SUGAR GROVE – Drake Kaufman might have found quite the practical recipe for success before a golf tournament.
He takes the previous day off.
For Kaufman, an Ottawa sophomore, it helped lead to a banner day at the Interstate 8 Conference tournament Monday. He shot a sterling 4-under-par 66 for a three-shot victory over Kaneland senior Cody Ganzon at Bliss Creek.
The 4-under-par score tied a school record for 18 holes.
Kaufman finished with eight birdies, five on the front nine. The lone hiccup on the afternoon was Kaufman’s final hole, a triple bogey to cap what otherwise was a magnificent personal-best round.
“I’ve shot in the 60s twice this year,” Kaufman said. “Every time I’ve done that, I’ve taken the day off before. So I might start doing that [more].”
Kaufman surely had a smile on his face upon the day’s completion.
“I wasn’t even thinking about going under par or anything like that [entering the day],” said Kaufman, who beat his previous best round by two strokes. “I was thinking, ‘Throw a good number up and help the team out so we can get a chance at winning.’”
“I’m pumped about it. It’s great to throw up a number like that. Definitely [triple bogeying] the last hole, that was hard to take. But you can’t let that ruin your day. That was a great round.”
Kaufman’s composure and ball-striking ability stand out to Ottawa coach Keith Budzowski.
“He just thinks in the moment,” Budzowski said. “He doesn’t ... get wrapped up in the moment. Obviously, the last hole didn’t turn out the way he wanted to, but ... he’s got that mentality where he can keep on chasing it and not think, ‘What happens if my next hole is bad?’ He’s just got that true championship mindset.”
Despite Kaufman’s round, Kaneland squeaked out the team title by one stroke over Ottawa, 297-298. It is the Knights’ second consecutive I-8 title. Kaneland seniors Ganzon (69) and Josh Pehl (74) finished second and third, respectively, behind Kaufman. Kaneland’s Gavin Woods (77) made par on his final hole of the day to ensure the team title for the Knights.
Kaneland also received solid contributions from Zach Ramos (77), Hagan Rank (78) and Wes Hollis (84). Ottawa scores behind Kaufman were turned in by Drake Stoudt (77), Jonathan Cooper (77), Seth Cooper (78), Alex Billings (80) and Chandler Creedon (80).
Morris and Sycamore both finished with 324, Morris taking third place on the fifth-score tiebreaker. La Salle-Peru (325) was fifth, Sandwich (361) sixth, Plano (267) seventh and Rochelle (433) eighth.
“It’s not just this year, he’s been a clutch player since his freshman year when he went downstate and was our second-lowest scorer,” Kaneland coach Mark Meyer said of Ganzon. “It seems like he thrives on big moments, and he did again today. Didn’t have the greatest start, but came back and ended up with a 1-under-par round. It was pretty impressive.”
“We’re senior heavy. We’ve got four seniors on our team. Gavin Woods is a senior, but he really made a push this year and has become very consistent. Just as far as his game improving, it’s been really impressive how he has become much more consistent this year. We’ve counted his score the majority of our rounds.”
Sycamore junior Ryan Polly was fourth individually with a 75, while Morris senior Nathan Hock followed with a 76.
“I just felt like I played well,” Polly said. “I was playing mostly irons because it’s a short course. I played all irons, and I didn’t any driver and I was hitting my irons well.”
Plano senior Mason Accidentale (78) was the Reapers’ best finisher, falling just outside the top 12 individually.
“I feel like I did pretty well, especially for coming on this course. The last couple times, I haven’t done good at all,” Accidentale said. “I was coming in looking for anything under an 85, so I did really good.”
Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.