LA SALLE — To a man, the members of the Ottawa Pirates golf team said they didn't play their best golf as they opened the 2019 campaign at the Prep Tour-Illinois Junior Golf Association High School Showcase here Thursday at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Club.
The high-level kickoff event, in its third year, featured 16 teams and 96 players from some of the top programs in Illinois.
The Pirates, which finished in last place with a team score of 360, saw senior TJ McDonnell post the best score for the locals with an 86, followed by an 89 from junior Caden Ericzon and a 91 from sophomore Drake Stoudt. Freshman Jonathan Cooper carded a 94, with junior Noah Stoudt adding a 108 and senior Joe Connell a 109.
Despite the scores and the placement of his club in the standings, head coach Keith Budzowski says playing in a tournament with so much talent and so many solid teams will only help his team as the season moves ahead.
"No one goes into a tournament wanting to finish dead last, obviously, but the opportunity and experience all of the guys got today to start the season is invaluable," Budzowski said. "We play two more matches here at Oak Ridge this year, and this is maybe our regional course, so the guys were able to get an early gauge of how this course plays and can make adjustments the next time we are here.
"We are probably not going to see this caliber of golfers in one tournament until the postseason comes around. They got the first tournament under their belts, and maybe the hardest one as well. However, they all know now what it's going to take to reach the goals they have set for themselves and as a team."
Defending tournament winner and seven-time Class 3A state champion Hinsdale Central took team honors with an outstanding 298, with Wheaton Warrenville South (303) placing second and Normal U-High (304) third. U-High senior Brevin Knight took home individual championship honors after recording a 3-under 69, with three other golfers shooting par or better.
"Today was not good, to be honest," said McDonnell, who scored 43s on both the front and back nine. "I think I only hit two or three greens in regulation, so I was scrambling a lot. I had one birdie on the front and one on the back. ... I tried to get a couple of those double-bogeys back, but I just couldn't get anything going.
"Every hole today it was something different. ... I would either hit a good drive then have a bad second shot, or I'd hit a terrible tee shot and then recover a little bit with a good second shot. I just wasn't able to put good consecutive shots together."
Ericzon said much of his troubles on the day were off the tee, but also added he did have a couple holes he was happy with overall.
"It was tough times today," said Ericzon. "I was putting the ball right, slicing on almost every shot ... the three guys I played with were really good, and they were just hitting the ball a mile. I had a couple of good holes here and there, couple pars back-to-back, and I chipped in (from about 40-yards out) on No. 12 for birdie. It was a little lucky, but I'll take it."
Drake Stoudt said that much of his struggles were once he found the green, but said an adjustment towards the end of the round helped take a little sting out of his day.
"Nothing went right for me today. I really struggled putting, I mean, I think I had 41 putts," Drake Stoudt said. "I had been putting really good all summer, so to putt like I did today was frustrating. The last three holes I tried something new on the green, and I was able to make three straight putts. ... I figured it out, but like I said, not until I already had played 15 holes.
"I was in the group that had the guys that finished first and second overall. They were really good, and I love playing with kids that are good. I just wish I could have played better within my group."
Ottawa is now off until next Wednesday when it will host Rochelle at Deer Park Country Club.