CAHOKIA — If there is one golf course that Justin Robinson knows like the back of his hand it's the Prairies of Cahokia.
Currently a senior at Lindenwood University-Belleville, Robinson has worked at the course since he was 15 and when he does find time in his busy schedule for a quick nine holes, scores well under par and in the low 30's are fairly common.
And so when Robinson showed up at the Prairies on Aug. 25 for the 18-hole final of the Thursday Night League, Robinson made a prediction.
"I told my boss that I was going to break the course record of 63," Robinson said. "His response was simply, 'good I hope you do.'"
Robinson did just that. Playing inspired golf after some recent tips from PGA teaching professionals Dan Polites at the Practice Tee and Mikal Guffey at Grand Marais Golf Course, the 24-year-old Robinson fired a 9-under par 62, breaking the old mark of 63. That old mark was set four years ago by good friend Schooner Fitzgerald.
"I rarely get to play 18 holes out there. I'm either working or I've got school. I'll sneak out and play a few holes and there have been times when I've shot four under on the front 9 or five-under on the back 9," Robinson said. "I was looking forward to it. I had been working alot on my game over the summer with coach (Dan) Polites. He has helped me tremendously on my mental game and short game and I have also worked with Mikal Guffey at Grand Marais.''
An 2007 graduate of Gibault, Robinson also has a history of playing well in the Thursday Night League championship. Robinson shot 64 at the 2012 finals.
But on this day, Robinson had everything going.
"That day, my short game was just on fire. I was hitting everything inside 10 feet and making most of them. The guys I was playing with were excited for me and it was just a lot of fun," Robinson said. "I know it's not a very long golf course. But you've still got to hit in the hole.''
The Prairies was playing at just shy of 6,000 yards that day.
Robinson began his round on the par 71 Prairies layout on the 17th hole and made the turn in five-under par. By the time he had played 15 holes, Robinson had tied the record at 8-under par with an eight-foot birdie putt on the par 4 13th hole.
With five holes left to get the record, Robinson had one thought.
"At that point, it's more like don't blow it like I usually do,'' Robinson said. "I figured 16 would be my best birdie chance.''
Robinson didn't need that long. Playing to the middle of the green on the 14th hole, Robinson had a 40-foot birdie putt that he calmly rolled in to get to 9-under par.
But it wasn't over yet. Robinson lipped out a 10-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole, then began No. 16 -- his final hole of the day -- by hitting his worst drive.
"It was playing about 330 yards and I pulled my drive into the trees. All I could was chip out and had about 110 yards for my third shot,'' Robinson sad. "I hit it up to about four feet and made my putt. It was a relief.''
Robinson is no stranger to shooting low scores. After graduating from Gibault, Robinson played one year at Southwestern Illinois College under coach Gary Bidwell. After taking a couple of years off, Robinson has played at LU-Belleville, where he finished fifth in the USCAA National Championships as a sophomore and then earned a second straight All-American season when he placed third in the national finals last year for the Lynx.
Robinson and the Lynx will play in the 2013 national finals next month at Penn State University at University Park, Pa.
"My goal is to win it this year," Robinson said. "The last two years I've had one good round and one average round. I want to shoot two good rounds, maybe in the 60's and see where that takes me."
After graduating in May, Robinson plans to pursue a career in golf.
"I'm probably going to get certified so I can teach,'' Robinson said. "I think everybody thinks about maybe turning professional, including me. I don't want to be one of those guys who when he's 40 is wondering 'what if.' "My parents moved to Florida and so I'm thinking about taking a year, moving down there and working on my game like I never have before and seeing where that takes me."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org