MOUNT MORRIS – Ten years ago, Sunset Golf Club won the men’s Lincoln Highway Tournament in its first time hosting the venerable event.
Three years ago, Timber Creek rallied from a 15-point deficit after Day 1 in the best-against-bogey format to beat Sunset by 27 points.
Sunday in Mount Morris, those histories clashed at the 91st installment of the longest-running golf tournament of its kind in the country. Something had to give.
Turns out it was Timber Creek which repeated its feat from 2010, thanks to a repeat champion in Mitchell Homb. The junior at SIU-Edwardsville rolled to his third consecutive individual LHT title – and fourth in the last 5 years – with a 15-under-par 201 at Sunset, finishing +33 against bogey.
“I guess I just always bring it during this weekend,” said Homb, who took second in 2010 during the current streak. “I always look at the names who have won this tournament in the days leading up to it, and to be up there with some of the best that have ever played in it – and it’s been around a long time – is a real honor.
“I don’t know if I have enough in me to catch Ember,” Homb added jokingly, referring to Ember Schuldt’s eight straight women’s LHT titles, “but this tournament means a ton to me, and winning it never gets old.”
Homb led by seven strokes after 36 holes, then he and runner-up Brian Weidman of Sunset both shot even-par 36s on the next 9 holes. Over the final 9, Homb carded a 4-under 32, stretching the final margin of victory to 11 strokes over Weidman and 13 ahead of third-place Scott Aken of Sunset and Andy Wilkinson of PrairieView.
Those four golfers were the only ones under par in stroke format, which is used to determine the medalist.
“When I won here 10 years ago, I shot 3 under,” said Weidman, the 2003 victor on his home course. “This year, I shot 4 under and took second. Mitchell played unbelievable golf, and what can you do? I scrambled and fought and battled, but I just got beat by a guy who played better.”
While Homb was the impetus for Timber Creek’s charge, it was decidedly a team effort. The Dixon club trailed Sunset by 12 points and PrairieView by 10 heading into Day 2, and still trailed that duo by 10 points heading into the final 9 holes.
But Homb, Bruce Bicker, Ryan Harrison, Joel Kipping and LHT newcomers Luke Hoffman and Ryan Dixon combined for a score of 14-under in stroke play and +32 against bogey over those last 9 holes to finish at +86, passing runner-up Sunset (+80) and third-place PrairieView (+76).
It’s the first time since 2005 that the LHT individual and team titleists have been from the same club.
“Our veterans played steady, and our two younger guys shook off the nerves,” said Harrison, who took second on the Third Flight. “Playing the first day, it’s all about getting a feel for the greens. I guess we figured them out, because we all started making a lot of putts today … especially when it counted down the stretch.”
While Homb was unable to win the First Flight as medalist, Timber Creek got flight wins from Kipping (Fourth) and Hoffman (Fifth) to go with Harrison’s runner-up finish.
Kipping claimed his flight title in a three-hole playoff against Prairie Ridge’s Mike Garibay. Both guys parred the first hole, then both beat the bogey score on the second hole. On No. 3, Garibay hit his drive under a tree and couldn’t get up and down, while Kipping hit his approach to 5 feet and coasted from there.
“I’m happy with winning my flight, but I’m even happier with the team win,” Kipping said. “We all played well today, especially toward the end, and nobody could match Mitchell. He was awesome.”
As happy as Timber Creek was, Sunset was equally disappointed. Coming into the tournament, Weidman said the teams’ top three players needed to be +60 against bogey, with flights 4-6 finishing +20.
Flights 1-3 were +66, and 4-6 finished at +14, equaling the +80 the team was looking for. But it wasn’t enough.
“We did our jobs,” Weidman said, “but Timber Creek just beat us. It’s as simple as that. We played good, they played great, and they beat us on our home course.”
“Hats off to them, because there’s no doubt they deserve it,” added Scott Aken, who won the First Flight in his first tournament playing that spot for Sunset. “I’m happy with how I played, and I’m happy with how my teammates played. It’s nothing we did; Timber Creek went real low over the last 9 holes and earned it.”
Rock River’s Jarred Hippen rounded out the top five, shooting a 1-over-par 217 and finishing at +22 to edge Emerald Hill’s Andrew Blackburn for First Flight runner-up by one point. Hippen, playing in his first LHT, followed up Saturday’s 39-40-36 (7-over par) over the first 27 holes with a 33-37-32 (6-under par) over the final 27 holes.
“I hit a lot better approach shots today, and put a lot less pressure on my putter,” said the 2008 SVM baseball player of the year and former University of Iowa pitcher. “I had six or seven 3-putts Saturday; I didn’t have one Sunday.
“This is a really fun tournament, with good competition, and I want to keep playing it as long as I can. Mitchell shot great and deserved to win, and hopefully next time I can play better on Day 1 to be right there with him at the end.”
PrairieView’s Wilkinson (+24) and Prairie Ridge’s Jason Welker (+18) went 1-2 in the Second Flight; PrairieView’s Andrew Canfield (+21) and Harrison (+17) took the top two spots in the Third Flight; Kipping beat Garbay in the playoff after they tied for the Fourth Flight at +15; Hoffman (+12) and PrairieView’s Lane Hawkins (+8) topped the Fifth Flight; and Emerald Hill’s Evan Eissens (+12) and Sunset’s Jeff Johnson (+8) went 1-2 in the Sixth Flight.
In the team standings, Emerald Hill took fourth (+57), Prairie Ridge was fifth (+54), Kishwaukee placed sixth (+22), Fairways was seventh (+18), Rock River took eighth (+12), Shady Oaks was ninth (+11) and Indian Oaks rounded things out in 10th (-15).
91st Men’s Lincoln Highway Tournament
Top 3 teams
1. Timber Creek +86; 2. Sunset +80; 3. PrairieView +76
Top 3 individuals
1. Mitchell Homb (Timber Creek) 15-under-par 201; 2. Brian Weidman (Sunset) 4-under 212; 3. (tie) Scott Aken (Sunset), Andy Wilkinson (PrairieView) 2-under 214