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Getting bads shots out of way

Andrew Blackburn is a man of few words on the golf course, but his closing remarks on Monday were spot on.

After we putted out on the 18th hole at Emerald Hill golf course in Sterling, he removed his visor, extended his right hand and said, "Hopefully we got all of our bad shots out of the way today."

This week's Links With Locals, for the second week in a row, had a Lincoln Highway tournament theme to it. I teed it up with the No. 1 player at Emerald Hill, Andrew Blackburn, and the No. 2 player, Nathan Blackburn.

Me, I'll occupy the No. 3 spot for Sunset golf course when the 91st Men's Lincoln Highway begins Saturday morning in Mount Morris.

One of the first things the two Sterling graduates wanted to get across was that they are not related – something I know, but apparently others don't.

Andrew, a 2013 SHS graduate, is the son of Bryan and Amy Blackburn. He will attend Western Illinois University on a golf scholarship, and went to Macomb on Tuesday for freshman orientation.

An interesting tidbit: His coach at WIU, Mel Blasi, was a teammate of mine when I played golf for the Leathernecks in the late 1980s. Mel was our unquestioned best player, and me, well, I occupied a spot on the second team and played a lot of free golf after classes.

Nathan, a 2012 Sterling grad, is the son of Bob and Cheryl Allen. He will be a sophomore at North Central College in Naperville, where he carries a double major in accounting and sports management. He also plays golf for the Cardinals, and averaged 81.1 in seven rounds last fall.

"I get people all the time who congratulate me on making the Western Illinois University golf team," Nathan said. "It happens out here all the time."

On a hot and steamy Monday, Nathan was the only person who came close to being in form. He finished with a 5-over-par 77, highlighted by the shot of the day. From about 230 yards on the 17th hole, his second shot hit the flagstick, leading to an easy birdie.

Andrew and myself, meanwhile, waged quite a battle of futility. He slapped it around in 82, and I was even worse, with an 85. I think I did better when I was 10 years old and ventured over to Sterling for some youth tournament.

The lowlight came on the 18th tee, when I announced the person with the worst score on the hole had to buy Cokes for the other two. Gambling, I figured, would surely get me going.

Nathan striped a tee shot up the left side of the fairway, then Andrew launched one that flirted with the tree just off the 14th green, but got through in decent shape to the right. I then hit a snap hook about 10 rows deep into the cornfield, well out of bounds.

Cokes anyone?

Still, Andrew managed to make things interesting. He hit trees with his next two shots, and eventually finished with a double bogey. Fittingly, I capped off my forgettable round by lipping out a long putt for a double, leaving the bar tab in my hands.

Still, it was a pleasure to tee it up with two young men I had written about a lot during their high school days as members of strong Sterling golf teams. Hopefully we will all do much better this weekend on a much bigger stage in Mount Morris.

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