It was on an October weekend that Althoff’s Dylan Davidson, Mascoutah’s Alex Gorman and Edwardsville’s Ben Tyrrell put themselves among the elite players in the state.
Competing in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Tournament at Weibring Golf Course in Normal, Davidson and Gorman finished with 36 hole totals of 154 and in a tie for 14th place. Tyrrell’s 149 placed him seventh in the Class 3A tournament at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.
Their respective performances earned each a share of Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year honors.
The 2016 season was one of transition for 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 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.”
The Class 2A Mount Vernon Regional Tournament champion, Davidson tuned up for his junior season by being named the Gateway PGA Junior Player of the Year and qualifying 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.
Althoff coach Dan Polites has watched Davidson and worked with the Crusaders standout for several years.
“I knew he was going to have a great year. Winning the Gateway PGA Player of the Year, he had a tremendous summer,” Polites said. “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 in position to earn a top 10 medal as late in the second round, and 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.
Gorman is an excellent all-around athlete who competed in several sports growing up. When the time came to choose one, the Mascoutah High School senior decided to focus on golf.
“I was hoping that if I worked hard and spent a lot of time at it, that maybe I could become good enough to maybe get a college scholarship,” he said.
Gorman will be attending McKendree University next year.
A four-year letterman for coach John Hinkle’s Mississippi Valley Conference champion team, Gorman was at his best during the 2016 season. The Indians’ No. 1 player was a medalist six times in dual matches where he averaged 38.4 per nine holes.
After winning the MVC individual championship when he shot 75 at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River, Gorman won the final regular season event, capturing the Cardinal Creek Classic at Scott Air Force Base with another 75. That success spilled over to the regional, where he shot a 73 to finish second, then played well enough to advance from the Mattoon Sectional with an 82.
“The goals were of course to play well and have fun my senior year. But I really wanted to make it to the state tournament,” Gorman said. “I just wanted to keep getting better each day.”
Competing at the Class 2A state finals, Gorman shot rounds of 77 both days to finish at 154 for the tournament.
“The first time I had ever seen (Weibring) Golf Course in Normal was the first practice day. I like the course. It was set up well for my game,” Gorman said. “It’s pretty wide open, so I could take out my driver and let it go. A couple of times I was within 50 to 60 yards of the green. That’s a wedge.”
The success enjoyed by Gorman comes as no surprise to Hinkle, who saw his top player develop into one of the state’s best during the past two years.
“Alex has worked as hard as any golfer that I have had in our program over the last 17 years,” Hinkle said. “His mental skills and confidence are exceeded only by his ability to hit any shot that is called for. His practice effort has allowed him to know his swing so well that he rarely makes the same mistake twice.”
Tyrrell, the Edwardsville junior, spends most of his winter golf season traveling throughout the southern and western United States playing in tournaments against the best junior players in the nation.
To say that Ben Tyrrell was ready when the 2016 season started would be putting it mildly.
Wasting little time in taking over as the Tigers’ top player following the graduation of 2015 Class 3A state champion Justin Hemings, Tyrrell shot under par rounds of 66 at the Alton Tee-Off Classic and 67 at the Madison County Championship at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River.
“When I practice, I spend about 75 to 80 percent of the time chipping and putting, and the other 20 to 25 percent I spend on the range. Except when it’s cold out, and then I’m hitting balls into the net,” Tyrrell said. “Early in the year I was making a lot pf putts which accounted for the under-par scores. Later in the year I wasn’t making as many putts and the scores went up a little.”
But not by much.
For the season, Tyrrell finished with a nine-hole scoring average of 36.1 and an 18-hole mark of 72.4. His low round of the season was a 64 at the St. Victor Classic, and he had five rounds of under 70. But showing the consistency of a champion, Tyrrell didn’t have a single (nine-hole) round of 40 or above and no 18-hole score of over 80.
He then put the finishing touch on his brilliant junior season with rounds of 73 and 76 at the Class 3A State Golf Tournament. His 149 36-hole score was seven strokes behind state champion Brendan O’Reilly of Hinsdale Central, but good enough to finish in a tie for seventh place.
Tyrrell was just one of several outstanding players on an Edwardsville team which would go on to place sixth in the Class 3A state finals. The Tigers made coach Adam Tyler’s first at Edwardsville a good one.
“Ths scores he put up this year ... 66, 67, 64, 69 ... those are scores that people who have been around the Edwardsville golf program for a long time can’t recall seeing for several years and he is doing it as a junior,” Tyler said. “ Ben just had a phenomenal year.”
Long and accurate off the tee, Tyrrell possesses a soft touch around the greens.
“I just want to keep improving. In this sport you can always do things to make yourself a better,” he said.