Crystal Lake Central had to wait almost 2 1/2 hours in the rain after shooting a season-low score of 307 on Monday at Kishwaukee Country Club in DeKalb before knowing if it would be one of 12 teams in Class 2A to make the state tournament.
For the Tigers, the wait was definitely worth it.
Central’s 307 wasn’t only good enough to move on, it was the lowest score of 14 teams at the Sycamore Sectional. Led by four seniors and a pair of freshmen, the Tigers came away with their first sectional title since 2007 and first state tournament appearance since 2008.
Central was the only local boys or girls team to qualify for this weekend’s state tournament, regardless of class.
The Tigers tee off Friday morning at Weibring in Normal, along with Burlington Central’s Tyson Malak and Cody Leon, who qualified as individuals. After Friday, the field will be cut to the top eight teams (and ties) and top 40 individuals (and ties) not on one of the top eight teams.
Central has been thinking about the possibility of state since the start of the season. There was no state tournament last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the season concluding at sectionals.
“It was pretty important for all of us to go,” said senior Bayden Hubacher, who tied senior teammate Christian Wakeford with a team-best 73 at sectionals. “It’s been a goal of ours for a while to go to state because it’s our senior year, and especially because we didn’t get a chance to go last year with COVID.
“It’s really special to make it. I’m definitely gonna try and grind out a pretty good score, but I’m really just looking to enjoy our time as a team one last time.”
Hubacher and Wakeford led Central’s scoring at sectionals, and Eric Klutke, last year’s Northwest Herald Boys Golfer of the Year, posted a 75. Freshman Jack Bice (86) rounded out the scoring, and senior Ethan Bass and freshman Charles Polash weren’t far behind with 90s.
Klutke was ninth at state as a sophomore and is the only Tigers golfer with state experience, but that was in 3A and at a different course. Klutke would have gone to state last season after placing runner-up at sectionals.
Klutke doesn’t expect many preswing jitters.
“We’re going to be loose. You can’t go any farther [than state],” said Klutke, who won a regional individual title in each of the past two years. “It’s our final hurrah. We’re just gonna try our best and see what we can put together. Individually, I’m trying to win it. I think I have a good shot. I just have to put two good scores together.”
Central entered the year as one of the more experienced teams in the area and has been playing some of its best golf throughout the playoffs. Tigers coach Matt LePage isn’t surprised by his team’s success and ability to rise to the occasion.
“They work really hard and they’ve committed and dedicated themselves to golf,” LePage said. “They deserve to play well when it matters the most. As a coach, it’s fun to see them play well and succeed with all of the work they put in.”
Klutke, Hubacher, Wakeford and Bass have been playing golf together for a while, while the addition of Polash and Bice has been important to the team’s success, as well.
“We’re just really connected,” LePage said. “This group has been together for a good portion of two to three years, so they really complement each other well. They talk to each other on the course, they’re constantly competing against each other, and that combination of being very skilled and talented and truly embracing the team concept is what makes these guys good.”
Jacobs senior Jason Seaholm and Cary-Grove junior Maddux Tarasievich will represent the Fox Valley Conference at the Class 3A state meet, which is being played at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington.
Seaholm is the first Golden Eagles golfer to go to state since Garrett Tighe in 2017 and 2018, while C-G’s last state qualifier was Zach Beaugureau in 2016.
Burlington Central senior Maya Gusciora advanced to state in a playoff and was the only local golfer to qualify for the Class 2A girls tournament at Hickory Point in Decatur.
“I’m just looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people and the experience of state,” said Tarasievich, who fired a 74 at sectionals, same as Seaholm. “Golf is just a bonus. I knew my game was good enough if I had a good day. I know I just need to put two good numbers together.”
Local state qualifiers
at Weibring Golf Club in Normal
Teams: Crystal Lake Central (Bayden Hubacher, sr.; Christian Wakeford, sr.; Eric Klutke, sr., Jack Bice, fr.; Charles Polash, fr.; Ethan Bass, sr.)
Individuals: Tyson Malak, Burlington Central, sr.; Cody Leon, Burlington Central, sr.
at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington
Individuals: Jason Seaholm, Jacobs, sr.; Maddux Tarasievich, Cary-Grove, jr.
at Hickory Point in Decatur
Individuals: Maya Gusciora, Burlington Central, sr.