The consensus No. 1 high school golfer in the metro-east, Edwardsville senior Justin Hemings stood just off the patio at Stonewolf Golf Club on Thursday evening holding a large gold trophy.
There was nothing written on the trophy. But it didn’t matter.
Playing in a Ryder Cup format match against perennial Class 2A state power Althoff, the Tigers claimed a 5 1/2 -1/2 win.
And Hemings, like the rest of the Tigers eight-man team, had the look of a champion.
“I thought it was great. It was something different and I really enjoy match-play competition,” Hemings said. “The one thing that match play does is that it forces you to concentrate on every hole. I mean, you don’t want to do it as a player, but you can make a 10 on a hole and still be just one down.”
Five days after a remarkable performance where he won the Mattoon Invitational with rounds of 66 and 73, Hemings set the tone with a 3 & 2 win over Althoff senior Mathew McCarthy and the rest of the Tigers followed suit.
The credit for the Ryder Cup style match goes to Edwardsville coach Dene Schickedanz, who approached Althoff coach Dan Polites with the idea earlier this year.
After both coaches agreed, the stage was set for two of the top programs in Southern Illinois to meet on one of the more challenging courses in the St. Louis area at Stonewolf.
“I just thought it would be fun to do something different and break up the season a little bit,’’ Schickedanz said. “Match play is always fun and I know the kids really enjoyed themselves out there today. The wind kicked up a little bit this afternoon and it was tough out there. But the course was great.
“You know if you look at the final score, you would think this was a lopsided match. But with just a few holes left in each match, the scores were tight. We were just fortunate to come out with a win. More importantly, the sportsmanship shown by both teams today was just outstanding. It was a great day of golf.’’
The Tigers also got wins in singles from Ben Tyrell, who defeated Althoff sophomore Dylan Davidson 4 & 2, and Tanner White, who edged Althoff senior Carson VonAlst 2 & 1.
Althoff garnered its only 1/2 point when senior Scott Semko earned a draw with heralded Tigers freshman Zach Trimpe. Semko was 1-down heading into the final hole, but made a par while Trimple had a bogey.
The Tigers won both best ball matches 3 & 2. Luke Babington and Spencer Patterson edged the Crusaders’ Michael Cook and Connor Eghigian, while Cole Ambuehl and Jack Kohlmeier defeated Garrett Hurst and Brenden Frame.
But for Polites, a longtime top PGA teaching professional and coach who has guided Althoff to a pair of Class 2A state titles, the final score was secondary.
“When a player like Garrett Hurst comes up and tells you that this was the most fun he’s ever had on a golf course, that says it all right there,’’ Polites said. “Watching my eight players walk up the last fairway together in a show of team unity, that was a great moment. I think sometimes winning isn’t the most important thing. There are other things like showing good sportsmanship and having fun playing this great sport, which are just as important.
“I thought we played well for the most part. Edwardsville has a great team and Dene (Schickedanz) is an excellent coach. But I’m proud of my team. It was a great day of golf.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.