By Kyle Daubs
The hot weather isn’t the only thing on fire these days.
The Mattoon High School golf team is coming off a championship performance at the Champaign Central Invite last week that featured 14 strong teams. Now, the team will look to continue to build off its performance Friday at the Danville Invitational.
“I don’t know much about most of the teams in the field, but I like our chances,” said head coach Bill Behrends. “We just shot 316 at the Champaign Central Invite against a strong field, and Stewart Druin didn’t have his A-game. Based on the scores we have been shooting, I feel like we have a good chance to win. My players really like this golf course, so we are bringing positive energy into the round.”
Druin, the reigning Apollo Conference medalist, was second to Blaine Powers at the Invite. Power scored a 79, while Druin fired an 80. Either way, it’s a comforting sign for a team that wants to potentially add another title within a week.
“As in any tournament, I want to see my team compete,” said Behrends. “Our mantra is always “win your group,” meaning beat all of your playing partners. If we do that, then we should be in a good position compared to the field.”
Mattoon will have stiff competition. Normal Community figures to be the leading contender to win the invite. The Ironmen are the reigning Big 12 Conference champions and lost just two seniors. The team is led by junior Kalen Mapugay, who made the state tournament as a freshman and would have likely made it last year had then been a state champion.
“I am hoping that we continue to build on the progress we have made recently and to continue to learn how to compete,” said coach Nathan Foster.
Another Big 12 member, Bloomington, brings a four solid players.
“I hope four good scores come together for Bloomington,” said Bloomington coach Kiley Specht. “We’ve had individual personal bests at different tournaments so far this season, but have yet to have four scores click on the same day. I know with leadership from junior Sam Rink and his consistent golf so far (been in the ‘70s at every tournament so far this season) that we have a solid chance of finishing well this weekend.”
Mount Zion brings a tight core of golfers to the tourney as well. Brent Hanse, a former All-Apollo and state qualifier, leads the Braves along with Jack Driscoll, an All-Conference selection two years ago. Weston Grohne is off to a solid start this year with a 79 scoring average, while the back-end group has been hovering near the low 80s.
“I hope to see us put together 18 holes of good golf,” said coach Colby Burdick. “Last week at Savoy, we played well for 13 holes then fell apart at the end. We ended up shooting 327, but it could have easily been 310-315, if we had just finished. If we can put together 18 holes of good golf, we have as good of a chance as anybody at Danville.”
University High School could compete for the title championship as well. Senior Andrew Woodward is a former All-Central State 8 finisher and earned six individual top-10 performances last year.
“We always look forward to the Danville Invite each year,” said coach Darrin York. “The tournament is played on a great golf course and always has a deep/high-quality field. Each year we come to Danville looking for our best performance of the year so far and challenging for the team title.”
Look out for Prairie Central to hang around as well. The team returned three All-Conference players in Carson Friedman, Teegan Quinn, and Connor Gibson. Senior Isaiah Adams is new but has been playing well at the start, according to coach Scott Willi.
“This tournament is always a big test for our team,” said Willi. “It is a very competitive field and gives us a good indicator as to how we stack against some of the state’s best. Our team can go real low but we also can be inconsistent. We will be happy with a score in the 320s.”