After suffering through some growing pains with a freshman heavy lineup a year ago, Althoff golf coach Dan Polites knew the Crusaders could be one of the top teams in the metro-east heading into the 2017 season.
That is if they “continued to get better quickly.”
Fresh off a title at the Class 2A Centralia Regional last week, the Crusaders will battle 11 of the top teams in central and Southern Illinois on Monday at the Salem Sectional at Salem Country Club. At stake is a trip to the Class 2A State Golf Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.
After losing the South Seven Conference Tournament to Centralia a week ago, the Crusaders posted a score of 317 at Greenview Golf Course last week to post an 18-stroke win over that same Centralia team and give themselves plenty of momentum heading into Salem.
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“We knew last season when we had the five freshmen that we would go through some growing pain and we did. But we also knew that the experience those players got would help us as we went forward. So we came up with our motto, which was to get better quickly.” Polites said. “We had (Dylan) Davidson coming back for his senior year and we had a top freshman in Avery (Irwin) coming in to go with a strong group of sophomores.
“They all worked hard on their games during the summer and because of that we’re having a successful season.”
Irwin fired a 77 while sophomore Jack Bruening and Davidson added 79s to lead Althoff to the regional title, while sophomores Connor Wilson (82) and Payton Whitehead (86) along with freshman George Orlet (87) also had solid rounds.
On Monday at Salem Country Club, the Crusaders will be pushed by Centralia once again along with perennial state powers Quincy Notre Dame and Alton Marquette. The top three teams advance to the Class 2A State Tournament.
“The one thing is that we’ve seen Salem Country Club in the postseason in the past. We just have to play consistent golf. Not make any big numbers and hopefully put some good numbers on the scoreboard,” Polites said. “I think it’s a six team battle for three spots in the state tournament. I know (Quincy) Notre Dame is very strong and Marquette won their regional and have several good players.
“I like our chances if we play like we can. I would take a team score right now of 310-315 and take our chances of getting out.”
The Salem Sectional is just one of five of which local high school girls and boys are competing Monday.
Other Sectionals involving local teams are taking place at:
Class A Boys: Governors Run Golf Course in Carlyle
Class 3A Boys: Balmoral Woods Golf Course in Crete
Class A Girls: Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton
Class AA Girls: Panther Creek Golf Course in Springfield