BY CHAD DARE
Bismarck-Henning golf coach Terry French needed something to calm his nerves on Monday.
With about six holes remaining in Monday’s IHSA Class 1A Watseka Sectional at Shewami Country Club in Sheldon, French was trying to calculate scores in his head.
He knew his Blue Devils were in a tight battle with Bloomington Cornerstone, Champaign St. Thomas More, Decatur St. Teresa and Champaign Judah Christian for the final two spots in this weekend’s state tournament.
El Paso-Gridley ran away, claiming first place with an impressive score of 303.
So, when the final scores were posted, Cornerstone (341) and Bismarck-Henning (343), the Class 1A state runners-up last year, had secured the final two places in the state tournament to be played at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington.
“Actually, I’ve been nervous for the last couple of weeks,’’ French said. “We did it, but it wasn’t pretty. My guys struggled, but they kept fighting.
“If it was easy to get to state, everyone would do it.’’
It was anything but easy on Monday at Shewami.
“The wind — easily, by far, the wind was nasty,’’ said Bismarck-Henning senior Austin Toler. “The par-3s on this course are already long and then you add in wind — it made some of them nearly impossible.’’
Monday’s round was delayed almost an hour because of the early-morning frost.
“It was windy and cold,’’ French said. “We played in some windy conditions this year, but nothing was this cold. It makes a difference and there was a lot of pressure here.
“Golf course was playing tough today for everyone – except for El Paso-Gridley.’’
The Titans had all six golfers shoot 87 or better and Michale Mounce won the individual title with a 2-under 69. That was six strokes better than teammate Kyle Colmone’s 75.
That round by Mounce had an effect on Bismarck-Henning junior Andy Bott, who had a 7-over 78 to lead the Blue Devils.
“Being paired with that El Paso kid, he was so consistent,’’ Bott said. “He didn’t make one mistake all day. It just made me mad. I was just trying to stick with him because I knew he would be the top guy, and I couldn’t get anything going.’’
And Bott had a couple of really bad holes in his round, including a triple bogey 6 on the par-3 fifth.
“I can’t be taking big numbers like that,’’ Bott said. “That triple bogey killed my round.’’
But Bott knows that neither his score on Monday nor his team’s score will matter when the Blue Devils tee off on Friday.
“I didn’t care if we shot 400 today, just as long as we qualified for state,’’ he said.
And for Bott, Toler and David Warren, this will be their second trip to the IHSA State Tournament.
“It’s an honor to be back at state for the second straight year, not many teams can do that,’’ Warren said. “Most teams would just be happy to making it to state once.
“We have the best teammates any player could want to have.’’
And that includes the trio of first-timers. Noah Campbell’s 96 was the fourth player in Monday’s team scores, while Dustin Simpson (98) and Logan Reifsteck (100) rounded out the Bismarck-Henning scores.
“The key to us making it back to state was Noah, Logan and Dustin,’’ Toler said. “We needed them to step up and they have this year. They have been working so hard, and thankfully, they are on our team.
“Being back at state is really a big deal. I love my teammates — last year’s and this year’s. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come in the last two years.’’
The six Bismarck-Henning players are the only state qualifiers from Vermilion County.
Individually, Chrisman’s Austin Merritt (91) missed qualifying by nine shots. Other individuals in Monday’s sectional meet were Schlarman Academy’s Mason Combs (94), Andrew Kelley (95), Harrison Lescak (97) and Ned O’Brien (101) along with Hoopeston Area’s Tristyn Trosper (103).