Three of the Southland’s blue-blooded golf programs are headed back to the state finals.
Providence and Homewood-Flossmoor booked tickets to the Class 3A event. Lemont carries the torch in Class AA after a two-year absence while playing in the larger division.
“Every year since (the IHSA) switched to three classes, we’ve made it to state when we’ve been in AA,” Lemont coach Mark Hollatz said.
Even at the beginning of the year, Hollatz thought his team was primed to advance for the seventh time since 2005.
“The kids found out in the summer that we’d be AA, and knowing full well we could possibly advance to the state finals, it gives a little carrot out there for something to shoot for,” Hollatz said. “Realistically, I knew we probably couldn’t compete in 3A with the abundance of teams.”
Matt Groebe, the South Suburban Blue champion, and Joe Pavlovic have led the charge. The Indians have also received a boost from freshman Raymond Sullivan.
Hollatz was most proud of the way the Indians bounced back after posting “one of the worst scores we’ve ever had as a team” since he’s been head coach.
“I think the best part is that every time we faced Illiana Christian or Nazareth, they beat us,” Hollatz said. “It was nice that we beat them (at sectionals) when it really mattered. You always want your team playing its best at this time of the season.”
Advice from a seasoned veteran
Homewood-Flossmoor is headed for its third trip to state since 2007 while Providence makes its fifth in seven years.
Still, Jack Mulligan is the only player on H-F with state finals experience. Mulligan, a junior, advanced individually the previous two seasons.
“I think staying within yourself at The Den (in Bloomington) is important — especially in the fall — because the course can get to you quickly,” Mulligan said. “There are a lot of tough holes and it’s windy and cold.”
Mulligan finished 49th in state as a sophomore. He’ll be joined by teammates Jack Calderone, Preston Genett, Kevin Steiner, Brent Hughes and Ted Wick.
Is the pressure off Providence?
Providence four-year starter Mickey Brick believes the Celtics, the top team in the Southland all season, have some weight off their shoulders after winning sectionals with a 312, tied for their worst score of the year.
“I don’t think were favorites, so I don’t think there’s any pressure on us,” Brick said. “I think we can win. I know we can win. So why not us?”
Lemont’s Hollatz agrees.
“Providence could win the state final,” Hollatz said. “It’s probably the strongest teams they’ve had — maybe ever.”
Providence coach John Platt, the 2011 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year, wants his team to enjoy the state experience.
“Now that we’re down there, we just have to have fun and play smart,” Platt said after sectionals.
Providence brings a talented lineup starring Brick, Ricky Costello, Will McCabe, Kevin McEneany and brothers Dom and Mike Cascino.
Where and when: Friday and Saturday, The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.
Team qualifiers: Providence and Homewood-Flossmoor
Individual qualifiers: Anthony Bolden, Lincoln-Way Central, Jr.; Brett Katalinic, Sandburg, Jr.; Scott Mueller, Lincoln-Way Central, Sr.; Luke Trent, Lockport, Sr.; Austin Wojtczak, Sandburg, Sr.
Where and when: Friday and Saturday, Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University in Normal.
Team qualifier: Lemont
Individual qualifiers: John Hayes, Illiana Christian, Jr.; Steven Massey, Illiana Christian, Sr.; Jordan Velez, St. Laurence, Sr.
Where and when: Friday and Saturday, Prairie Vista in Bloomington
Team qualifier: Beecher