Around the league, the coaches believe Mattoon has one of the best problems to have.
When thinking of who could win the Apollo Conference individual title, Mount Zion’s Colby Burdick listed three names.
“There are a lot of solid returning players in our conference as well as a few talented freshmen coming in, but I’d say the top 5 players in the Apollo, in no particular order, are Stewart Druin (Mattoon), Madden Johnson (Mattoon), Blaine Powers (Mattoon), Weston Grohne (Mt. Zion), and Reis Claybrooke (Mahomet-Seymour). I’d be surprised if one of those five doesn’t win the individual title.”
Mattoon brings back a heavily competitive team that will enter the season as the favorite to win the Apollo. Druin and Johnson are the defending Apollo medalist winners from the last two seasons, while Johnson and Powers qualified for state last season.
Druin fired a 71 to capture the Taylorville Invitational last week while teammate Evan Diedrich placed fourth after shooting 76 and winning a scorecard playoff. The Green Wave placed second, only one stroke behind Williamsville’s 313 total.
For Burdick, that depth is a huge reason Mattoon should be favored.
“To my knowledge, Mattoon is returning their entire team from last year,” said Burdick. “Due to that, you have to give the preseason nod to them. Mt. Zion and Mahomet will challenge again at the top of the conference because both have talented returning players and talented freshman/newcomers entering their lineups this season. Charleston could be a dark horse contender, too. I know they lost Preston Phillips but they added the 2021 IESA State Champ, Hudson Meister, to their lineup this year.”
Mount Zion returns All-Apollo golfer Weston Grohne and adds three other experienced golfers – Riley Taylor, Ashton Anderson, and Sam Driscoll. Burdick also likes what he has seen from freshman Tommy Whitley, who has the potential to make a “major impact.”
Mahomet-Seymour coach David Sebestik believes Mattoon has even more of an advantage because the team will be hosting the conference match.
The Bulldogs return Blake Harvey and Reis Claybrooke.
“I expect big things from both of them. Blake was all-conference last year and was a sectional qualifier. Reis was a sectional qualifier as well. I am hopeful that we will compete strongly for the conference this season.”
Mattoon will be navigating through the season with first-year coach Brett Poorman, the team’s JV coach last season who took over after Bill Behrends took an administrative position in Champaign Centennial.
Poorman said he doesn’t know much about the other players in the conference but has seen some great things early from his star-studded trio.
“I think we have two players that have a great chance to shoot par or better at multiple courses this year,” said Poorman. “Stewart Druin and Madden Johnson have both played well this summer. Hopefully, it continues through October. We have everyone returning this year and I believe the varsity team will look similar, although there may be a few players who rotate into that 5-6 spot. Blaine Powers and Madden both made it to state last year. I think we have a really good opportunity to win the Apollo this year.”
Charleston lost All-Apollo golfer Preston Phillips to another school this summer, but brings in the top incoming eighth grader from last year – Hudson Meister, wh won the IESA state championship by one stroke last season. Meister took sixth in the Taylorville Invitational, tying teammate Alex Kuykendall. The Trojans carded a 330 for fourth place overall.
“I have a young inexperienced team this year,” said Dow. “I have three sophomores who are greatly improved and will have a great impact on our success in the conference. Mattoon is hosting the conference tournament and is one of the strongest teams in the conference so they would have to be the favorite. I see our team having some growing pains, but being in the mix by the conference tournament.”
Taylorville head coach Paul Millburg believes that the Apollo is one of the most competitive conferences in the state when it comes to golf. Taylorville returns Grant Buschon, who has played in the top-6 all four years for the Tornadoes.
“As a conference, the Apollo is always strong,” said Millburg. “Effingham, Mount Zion, Lincoln, and Mahomet-Seymour are always around the top. Golf is an individual sport. I just want my team to compete. I want them to find their competitive side. If they want to improve, they will be coachable and put the time in to better their game.”
Preseason Apollo Conference Rankings
- Mount Zion