DIXON – A rock-hard Timber Creek Country Club gave golfers fits at Tuesday’s Class 2A Dixon Regional.
Luckily for Sterling, Andrew Blackburn was rock solid, and he guided the Golden Warriors to a second consecutive regional title. They won a year ago in Sycamore.
Blackburn earned medalist honors with a 2-over-par 73, and Sterling finished with a 323 team total, one fewer than runner-up Ottawa. Princeton (348) finished third, and those three teams qualified for the Belvidere Sectional on Monday at Timber Pointe Golf Course in Poplar Grove.
There were also 10 individual qualifiers, including three from Oregon (Ben Gardner, Mitchell Nehrkorn and Brian Ostrander), two from Rock Falls (Aaron Frank and Logan White) and one from Dixon (Dan Pultorak).
Blackburn rolled in a 5-footer for birdie on the par-4 18th hole, while playing partner Lane Barbier of Ottawa hit a tree with his approach on his way to a bogey. The two-stroke swing proved to be the difference in which team earned the regional plaque.
“I figured it was tight,” said Blackburn, who repeated as regional medalist. “I didn’t hear any scores, but Ottawa got us three times this year when we played them. I knew I had to do my job. Luckily, we pulled through.”
Zach Rehmert (80), Ryan Hurley (84) and Trevor Sisson (86) had the other counting scores for Sterling. Austin Cook (87) and Kyle Sinn (101) rounded out the lineup.
The talk outside the clubhouse after the tourney was about the difficulty of the course, especially the hardness of the ground that produced a lot of run on shots. Wayward shots often ran into more trouble, or even out of bounds, but Blackburn thought it was a fair test.
“The course was tough,” he said, “but if you played it below the hole, the way it was meant to be played, it was doable.”
Oregon and Rock Falls both had hopes of advancing as a team, but came up short.
The Hawks, paired with Sterling and Ottawa in the premier groupings, stumbled to a 355 team total in their first year in 2A. Only Nehrkorn (88) played to his average, while Ben Gardner (87) and Brian Ostrander (89) also advanced to sectional.
Ostrander, who advanced on the number (89) that proved to be the cutoff score, averaged 39 strokes per nine in the regular season. Teammate Lane Hawkins, the Hawks’ next-best player with a 40 average, was undone by an 11 on the par-5 16th hole and came in with 91.
“I think Ottawa, Sterling, Princeton, Rock Falls, Princeton, us, we were all looking to shoot in the 320s,” Oregon coach Jim Spratt said, “but only Sterling and Ottawa pulled it off. It was tough conditions for a lot of people out there.”
Rock Falls coach Tom Frank had high hopes for his team, but his two top players, Andrew Tichler and Trace Hippen, struggled mightily.
Tichler, runner-up last week in the Big Northern Tournament with a 74 at Timber Pointe, finished with a 91, more than 13 strokes above his average. Hippen came in with 94, 10 shots above his.
“We had a goal for the third spot today, because that was going to be up for grabs,” Frank said. “A team score of 330 was what we wanted, and obviously weren’t very close to. We just didn’t play well today. The course was very hard, but it was that way for everyone.”
The Rockets didn’t go away empty-handed, however. Aaron Frank moved on with an 87, while White squeezed in with an 89. Both were under their season averages.
“I was hoping to go with at least one teammate,” Aaron Frank said. “Now that Logan made it, it makes it a lot better. Tichler, coming off a 74 [at conference], he’s been playing good this whole year. He was just off today.”
The final area qualifier was Pultorak, who tied for fourth overall with a 79. He lost a one-hole playoff to Ottawa’s Barbier for the fourth-place medal.
Ryan Dixon (95), John Brechon (99) were next for the Dukes, with Cord Schroeder and Austin Thomas each coming in at 103.
Top 3 teams 1. Sterling 323; 2. Ottawa 324; 3. Princeton 348 Local sectional qualifiers Oregon: Ben Gardner, Mitchell Nehrkorn, Brian Ostrander Rock Falls: Aaron Frank, Logan White Dixon: Dan Pultorak