Burlington Central’s boys golf team had high hopes last season, but when star junior Matt Weber was ruled ineligible by the IHSA for attending an out-of-state tournament during the season, the Rockets couldn’t recover.
“The boys played, but they just didn’t have the confidence,” Central coach Deb Twenhafel said. “To have him back again, they’ve got the mojo going now big time. It’s good to see. The team is really bonding together and playing well; this is good. He’s the confidence they needed. Everything is clicking better.”
Weber is back in the fold, and he was dominant in the season’s first week.
He was been the medalist in the first three tournaments he played including his 68 at the Geneva Invitational. That was part of the Rockets’ record-setting day as they shot a 298 to finish second in the 21-team event. That was seven shots better than the previous team record for lowest 18-hole score.
“Hopefully I can win a lot of titles and get the team going in the right direction,” Weber said. “In Class 2A, I think we have a good chance to make a run at a state title.”
Weber had an eventful offseason before making his return to the Rockets. He committed to Indiana University and then went on to play an extensive summer schedule.
He played the Memorial Junior in Columbus, Ohio, tied for 17th at the Western Junior in Indianapolis and played in the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions in Lancaster, Pa. He also made the cut at the Illinois Open, his first professional event. He wound up being the fourth lowest amateur in the field with his teammate, junior Andrew Sherman, on the bag.
“It was a great week,” Weber said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. There were a lot of teaching professionals out there and it was definitely a different vibe. It was definitely different playing against guys that are playing for their paycheck. It was special. It was nice to get out there and know what it feels like.”
Having Sherman on his bag is one of the examples of his leadership that has impressed Twenhafel.
“It’s great having Matt back,” Twenhafel said. “Not just because of how he plays, but just how he’s become such a leader. When he came back, our expectations were that we wanted him to be a leader as a senior. The boys have always looked up to him.”
Weber finished tied for eighth in Class 2A as a freshman and 13th as a sophomore before missing out on the state series last year. He is poised to aim for a top spot again this year.
But more importantly for the team, the Rockets are poised to make their second ever trip to state as a team. That’s good news to Twenhafel’s ears.
She plans on retiring after the 2014 season.
“To be real honest with you, I think we can do it, I really think we can,” Twenhafel said. “To bring a trophy home before I retire would be awfully sweet.”
AREA’S TOP 5 TEAMS
Burlington Central: One of the state’s top players, Matt Weber, returns to the fold this year. He has committed to Indiana. Weber is the lone senior. Andrew Sherman and Austin Niesel are the team’s top juniors.
Huntley: The Red Raiders have five players that were all-conference at some point in their careers, led by junior Trent Craig. Huntley has five seniors on the roster.
Larkin: The Royals are led by the junior Lenz twins, Jon and Dan. Coaches in the Upstate Eight River say that Larkin could be the surprise team in the league this year.
St. Charles East: The Saints finished fifth at sectionals last year but played well enough to make it to state. The top three teams in Class 3A advanced out of that sectional. Brad Riva, Kyle Jacobs, Connor McAdam and Luke Malloy lead a group that will try to get there this year.
St. Charles North: The North Stars are led by Raghav Cherala, a four-year varsity player and two-time Upstate Eight River Player of the Year. Seniors Matt Samuelson and Santino Salamone also return.
AREA’S TOP 25 PLAYERS
Gabe Askam, Jacobs Sr.
Geoff Beck, Hampshire Sr.
Chris Boyle, Jacobs Sr.
Tyler Brown, South Elgin Sr.
John Butzow, St. Edward Sr.
Raghav Cherala, St. Charles North Sr.
Gannon Cottone, Elgin Academy Sr.
Mike Coyne, Bartlett Jr.
Trent Craig, Huntley Jr.
Andrew Dylo, South Elgin Sr.
Eric Hamlin, Streamwood Sr.
Dan Lenz, Larkin Jr.
Jon Lenz, Larkin Jr.
Tommy Lucca, Genoa-Kingston Soph.
Michael Mattas, St. Edward Soph.
Connor McAdam, St. Charles East Sr.
Deven Meredith, South Elgin Sr.
Luke Molloy, St. Charles East Sr.
Austin Niesel, Burlington Central Jr.
Connor Rejman, Westminster Christian Sr.
Brad Riva, St. Charles East Sr.
Matt Samuelson, St. Charles North Sr.
Andrew Sherman, Burlington Central Jr.
Matt Weber, Burlington Central Sr.
Dan Winters, St. Edward Sr.