Herron: Another historic golf season comes to an end

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While the 2018 golf season was arguably the best that this area has seen in the 45 years of IHSA tournaments for boys and girls, the 2019 campaign definitely is in the discussion as one of the better years in the sports.

Leading this season’s highlights was Lockport’s Ben Sluzas, who followed up his one-stroke state victory a season ago over Lincoln-Way Central’s Sean Curran with another one-stroke win and Class 3A state title, this time over Lake Forest’s Patrick Moorhead, who competed for the state champion team. Sluzas’ repeat as the individual 3A state champion was a first in the area.

After winning a second championship, thanks to his four-under-par 140, Sluzas joins elite company by becoming just the fifth boys golfer in the state to win back-to-back titles in the one-class, Class 2A or 3A divisions and just the third to do so in those classes over the past 75 years.

The good news for the Porters is that Sluzas is only a junior, so he has the opportunity to be a three-time state champion, a feat that only has been accomplished by Massac County’s Mason Jacobs from 2005 to 2007.

He joins Mike Allen (1986-87) as only the second two-time golf medalist at Lockport, Drew Pierson (2000) as the school’s second golf champion and is only the fourth Porter to capture two or more state titles, joining Kyle Anderson (bowling, 2010-11), Brad Johnson (wrestling, 2011-12) and John Meyer (track and field, 2016-18).

“After that ninth hole on Day 2, I told myself that I had nine more holes to give myself a shot,” Sluzas said. “On the back nine, I played really well, with two birdies and an eagle. But I bogeyed six, seven and eight. I knew I had to birdie the last hole to give me a shot, so I did.

“I had the confidence in myself and knew if I could do it back then that I could also do it again. I was very calm throughout the week and wasn’t nervous at all, and I knew if I just played my game that I had a good shot at winning again. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I’ll be in the record book for a long time. Obviously, the goal is to win again next year and three-peat.”

A year after finishing in third place, coach Matt Eber’s Porters finished sixth and some of those individuals figure to join Sluzas on next year’s team. They include junior Vincent Greci III and sophomore Brody McCarthy, who were on the 2018 team, and sophomore Dylan Dorian. Seniors at state were Caleb Andrea, Sam Hook and Brian Carter. Knights junior, Curran, just missed being an all-stater again after tying for 16th place.

There were two all-state performers from the area in the Class 2A tournament. Lemont sophomore Paulius Malcius took fifth place with an even-par 142, while Providence Catholic junior Davis Billows tied for ninth place. Both are the fifth medalists from their programs with Malcius turning in the Indians’ second-highest state showing.

On the girls side, coach Brian Shannon’s Lincoln-Way Central team made program history by advancing to the state finals for the third straight year and took fourth place in Class 2A with a 641. Central finished third last season.

Senior Carly Schiene, who competed on the other two state teams along with senior Maddie Pyle and junior Caitlyn Parrish, shot a 149 to tie for fifth and joins former teammates Bri Bolden and Grace Curran as the program’s only medal winners.

Junior Sydney Miron also competed last year, while sophomores Claire Dubois, Sophie Bruozas and Emma Vander Wall also took part this year. Joliet Township senior Maddy Palmer and Reed-Custer senior Amber Maddox played both rounds in their third state trips.

“This year was going to be a test without two all-staters,” Shannon said. “I thought that our team responded well to the challenge. The success in the postseason occurred because of the way we practice every day and our willingness to challenge ourselves.

“Although we didn’t walk away with a trophy, we are all happy that Lincoln-Way Central girls golf has a solid foundation and can produce winners. And Carly is so deserving to be All-State. She has a phenomenal work ethic and a dedication to golf.”