Diedrich in the mix, this core will look to replace the production of All-Apollo golfers Meade Johnson and Colton Romine from last year’s state-qualifying team.
“We return three players from last year’s Apollo Conference championship team, but we also lost three key seniors from that group,” said Behrends. “As far as the conference is concerned, I think we should contend for another conference championship, and I see several players on this year’s team who could earn All-Conference honors. Stewart is laser-focused on repeating as conference champ, Blaine Powers should contend for All-Conference honors as an upperclassman this year, and Evan Diedrich (So.) and Madden Johnson (Fr.) could also be in the mix for individual honors. Although we are young, we are improving rapidly as the boys gain experience and confidence.”
Lincoln and Charleston placed second and third last year but lost significant contributors. With those losses, Mt. Zion coach Colby Burdick sees his squad moving up from fifth – perhaps even rising to the top of the conference.
Brent Hansen returns after finishing All-Apollo last year. Hansen won the Charleston Invitational last year and would have made state had there been a tournament. Jack Driscoll also returned and missed all-conference by one stroke.
“I see us at the top of the conference along with Mattoon, Mahomet, and Charleston,” said Burdick. “We won the Taylorville Invite to open our season despite missing one of my better players. We’re looking forward to competing for the conference, a regional, and a state berth this season. The conference and regional should be as wide open as it has been in the last few years.”
Charleston head coach Scott Dow sees Mahomet-Seymour as a favorite to win after placing fourth last year. Mahomet returns one all-conference player in Zach Courson (8th), as well as three of their top four scorers. Freshman Reis Claybrooke has already emerged as the team’s top golfer.
“We are looking forward to a very successful year and are hopeful for a high finish in the Apollo Conference tournament,” said coach David Sebestik.
Mahomet-Seymour will also host the conference tournament this year.
“Right now, I see Mahomet as the favorite because they are hosting the Apollo tournament and they have had very strong scores early in the season,” said Dow. “However, it looks to be a very competitive conference season.”
Charleston lost No. 1 golfer from last season Pierson Smith, who narrowly missed out on All-Apollo. Smith was one of four seniors with Cade Landrus, Peyton Daughtery, and Sam Schuette filling out the four through six slots.
Back is sophomore Preston Phillips, who placed sixth at the conference match. Phillips has hopes of competing for the individual title. Joining him in the rotation will be seniors Jackson Becker, Josh Will, and Logan Beals.
“I think that Charleston can be very competitive in the conference if we play at the level that we should play,” said Dow “Half of our team is young, and it may take some time to play our best.”
Lincoln will bring back a young squad as the team lost Dylan Singleton to graduation, who placed third last year. Effingham placed sixth, while Taylorville placed last. The Tornadoes lost three seniors to graduation but returned two seniors Briar Dempsey and Ryan Johnson to lead a very young and inexperienced team.
“We are very inexperienced,” said Taylorville coach Paul Millburg. “I would hope we can compete, but we will have trouble getting the four required scores to put us into competition. I want us to grow as a team. We are not looking at wins and losses. Any growth is growth.”
Predicted Apollo Rankings
3. Mt. Zion