DEER PARK – As Ottawa golf coach Keith Budzowski sat in a cart watching his players come through the ninth hole at the Deer Park Golf Club on Monday afternoon, he was joined by Randy Bretag and Dave Wultzen, both OHS golf coaches now retired.
The casual conversation about the Pirate Invitational they were watching revealed at least two things the trio of mentors could agree on: that the Pirates team is very good and that the program’s coaching over the years, in jest, was largely responsible for that.
Add in an incredible level of talent on the golf course, and it was a recipe for success.
Led by individual medalist Jonathan Cooper’s 70, the Pirates threatened to have their best round of the season before settling for a 303 team score, easily winning their own signature event by 12 strokes over runner-up Minooka (315). Newark-Serena, behind individual runner-up Cam Figgins’ 71, carded a third-place 317, with a fifth-score tiebreaker giving Streator fourth place over fifth-place La Salle-Peru, both at 321.
“Our season low was a 301,” Budzowski said. “The guys are eyeing up that 298, the overall school record, and they were hoping for that today because it was a home invite. It would’ve been a nice place to do that, but we were right there today. There were just a few holes where we left some putts that wouldn’t go down for them, but overall, how can you be unhappy with a 303? You just can’t.
“I think this (score) will be a big confidence booster for them going forward.”
Thanks in large part to his accurate driver and improving putter, Cooper shot a sizzling 34 on the front nine, then a 36 on the back for his 70 to earn the medalist honor. Drake Kaufman was close behind in third place individually with a 72 (35-37), followed by Drake Stoudt at 80 (39-41) and Alex Billings at 81 (42-39).
Also for OHS, Seth Cooper had an 88 and Chandler Creedon an 89.
“I think I’m starting to turn the corner, getting close to playing really, really, really well,” Cooper said. “I hit the ball really well today, I think 16 greens (in regulation) all day, so that was pretty nice. … I putted better today than I have been. It’s still not where I want it to be, but I’m working toward that. Plus, I’ve been hitting my driver pretty straight, so I hope I can keep it right there.
“I was happy that our team shot a 303. That wasn’t a bad score for us. Obviously, we would have liked that , but we’re happy with our score.”
For Newark-Serena, Figgins led the way with his 34-37 for 71, while teammate Dylan Cartwright added a fifth-place 76 (38-38). Hudson Stafford and Braxton Hart were next at 85 apiece. The Huskers also got a 91 from Hunter Stafford and a 99 from Carson Baker.
“I’m very pleasantly surprised,” N-S coach Chad Baker said. “Cam and Dylan are very capable of shooting what they shot, but we got a couple of guys with scores in the 80s that were better than their averages, so this was a really good day for us.”
Streator got a 77 from senior Davey Rashid, with Noah Colter firing an 80 (39-41) and a pair of 82s from Cooper Wahl (39-43) and Cole Martin (43-39). Jayden Nambo shot an 83, which gave the Bulldogs fourth place over L-P on the fifth-score tiebreaker. Dane Winterrowd had a 91.
“Hopefully the guys will realize that by winning by the fifth score that every hole counts,” SHS coach Dusty Masley said. “Our effort was a lot better than Saturday [at the Seneca Invite], so we’re getting better each time out. Davey had a really nice round for us, and several of the other guys made good decisions, cut down our putts and ended up a lot lower today than they have been.”
Coleman Rundle led the Cavaliers with a 78 (38-40). Next were Caden Valenzuela at 79 (38-41), Carter Fenza an 81 (40-41) and Connor Noramczyk an 83 (42-41). L-P’s fifth score was an 89 from Jon Milota (49-40), while Noah Reitgraf contributed a 99 (51-48).
“I’m very happy with our performance,” L-P coach Kyle Pytel said. “Looking at the iWannamaker app, we were as high as third place before dropping into fourth on the back nine when guys struggled a bit, but we finished about where we usually do. If something like this happens at the regional and say we’re tied for third, that fifth score could make the difference between advancing or not.
“I believe they understand it, but we will stress to them we need every score, that every shot matters.”