By Kyle Daubs
Bill Behrends sees the target on Mattoon.
The Mattoon boys golf team is the defending Apollo Conference champions but sees the talent across the conference stretches across four teams. Behrends saw that recently after Mattoon finished third to both Charleston and winner Mount Zion in the Mount Zion Cup. Throw in a competitive Mahomet-Seymour team, who will play on their home course at Lake of the Woods, and it will be a four-team battle for the championship.
“I think we can compete for back-to-back conference championships,” said Behrends. “We are young, but we have had success so far this season. The home course advantage should give Mahomet an edge, but I think there are four teams who all have a chance to win.”
Behrends said that he would love to see junior Steward Druin win medalist again, but Druin will have some friendly competition. Both Evan Diedrich and Madden Johnson have defeated Druin in tournaments throughout the season, while Blain Powers, who just missed All-Conference last season, should be in the mix for a top spot as well.
Mount Zion head coach Colby Burdick sees three Braves golfers in Brent Hanse, Weston Grohne, and Jack Driscoll capable of contending for the individual title in a field that he calls “wide open.”
“I could see as many as eight or nine kids being contenders for the individual title,” said Burdick. “There’s not a standout this year who’s going out and shooting around par or better consistently. A score of 75-77 might be good enough to take the individual title this year.”
For that reason, Burdick believes there is “no runaway favorite for the conference” either. Burdick called Mattoon, Mahomet, and Mt. Zion is the favorite and believes that his Braves, who recently defeated Mattoon and Charleston last week, could be victorious.
“I think home course advantage could play a bigger factor this year than in years past because Lake of the Woods is not a course we normally see on our schedule during the year. It’s going to come down to who can execute and fight through adversity the best. It will be exciting to watch it all unfold on Monday.”
Mahomet-Seymour coach David Sebestik acknowledged that his Bulldogs have a “good chance” to compete for the title since the team is hosting; however, he also said there are “some solid teams in this conference.”
“With the event being at our home course,” Sebestik said, “I believe we have a good chance at competing for the title. But there are some solid teams in this conference.
“Anything can happen with a one-day event, so there are four to five teams that have a solid chance of winning the event,” said Sebestik. “Just from previous events, I would say, Mattoon, Mt. Zion, Charleston, and Mahomet-Seymour all have great teams this season. Our biggest strength this year has been our depth, so I truly believe any of our top six can contend for All-Apollo.”
Sebestik said that Reise Claybrooke, Zach Courson, Erik Christianson, and Blake Harvey all have the chance to contend for medalist honors or All-Apollo. The list for All-Apollo will belong as Charleston’s Preston Phillips will look to contend for medalist honors, while Josh Will and Jackson Becker could factor in the conversation as well.
Meanwhile, Taylorville could have one representative contend for a spot with Briar Dempsey as the Tornadoes continue to rebuild their program.
“We are trying to build a program,” said Taylorville coach Paul Millburg. “We want to compete. A golf season is built in November through July. We have to build a culture of improvement every time out on the course. I believe Mahomet-Seymour to be a favorite, but Effingham and Mt Zion could contend for the top spot as well. Briar seems dialed in as he has in the two seasons I have been coaching Taylorville boys golf.”