Carmel senior golfer Jackson Wietecha could only watch helplessly as his tee shot on the opening hole of the Class 3A Zion-Benton Regional sailed wide right and out of bounds.
Instead of becoming rattled, Wietecha focused on what he could control — his next shot, followed by the one after. By the time all his shots were totaled, his 78 earned him a spot in a four-way playoff for individual medalist honors Oct. 8.
On the third playoff hole, Wietecha made bogey and finished second to Mundelein’s Derek Parola. While he would have loved to win, Wietecha was more focused on his comeback from a triple bogey on the opening hole followed by a string of bogeys. Wietecha was 6 over through seven holes and played his final 11 holes in 1 over.
“I was proud at the way I was able to block out a bad start,” he said.
So was Corsairs coach Jay Hoffmann.
“It was pretty neat to see him fight back and get into that playoff,” Hoffmann said. “He has a lot of confidence in his game and he knows he can make birdies. A couple of birdies can sure help your scorecard pretty quickly.”
Wietecha did not advance to state out of Monday’s Huntley Sectional, though senior teammate Jared Moore did punch his individual ticket by shooting 73. Carmel shot 313 as a team to miss the cut by six.
In the regional round at Shepherd’s Crook, Wietecha’s birdie at the eighth, a tough par 4, served as a catalyst for the rest of his round.
“It was a tough pin placement and a lot of kids were doubling it,” Hoffmann said. “That gave him some momentum as he made the turn to the back nine.”
Wietecha secured his birdie with a 35-foot putt.
“It had some pace on it but it was center of the cup,” Wietecha said.
Although he did not prevail in the playoff, he said it was a great experience playing in front of a large gallery.
“It was pretty cool to play in front of my team and all the other coaches and teams,” he said. “I was proud of how I handled the pressure and I can draw from that in the future.”
Wietecha’s younger brother, Carter, who shot an 84, enjoyed watching his brother thrive in the playoff environment. His older brother is used to playing well on big stages. As a sophomore, he placed eighth in the state; his final round of 74 was the second-best score that day.
“We’ve been able to spend a lot more time together this season,” Carter Wietecha said. “It’s relaxing to talk before the round and get into the right mindset. It also puts it in perspective when I see him out there. No matter how good or bad a round is going, we’re out there playing a sport that we really enjoy.”
To prepare for his senior season, Wietecha spent a great deal of time working on his game from 125 yards and in.
“I’m able to get up and down (more) around the green,” he said. “That’s been huge for my game.”