Those who know him and those who have seen him swing a golf club during the past four years, knew it was just a matter of time before Justin Hemings, of Edwardsville, contended for or won the Class 3A state championship.
On Saturday at the Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington, Hemings ended his high school career as the best Class 3A player in the state.
Two strokes out of the lead entering the final 18 holes, Hemings used a razor-sharp putting stroke to record a 1-under par 71 and become the first state golf champion in Edwardsville High School history.
“I’m still having a hard time believing it,’’ Hemings said in a telephone interview. “Entering play two strokes down today, I felt like I was in a good position and I just concentrated on playing good solid golf coming in. I made some birdies today, but my putting was just great all weekend. I made a lot of big par-saving putts all weekend.’’
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Hemings, who nearly made eagle before tapping in for birdie on the 18th hole on Saturday, finished with a two-round total of 145, two strokes better then EthanFarnam of (Crystal Lake) Prairie Ridge to become the first male state champion from the metro-east since Althoff’s Tim Riley won the Class A state championship in 1996.
Led by Hemings effort, Edwardsville placed fourth in the team competition finishing with a score of 628, seven strokes in back of champion Hinsdale Central.
Ben Tyrrell added a 79 for Edwardsville on Saturday and finished with a two-day total of 156, while Luke Babington added an 80 to finish at 158.
But the story of the day, the tournament and the season was Hemings.
“I’m very pleased and proud of Justin. He is a young man with an awful lot of ability who has worked very hard to become just a tremendous player,” Tigers coach Dene Schickedanz said. “Watching the way he handled himself in the final few holes was very enjoyable. He stayed focused and just played very well down the stretch. He’s a very mature player. I’m also very proud of this golf team. They gave everything they had everytime they stepped on the golf course. That’s all I can ask.”
Belleville West senior David Crosby finished with a two round score of 167 and tied for 62nd place while O’Fallon junior Logan Harris placed 69th with a 169 score.
Class 2A boys
Althoff senior Matthew McCarthy shot a 76 and three Crusaders teammates recorded rounds of 82 or better on Saturday as the Crusaders placed sixth in the Class 2A state finals at Weibring Golf Course.
Althoff, which struggled on Friday, came back with a 318 total on Saturday and finished with a team score of 654.
McCarthy led the way with a two-round total of 154, while Dylan Davidson fired a 79 to finish at 166. Michael Cook (168) and Connor Eghigian had a two day total of 170.
McCarthy placed 18th in the individual competition. Highland’s Brode Portell tied for 75th place with a second straight 86 and finished with a 172 total.
Class 1A boys
One of the top small school players in southern Illinois all season, Mater Dei junior Tyler Goebel led the way for the Knights, who placed seventh in the Class 1A state finals which were held at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington.
Goebel shot 84 on Saturday to finish with a score of 161, while Andrew Rivera shot 87 to finish at 175 for the Knights. Nic Hollenkamp and Noah Gerdes rounded out Mater Dei’s top four players with scores of 178.
The Knights finished with a team score of 688.
Nashville got rounds of 77 from Tyler Wall and 79 from Riley Edwards on Saturday as the Hornets placed 11th in the 12-team tournament with a score of 731.
Gibault sophomore Zach Heet tied for 73rd place with a two-day total of 181.
Class 1A girls
Waterloo senior Haley Faus and the Althoff Crusaders moved the leaderboard on Saturday as they claimed top six finishes at the Class A Girls State Tournament at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur.
Faus put the finishing touches on a record-breaking career at Waterloo when she carded a 78 on Saturday to finish with a two-round total of 159 to place sixth overall.
Althoff, the defending state champions entering play on Friday, rebounded from a tough first day to place fifth. The Crusaders shot a 347 on Saturday to finish with a team score of 710
The big story of the day for the Crusaders was the play of senior Gabby David and sophomore Tia Kimbrough both of whom placed in the top 10 to earn all-state recognition.
David, flashing the form which has made her the premier player in southern Illinois for much of the season, fired a 78 on Saturday to place eighth with a score of 163. While Kimbrough shot 83 on Saturday to tie for 10th place at 165.
“It was a good day and I’m very proud of how the girls battled back to place fifth. A lot of very good teams didn’t even make it up here and so to finish fifth, I’ll take that,” Althoff coach Tim Gehrs said. “I’m very proud of both Gabby and Tia. I talked to Gabby on Friday and as disappointed as she was with how she played, she came back on Saturday and played like she has all year. To finish eighth in the state tournament in your senior year is a great way to go out. Tia showed this weekend she’s going to be a force the next two years.”
Mater Dei junior Mikaleen Lawrence placed 21st with at 173 total while Hope Rueter of Nashville finished with a two-day score of 212.
Class 2A Girls
Making its second ever trip to the state finals and first since 2002, the O’Fallon Panthers got solid rounds from sophomores Emily Marrs and Brooke Boatman on Saturday as they placed 12th in the 12-team event at Hickory POint Golf Course in Decatur.
Marrs shot 83 on Saturday to finish at 168 while Boatman shot 85 and had a 36-hole score of 180.
Triad’s Brianna Benardin fnished at 187 and tied for 90th place.