Boys golf state preview: Jake Casati helps Evanston make it to final weekend

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HOMER GLEN — Jake Casati’s season ended at the boys golf sectional tournament last season. 

After a quadruple bogey on the par-4 ninth hole Monday at Old Oak Country Club, the Evanston senior stood at 8 over. He said he couldn’t help but think back to last year at Winnetka Golf Club.

“Oh, man,” he said of needing 44 strokes to tour the front nine. “It wasn’t good.”

But Casati said he told himself to keep grinding away because he was playing for his team, too. 

Casati collected himself by the 13th hole and played the final six at 1 under to card an 81. The highlight of his round was his 6-foot birdie on the 18th green. 

In the battle for third at the Marist Sectional, Evanston’s 306 was one shot better than Loyola’s score and the Wildkits clinched the sectional’s final berth in this weekend’s Class 3A state tournament at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington. It is the program’s first trip to the state tournament since the 1959-60 school year.

“When I made my putt, everybody erupted around the green,” Casati said. “I was like, ‘Have you guys never seen a birdie before?’ But then I realized how big that putt was.

“(Monday) was an example of how every shot matters.” 

Casati wasn’t the only one who came through in the clutch on the final hole. 

In a span of less than an hour, junior Sam Knepper made par from off the green for a 78, senior Henry Gruger chipped in for birdie to post a 76 and senior Jackson Mihevc punctuated the dramatic performance with a par-saving putt from about 10 feet to shoot 71. 

“I can’t explain, really,” Casati said. “It means so much to me, especially being a senior and having missed out last year, but I know this means the world to (coach Jed Curtis).”

Luke Oberholtzer helps Glenbrook North make state

Luke Oberholtzer played on Glenbrook North’s varsity last season, but he rarely contributed to the team’s score. That’s no longer the case. The junior’s 6-over 77 at Monday’s sectional was a big reason why the Spartans finished first with a 293, which was eight shots better than New Trier.

“This year felt like the first time I was needed,” joked Oberholtzer, who carded two birdies on his round. “It does feel good to play well at a tournament like this.”

Junior Tyler Mulier, the team’s No. 6 player, shot a 79 to count in the team score. Senior Nick Hardy was the medalist with a 66, while senior Brian Ohr tied for third with a 71.

Glenbrook North coach Justin Gerbich said it’s players like Oberholtzer and Mulier who make the Spartans a complete team.

“We know Nick and Brian will probably shoot under par or close to it,” he said. “If we get those others guys in the 70s, we are a tough team to beat.”

New Trier boasts deep team

New Trier sophomore Nick Iserloth carded a 75 at the sectional tournament, which was good for a tie for sixth place. His score also helped the Trevians return to state.

New Trier took second to Glenbrook North with a 301.

“We have a lot of solid players on this team,” Iserloth said. “We have 12 guys who can shoot 75 or better. It’s that competition that makes you want to play better.

“We all push each other.”

Junior Will Connelly continued to go low, leading the Trevians with a 72. 

Junior Jack Junge, the co-defending state champion, contributed with a 76. Senior David Brandfonbrener rounded out the scoring with a 78.

Trying for the three-peat

North Shore Country Day will get an opportunity to win a third straight Class 1A state championship this weekend at Prairie Vista in Bloomington after winning the Byron Sectional on Monday with a 311. 

Junior Andrew Blechman, one of three players back from last year’s title lineup, was the medalist at Prairie View with a 74. Junior Sam Reategui and senior Will Skinner also are back.

Will Connelly

New Trier junior

For the second week in a row, Connelly turned in one of the best rounds in the Chicago area. After shooting a 73 and finishing second at the regional, the unsung Connelly posted a 1-over 72 to tie for fifth at the Marist Sectional.

Nick Hardy

Glenbrook North senior

It’s doubtful anybody would argue that Hardy is the favorite to capture the Class 3A state championship. He won the sectional at Old Oak Country Club by four strokes with a 5-under 66. Hardy now stands 37 under for the season. “My expectations are as high as everybody else’s,” he said.

Jackson Mihevc

Evanston senior

Most likely the fastest player around, Mihevc also is one of the best. Playing in the same group as Hardy at the Marist Sectional, Mihevc tied for third with an even-par 71.

Brian Ohr

Glenbrook North senior

Ohr hung with Hardy for most of the sectional before falling back, tying for third with an even-par 71. “If me and Brian go low, we definitely have a shot at winning it,” Hardy said. “This is our final chance.”

Orion Yamat

Maine East junior

Yamat picked the right time to shoot his best round of the season, firing a 1-under 70 at the Marist Sectional. Yamat, who made an eagle on the first hole, wasn’t noticeably excited even though he advanced to the state tournament for the first time. “I just try to play my game and keep myself together,” he said. “Nothing really affects me.”

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