In what was his final chance, Highland High School senior Brode Portell delivered in the clutch to earn the opportunity to compete on the final two days of the season as one of the best golfers in the state.
With the cut to advance out of the sectional sitting at 77, Portell stepped up and fired a 5-over-par 76 to tie four other golfers and earn top-10 honors in a field of 112 players at Tuesday’s IHSA Class 2A West Frankfort Sectional. Portell also qualifies for this weekend’s IHSA Class 2A Boys State Golf Tournament, to be held at the Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University in Normal.
At the state tournament, Portell tees off for his first round at the 10th tee at 10:09 a.m. on Friday.
“It is a huge accomplishment,” Portell said of qualifying for state. “One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to make it to state because I did not make it out of sectionals last year. I’m happy I could put together a solid round and move on with my last shot here as a senior. It feels amazing and I’m proud of myself and my team for making it this far. I knew going in it was a tough sectional and I needed to play well in order to have a chance. I am humbled to make the cut for the state tournament. I am going to go enjoy the atmosphere of it and try to put together a solid round and see how it plays out.”
Centralia senior Jace Swartzlander was the overall individual sectional champion after carding a sterling round of 2-under 69.
Also shooting under par at the sectional were Carterville senior Jacob Eklund (69) and Mount Vernon sophomore Zach Williams (70).
The only other player to turn in a score below Portell’s 76 was Civic Memorial senior Alec Hilliard (75).
Greenville senior Gage Brauns was one of the four golfers to tie Portell with a round of 76.
“This sectional consisted of a great deal of very talented golfers,” Highland coach Brent James said. “I knew it would take an exceptional round to get out and Brode provided exactly that. The cut to get out of the sectional was a 77. He offered a clutch senior performance, playing some of the best golf I have seen from him all season. He even drained a lengthy putt on his 18th hole to finalize the 76.”
As a team, the Bulldogs finished last in the 12-team sectional with a team score of 350.
Also scoring for Highland were sophomore Stephen Schniers (89), senior Will Michael (92), and sophomore Ben Brauns (93).
“The course conditions were tough with very fast greens and lots of wind,” James said. “It is always tough to qualify for a sectional tournament as a team, so with a team consisting of three sophomores, we were very proud of the accomplishment and the way the team season ended. We look forward to what the future brings for this young squad.”
The three teams that qualified for the state tournament were sectional champion Althoff (313), Centralia (318) and Alton Marquette (322).