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Reaching a goal: Sterling's Blackburn to play golf at Western Illinois

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:22 p.m. CDT
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Sterling's Andrew Blackburn tees off during a meet last fall. The senior signed Wednesday to play golf at Western Illinois University.

Andrew Blackburn's goal when he entered Sterling High School was to play golf at a Division I university.

That goal became a reality on Wednesday when Blackburn signed a national letter of intent to play golf at Western Illinois University in Macomb. He received a full scholarship, and plans to major in either business or finance.

Northern Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan were the other schools on Blackburn's radar, but in the end, he decided to become a Leatherneck. Western Illinois is a member of the Summitt League, and will play its conference tournament next week in Keller, Texas.

"Western offered a more guaranteed spot to play right away," Blackburn said. "Their coach [Mel Blasi] said if I played like I had been playing, I'd be at No. 2 or No. 3 right away. At Northern, it didn't sound like I'd have that chance, and Wesleyan, they're a Division III school, and I didn't like that. Plus, Wesleyan was a lot more expensive.

"Western was just the right place for me."

Blackburn made an unofficial visit to the WIU campus in November. He played nine holes at the 18-hole Harry Mussatto Golf Course, and found it challenging.

"I think I lost four balls in nine holes," he said.

Blackburn also met with Blasi, a standout golfer for the Leathernecks in the late 1980s who has been the coach at his alma mater since 2000.

"He's a really nice guy," Blackburn said. "You can tell he really cares a lot about the program."

In January, Blackburn returned to Macomb for an official visit. He toured the WIU campus and met with members of the golf team. That sealed the deal.

"I felt like I fit right in with the team," he said.

Blackburn will enter Western Illinois with an impressive high school resume. A four-year varsity starter, his scoring average dropped from 42.04 as a freshman to 38.5 as a sophomore, then 37.4 as a junior, and finally a school-record 35.8 as a senior. The senior season was capped with a tie for seventh at the rain-shortened Class 2A state tournament at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.

Other high school highlights for Blackburn include shooting a 5-under-par 66 to win the Sycamore Regional as a junior, and a 4-under-par 68 to win the Geneseo Invitational as a senior.

"Andrew is the epitome of Sterling golf," SHS golf coach C.J. Wade said. "He's been a leader on the golf course and in the classroom, and I think he's going to be a great college golfer."

Blackburn file

High school: Sterling

Class: Senior

FYI: Will play golf at Western Illinois University this fall. ... Averaged a school-record 35.8 strokes per nine holes as a senior. ... Tied for 7th at 2A state golf tournament.

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