Men's golf: Homb wins third LHT title
BYRON – Mitchell Homb isn’t about to apologize for winning his second consecutive Lincoln Highway Golf Tournament and his third in four years.
That’s not to say he didn’t feel fortunate when then-leader Grant Goltz topped his ball into the veritable hayfield in front of the tee box on No. 18 on Sunday at PrairieView Golf Course.
Goltz carded a double-bogey. His Kishwaukee teammate Kyle Davis took a bogey. Mitchell Homb continued to make a living off pars and eked out a one-stroke victory over both of them with a 54-hole total of 222.
“I feel terrible when something like that happens,” Homb said of Goltz’s drive, “but what can you do? It always feels good to win. I would’ve liked to have made a putt in the last nine holes and kind of earn it a little bit. But that’s all right.”
“I haven’t topped the ball probably since I was 10 years old,” said Goltz, who took solace in Kish running away and hiding with the team title, +62 to the host club’s +31. “I’m not making excuses, but I probably shouldn’t have walked the whole time. I was starting to wear down toward the end – coming over the top of some balls.”
Goltz’s third shot – his second from 443 yards away – ended up alongside the driving range to the left of 18’s fairway and about 150 yards from the pin.
He pulled out a masterful approach to set up an 8-foot bogey putt.
Homb strode to the second cut of the green to take a practice swing and visualize how the green would behave. Then, from right of the fairway about 100 yards out, he hit an approach that sailed the bunker, landed about 5 feet into the putting surface and rolled to within 5 feet of the cup.
Goltz missed his bogey try from the back of the green, as it didn’t bite from left to right as much as he read it would.
Davis’ third-shot chip from the first cut left him a 5-footer. Both he and Homb two-putted, the latter having done just enough to not only survive the 54-hole marathon, but win it.
“Last year, I was going through some tough times and I played some of the best golf of my life to win,” Homb said. “But this one’s right there with it. I was struggling and keeping with it.”
He had fun while he struggled. Although he failed to card a birdie over his last 15 holes, he looked over to former Dixon golfer Cole Weaver after scrambling for par on No. 15 and said, “Two back with three to go. This is what dreams are made of.”
“At that point, it was just seeing somebody and making a joke,” said Homb, who shot a 2-over 38 on the final nine. “Did I really think I was playing good enough to win? Probably not. But it happens.”
Meanwhile, a nightmare was unfolding for Goltz, who led Homb by a stroke and Davis by three through Saturday’s first round and built a three-shot lead on Homb with six holes to play. He pulled his drive left on No. 16 and ended up with a bogey and then hit tee shot into the bunker left of the green on 17.
But he snapped out of it with a stellar shot out of the sand that scorched the right edge of the cup. He converted the resulting 3-footer to match Homb’s par. Davis, who notched an ace on the par-3 13th in the first nine of the day, struggled to get up and down and took a bogey on 17.
Kish’s sixth-flight golfer beat himself up hissing, “Hit it!” several times as his putts came up woefully short.
While he left a few red numbers on the putting surface, including an eagle try on No. 15, the entire group struggled with some relatively short knee-knockers.
For Goltz, the one that hurt most was his 4 ½-footer on 14.
“I thought that one could cost me, because I figured Mitch would keep playing pretty well or even play better.”
Homb stayed strong, thanks to playing hoops a few days a week and sprinkling in a walk or a run here or there. Not to mention he had high school hoops teammate Nate McCoy on the bag.
Goltz, on the other hand, carried his own clubs, and admitted it got particularly grueling when the sun burst forth in Sunday’s early afternoon.
“I wouldn’t carry my own clubs … not unless I had to,” said Homb. “It’s such a marathon out there – 54 holes over 2 days.”
Related: Column: Love on the links