ROCKTON—The Hononegah boys golf team is playing with house money.
The Indians didn’t know if there would be an IHSA Class 3A sectional meet this year. What’s more, they didn’t know if they’d be in it.
Make that two for two.
Hononegah beat Guilford by one stroke in the regional meet, thereby punching their ticket to the sectionals, where they will take on several powerhouse schools from the Chicago suburbs at Mah-Nah-Tee-See Golf Club in Rockford.
Hononegah coach Ken Lewis said the course is difficult to deal with.
“We may not hit driver all day,” Lewis said. “The way these kids hit their hybrids and their three-woods, it’s probably not necessary to take it out, but you know they’ll want to. And I don’t think there is a flat green on the whole course. You get on there, sure, but now what do you do? And there are some very good teams coming up to play in this also, as you would expect.”
The opportunity to be there is the best part of the season, according to Lewis.
“The best thing that regional did was allow us to play for another week and a half,” Lewis said. “And the kids have really surprised me, because they’ve been very serious about it since they won the regional. They show up ready to get their work in, and it’s been great.”
The next step for the Indians is, up to this moment, unsure. The IHSA still hasn’t determined whether there will be a state tournament, but the prospects are looking dim.
Indians top golfer Cade Bastian said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“What it really does it take all the pressure off us,” Bastian said. “If you play great, you’re done. If you play bad, then you’re done anyway. So you might as well just get out there and do the best you can.”
Bastian said winning the regional was a true highlight of the season.
“Coming into the year, we really didn’t know what to expect,” Bastian said. “We had lost our two top golfers to graduation, and we were really young. Guilford beat us by 20 strokes during the season, so to come out and win, especially by one stroke on the last hole, it was just a great feeling.”
A key to the victory was the play of Jack Kitzman, who followed a disastrous 47 on the front nine with a 37 on the back to lead the Indians’ charge down the stretch.
“That front nine, I don’t even have words for how bad that was,” Kitzman said. “But I just kept grinding and kept grinding and eventually it started to turn around for me. I missed a four-foot putt on 18, otherwise I would have been even on the back nine.”
Other schools in the field include NIC-10 rival Guilford, Crystal Lake Central, Hersey, and Lake Forest.
Jack Marshall of Lake Forest fired a 66 in regional play, while Hersey’s Henry Quinn shot 69 to lead individuals at the Buffalo Grove regional.
The golfers will tee off with a shotgun start at 10 a.m.