The 2016 season was one of transition for Dylan Davidson, who went from being the youngest player on the team the previous year to being the leader on the Crusaders’ freshman-dominated roster this fall.
It was a role the somewhat-reserved Althoff junior wasn’t completely comfortable with, but one he accepted.
“We were young and I remember the first couple of tournaments I could tell that the freshmen were nervous,” Davidson said. “I just tried to tell them to relax and have fun. After the first couple of weeks, we settled in and everything was fine. We have a chance to be real strong next year.”
It was on an October weekend at Weibring Golf Course in Normal when Davidson and Mascoutah’s Alex Gorman put themselves among the elite players in the state. Competing in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Tournament, both players finished with 36 hole totals of 154.
Those scores were well behind champion Luke Armbrust of (Wheaton) St. Francis who finished with a score of 147, but good enough for Gorman and Davidson to finish tied for 14th.
That finish earned Gorman and Davidson a share of the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year honor. They share the accolades with Edwardsville High School Ben Tyrrell who tied for seventh place in the Class 3A State Tournament which was held at the Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.
Davidson was strong this year for the Crusaders. The Class 2A Mount Vernon Regional Tournament champion, Davidson tuned up for his junior season with just a sensational summer when he won the honor as the Gateway PGA Junior Player of the Year and qualified to compete in the Junior PGA National championship in Rhode Island in August.
Partly because of his hectic tournament schedule, Davidson got off to a bit of a slow start in his high school season. But it didn’t last long.
“The first part wasn’t what I wanted. I had just gotten back from Rhode Island and the Junior Championship when the (high school) season was starting and I just didn’t play well. The last part and in the postseason I played much better,” Davidson said. “It was a good year. I wish I would have played the last four holes at the state tournament a little better. It would have been nice to finish in the top 10 at state. But to finish tied for 14th, that’s pretty good.”
Davidson, who averaged right at 38 for nine holes, was at his best in the state tournament series. Davidson shot 69 to win the Class 2A Regional at Green Hills Golf Course in Mount Vernon. He then shot 74 at the Mattoon Sectional.
“I had played Green Hills a few times. My freshman year I remember we played a tournament there and I played well,” Davidson said. “The sectional at Mattoon was on the toughest greens we played on all season. There were a lot of three and four-putt greens that day. I think I only had one. The key was keeping the ball below the hole. I did that pretty well.”
Althoff coach Dan Polites has watched Davidson and worked with the Crusaders standout for several years.
“For someone of his stature, Dylan just hits it so far. He’s so long off the tee,” Polites said. “On one hole at the state tournament he hit a drive then hit his A plus approach shot to two feet. We’re walking up the fairway and I ask him how far the drive was. He said it was 307 yards. Plus his course management skills have improved so much.
“I knew he was going to have a great year. Winning the Gateway PGA Player of the Year, he had a tremendous summer. Dylan got off to kind of a slow start, but I knew that by the end of the year, he would be ready. The bigger the tournament, the better he plays.”
Davidson was at his best at the state tournament. Rounds of 78 and 76 put him position to earn a top 10 medal as late in the second round, Davidson found himself tied for fourth place. But back-to-back double bogies ended the dream.
“I was a little unlucky on a couple of holes coming in. That was disappointing.” Davidson said.
Davidson hopes to play college golf when he graduates in 2018. He is looking at several schools including Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.