In the past four years as one of the most dominating programs in the state, Althoff has been to the Class 2A State Golf Tournament three times and won back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012.
During that time, the Crusaders have won South Seven Conference as well as IHSA regional and sectional titles. They have also had individual all-state players in Austin Von Alst, Sam Lidisky, Michael Johnson and Mathew McCarthy during that time period.
And last but not least, the Crusaders have the ‘ooh’ factor back. The ‘ooh’ factor?
“A lot of kids don’t have this time frame but when Rita Menke was coaching and winning state titles at Belleville East and you found out they were on those teams, people would go ‘ooh.’’’ Althoff golf coach Dan Polites said. “It was the same thing if people found out you wrestled at Granite City, played volleyball at Mater Dei or played football for Bob Shannon at East St. Louis or ran on the track and field teams for Nino Fennoy at (East St. Louis) Lincoln. People would go ‘ooh,’ because if was a big deal to be on those teams.’’
Armed with all six players from a team which placed 11th in the state finals a year ago, Polites has a group of players which may be hearing ‘ooh’ by the time the end of the season rolls around in mid-October.
Led by four-year starters McCarthy and Connor Eghigian, Althoff will get an early look at where it stands against some of the metro-east area’s top programs early in the ‘15 season. Althoff won the South Seven Conference Preview Tournament on Monday, will play in the Haas-Goalby Cup on Thursday and the St. Clair County Tournament early next week.
But if its qualifying scores last week are any indication, Althoff could be among the state’s best.
“Of course this isn’t live competition in matches or tournaments that we’re playing, but the first three days of qualifying last week we went out and shot 298, 300 and 295 at Stonewolf. And if we threw one of our top four scores out and counted our fifth, our score wouldn’t have been much higher,’’ Polites said. “I watched this happen all summer. Some of these kids are shooting three to five shots better than what they did last season. That’s amazing. But these kids have worked hard.”
“They are determined to get back to the state finals and play better than they did a year ago.’’
Seventh in the state finals a year ago, McCarthy is one of the early season favorites to win the individual state championship after another superb summer of national level tournaments. Eghigian will be the Crusaders No. 2 player and like McCarthy is capable of shooting rounds of par or better each time he steps on the course.
The difference in the 3015 Crusaders is where Carson VonAlst, Dylan Davidson, Michael Cook and Scott Semko have taken between three and five strokes off their scores from a year ago.
“We were in sixth place after the first day at state a year ago then didn’t play very well the second day and ended up in 11th place. They are determined to go back and show people they are a better team then what they played,’’ Polites said. “One of the good things about having six good players is that I think it takes a lot of the pressure off because the team realizes that when they have an ‘off’ day, that somebody has their backs. We have six players who can shoot under 80 every time we step on the course.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.