BYRON – For Eastland's Devin Hartman, it will be a trip to somewhere he’s already been. For Oregon’s Ben Gardner, it was a chance to go to a place he’s only dreamed of.
The two seniors were the only Sauk Valley golfers to advance to the Class 1A state tournament this weekend at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington.
Competing in the 1A Byron Sectional at PrairieView Golf Course, both boys needed every shot they had to become one of the 10 at-large qualifiers.
Gardner shot an 83 to grab the 10th and final spot, while Hartman was one of four golfers to finish at 82.
Two-time defending state champ North Shore Country Day edged Byron for the team title, 311 to 315. Stockton grabbed the final state berth with a 320.
After a shaky performance at the regional, Hartman had hoped to return to his postseason form of 2012, which saw him earn all-state honors.
“The front nine (44) was rough,” said Hartman, whose father Dale was a long-time baseball coach at Byron. “The short game and putting saved me. I was not hitting the driver well.”
That was the exact opposite of Hartman’s play at the regional.
“I have one more chance to put it all together,” said Hartman, who shot a 78 to take second overall at last year’s Elgin Sectional.
Like Hartman, Gardner had one bad nine.
“The front nine (46) was terrible,” Gardner said. “I couldn’t chip or put.”
That all changed after the turn, as Gardner began to be more aggressive. On the par 4, No. 12, he put his drive in the middle of the fairway 80 yards out. A wedge shot landed within 12 feet and the putt found the hole for a birdie.
“That was the biggest hole for me,” Gardner said. “I started making putts for birdies and ended up with a 37.”
As a team, Oregon finished in seventh place with 352 strokes. Mark Nehrkorn had an 86, Carson Buck an 89 and Taylor Brubaker a 94.
“The guys that didn’t score well didn’t putt well,” Oregon coach Jim Spratt said. “We competed hard, but didn’t execute the mid-irons into the green and couldn’t avoid triple-bogeys.”
Behind very balanced scoring, Morrison was right behind with a 353. Ben Tegeler, Noah Hogue, Brock Smith and Colton Smith all went from 87 to 90. And, all will return next year.
“I’m happy. We shot our average today,” Morrison coach Ben Sondgeroth said. “Only two of the six played in the sectional last year. I’m looking forward to the next couple years with this group.”
Lucas Wiebenga of Fulton shot an 85 and missed qualifying by two strokes.
“I started OK, but the final nine was up and down,” Wiebenga said.
Todd Nelson also was in the mix, but his 86 fell short after a fast start.
“On the back nine [his first nine], I had a 40,” Nelson said. “Then I fell apart.”
No other area golfer broke 90.
Even though North Shore graduated its top three golfers, it was able to defeat Byron on the Tigers’ home course. It helps, though, when your No. 6 man shoots a 77.
“After a poor regional, we came ready to play,” NS coach Joe Bosco said. “It also helps being as deep as we are.”
North Shore’s Andrew Blechman shot a 74 to claim medalist honors. Byron had three golfers with 79s and one with a 78.
"We’re senior-dominated, and our kids have been on this course forever,” Byron coach Tim Sedam said. “We know how good North Shore is. They proved it today.”