The way Mattoon has been playing as of late, the Green Wave could sweep the Apollo Conference tournament.
Both the boys and girls are considered the favorites for the conference crown. The boys will tee off at 8 a.m. at Meadowview Golf Course, while the girls will also begin at 8 a.m. at Charleston Country Club.
Here is the preview for today’s conference matches.
“Mattoon and Mahomet are currently the top favorites,” said Mount Zion coach Colby Burdick. “They have been the best teams at our invitationals throughout the year. Mt. Zion isn’t far behind and Charleston is young but talented and could sneak up on others.”
Mattoon’s Stewart Druin and Madden Johnson are the reigning medalist champions. Both could look to win the individual title a second time, while others on the team could make a run themselves. There are times that Evan Diedrich has impressed, while Blaine Powers was a state qualifier last season.
“Mattoon has to be the favorite due to their quality team scores as of late and since they are playing at home,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach David Sebestik. “With solid play, we could finish in the top three.”
The Bulldogs will be led by Reis Claybrooke, Blake Harvey, Leif Olson, and Kelton Hennesy. Claybrooke recently shot 70 in the first round of the Mattoon Invite and finished 4th overall in the event. Harvey shot 72 in the Danville Invite and finished in the top 10. Hennesy shot 76 in the Urbana invite and finished top 10. Olson has played solid all year and averages around 80 for 18 holes.
Mount Zion should also be in the top tier of the standings. All-Apollo returnee Weston Grohne has averaged in the 70s this year. After that, it has been Riley Taylor, Sam Driscoll, and Tommy Whitley.
“Tommy Whitley is a talented freshman who has had his share of growing pains throughout the year, but he just shot 75 at Mattoon Country Club on Day 2 of the Mattoon Invitational,” said Burdick. “I hope this round can provide some momentum for him and allow him to be an X-factor for us as we get into the Apollo Tournament and the postseason.”
Burdick said that while Meadowview is home for Mattoon, it was a tough course for many golfers at the Craig Dixon Invitational. He believes that everyone will need to be on top of their game, including Mattoon.
“If you base it off performance so far this year, we are probably the third best team,” said Burdick. “However, I think Mattoon Country Club could be an equalizer and open up who could win both as a team and individual. All of the top Apollo teams struggled at the Country Club this weekend in the Mattoon Invitational and were very close to each other score-wise. It’s going to come down to who can play smart, and maintain their composure in the face of adversity because Mattoon Country Club is a golf course that can and will provide a lot of adversity and challenges.”
The top of the conference appears to come down to Mattoon, Effingham, and Mahomet-Seymour. Mattoon’s Blair Powers and Berit Haldorsen were All-Apollo last year and could contend for the individual title.
Charleston’s Delaney Meister, who recently fired a 3-over 39 at Charleston Country Club, should also be a contender, along with teammate Madeline Sanders.
Mahomet’s Ainsley Winters, meanwhile, returns to defend her individual title.
“I see Mattoon as a real favorite for team honors,” said Taylorville coach Jeff Hill. “They are very deep. Of course, Charleston on their home course has a huge advantage. Mahomet-Seymour is also strong, especially with reigning individual champ Ainsley Winters looking to repeat.”
Taylorville brings back All-Apollo golfer Sophia Robinson who has been battling season-long lingering effects from COVID-19.
“She was All-Apollo last year and hopes to gain those honors again,” said Hill. “She has been hampered this season with post-Covid 19 ailments and has yet to put together two solid back-to-back rounds.”
Sophomore Emma Baker, who could compete for a spot on the all-conference list for a very young Lincoln team that features two sophomores, two freshmen, and, according to coach John Andrews: “not a lot of experience.”
Baker has earned medalist honors in two tournaments this season.
Said Andrews: “Emma would be my only golfer to have a chance to be on the All Apollo team.”
Mount Zion brings Emma Espinoza and Kennedy Highly, who helped the Braves win the Charleston Scramble at the beginning of the year.