Newman carries a mixed bag of experience, but produced the strongest showing of any local team at the Rock Falls Invite on Saturday.
The Comets placed second in the small-school division with a 343 total. Jacob Rude led the way with a 78, good for fourth among small-school competitors, and sophomore Cody Britt fired a solid round of 81.
He didn’t finish quite as well, but Jacob has done a great job of working at his game every year,” Newman coach Carol Nieman said. “He’s been right around the high 30s this year, which is the norm.”
The Comets’ playing partners from Riverdale (first overall, 306), Kaneland (first in big-school division, 314 total) and Alleman (second in big-school division, 325 total) gave them scores to chase instead of being complacent.
“We’re very excited coming in second place behind Riverdale,” Nieman said. “I think we’ll be chasing them for awhile. Even if we would’ve had everybody play to their potential, we still wouldn’t have caught them. Overall, I was really pleased.”
Sterling senior Nick Ceruzzi capped his fourth and final Rocket Invite with a 2-over-par 72, good for a runner-up finish. Kaneland’s Will Marshall beat Ceruzzi by one stroke for medalist honors in the big-school division.
“I was very consistent, gave myself a lot of good opportunities for birdie,” Ceruzzi said. “My ball-striking was solid, but I left a couple strokes out there on the green.”
Ceruzzi had four birdies on the day, and said he could take four strokes off his game if he becomes steadier with the putter. He also said his experience with the Rock River course helped a little, and that he stayed mentally tough throughout his round.
“I was able to get over a bad shot quickly,” Ceruzzi said. “I just stay in the moment and take it one shot at a time.”
The Golden Warriors finished fifth in the big-school division with a 351 total. Dixon finished seventh with a 383 total, led by Lukas Wedekind’s round of 87.
Rock Falls coach Chris Buikema expected his young team to finish better than sixth with a 362 total on its home course.
“I was hoping for better score, especially in an 18-hole invite we host,” Buikema said. “However, starting five sophomores, there’s kind of a conditioning element to playing 18.”
Grant Wasson led the Rockets with an 84, and was the only score below 90. Carter O’Brien shot a 91, Brayden Schulz fired a 93, and Kody Velazquez and Jalen Bickett carded 94.
“It’s a learning curve thing,” Buikema said. “One of the aspects of nine holes is that if you have a bad score on a hole, you’re not carrying it around for 15 holes. Older kids understand that if they make a triple bogey early, it doesn’t have as big an impact in an 18-hole event.”
Still, Buikema chose to see the positives in an otherwise disappointing event for his team. The Rockets are still very young, and will only improve in 18-hole invites as their games mature.
“If you look at how we’ve performed this year, kids have come a long way,” Buikema said. “They’ve made strides. This was a learning experience. The kids weren’t exactly thrilled, but they’re still hungry and positive. We’ll use this as motivation.”
Riverdale’s Tyler Bussert was the only player under par with a 2-under 68.
Bureau Valley finished fourth in the small-school division, led by seniors Colton Novotny and Spencer Marquez. Novotny finished fifth among small-school competitors with a 79, while Marquez chipped in with an 87.
Polo was sixth among the small schools. Mack Llanas paced the Marcos with an 84, while Lane Hopkins shot an 88. Morrison senior Adam Lindstrom led the Mustangs with a 95.