Heading into Monday’s loaded Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional at Prairie Bluff, Benet knew it would have to shoot its best round of the year to have a chance to return to the state meet.
The Redwings did their part, shooting a 298. But the field was so good that it wasn’t enough to get out as a team, as they finished fifth. Hinsdale Central won the tournament with a sparkling 284, while York (293), Lyons (294) and even Wheaton Warrenville South (296) finished ahead of Benet.
“We shot one of our best scores of the year, and that’s all you could really ask of the kids, hope that we’re playing our best at the end of the season,” first-year coach Marty Gaughan said. “You want all the kids to do well, but for two of our seniors to move on, that’s a nice thing for them.”
Gaughan is referring to seniors George Carroll and Ben Johnson, who will appear at the Class 3A state meet at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington this weekend.
On a team with plenty of youth to go with experience, it was the two seniors that found their way out of the toughest sectional in the state.
Johnson shot a 72 Monday to advance, on a day when a score over 74 meant the end of the season. Carroll shot a 73.
“I think as a team we knew how tough the competition was and we had to play our best round to get out,” Johnson said. “George and I played really well. The rest of the team was strong. We did what we set out to do, play the best we have all season, and we did.”
Johnson finished tied for 86th at state last year, which did not sit well with him. So for the first time, he started working with a coach in the offseason. The results have him feeling as confident and comfortable as ever.
“My dad taught me how to play,” Johnson said. “We didn’t know about the mechanics. My summer and my high school season have been a lot better. I don’t have to worry about my swing as much anymore. This is the most confident I’ve felt going into any tournament ever.”
Johnson shot a 36-hole total of 147 to qualify for match play at the Chick Evans Junior Amateur over the summer. That is the score he’s hoping to reach, or better, at state.
Gaughan said that Carroll has been up and down this year, but the way he was playing leading up to Monday gave him confidence that he would have a big day, especially after a practice round Saturday at Prairie Bluff.
“The last two weeks, his practice rounds have even been good,” Gaughan said. “We played there Saturday and he had a chance for a 69.”