I’ve been fortunate to report on a lot of great high school golfers who’ve competed at area schools and it’s always exciting to see them go up against the best that Illinois has to offer.
We’ve had a rich history of high school golf in the Joliet area, dating back to the Joliet Catholic and Joliet Township teams that regularly were among the state’s best throughout much of the 1950s.
But of all great days involving local golfers at the state finals, this past Saturday likely was the best all-around performance for both girls and boys players.
For the first time, our area had the top two finishers in Class 3A for the boys and girls finals. It also was the first time that a girls and a boys team each collected a state trophy for a top-three finish in Class 3A.
In the Class 3A boys finals in Bloomington, Lockport sophomore Ben Sluzas edged Lincoln-Way Central sophomore Sean Curran by a 68-69 margin for the title in a competition that was reduced to one round of 18 holes on Saturday after rain postponed Friday’s play.
Sluzas became the first sophomore to win an large-school boys title in at least 26 years, while Curran joins three others who were sophomore or freshmen runners-up during that time. It’s the first state medal for each player, both of whom competed at state as freshmen.
As a bonus for coach Matt Eber’s Porters, they won their first state trophy since 2000, after shooting a 299 to finish one stroke in back of runner-up Stevenson and two strokes behind state champion Hinsdale Central.
In 2000, Porter Drew Pierson was the individual champion and coach Dave DeVol’s team also claimed third place. This is the third trophy for Lockport’s boys, who won their first in the spring of 1966, when they finished second under coach Bob Basarich.
The good news for Lockport is that while seniors John and Nolan Weis and Eric Gasienica graduate, sophomore VJ Greci, freshman Brody McCarthy and Sluzas should return.
In the girls Class 2A finals in Decatur, local athletes posted the top two finishes for the second time in the past three years.
Benet Academy senior Lauren Beaudreau, who’s from Lemont, edged Lincoln-Way Central senior Brianne Bolden, 140-141, for the championship. In 2016, Lincoln-Way Central’s Grace Curran nipped Beaudreau for the title by one stroke. Curran capped her career by rallying from a tie for 39th after Friday to finish in seventh place. Beaudreau, who didn’t compete in high school in 2017, also took fourth as a freshman.
This marks the third-straight year that both Bolden and Curran captured medals. Bolden was the runner-up the past two years and 10th as a sophomore, while Curran, who’s the sister of Sean, followed up on her 2016 title with a fifth place finish a year ago and seventh this year.
After finishing sixth in their first state trip in more than 30 years in 2017, coach Brian Shannon’s Knights shot a 624 to finish six strokes behind runner-up Barrington, while champion St. Charles North won with a 610 total.
While Bolden and Curran will be difficult to replace for the Knights, they return four players who also had experience with last year’s state team, juniors Maddie Pyle and Carly Schiene and sophomores Sydney Miron and Caitlyn Parrish.
Lincoln-Way Central became only the third girls team from the area to win a trophy in Class 3A. It joined Lockport’s 1987 team that took second and its 1986 team that finished in third place, both under coach Bill Jackson.