KEWANEE — The 2019 boys' golf season has been a memorable one for veteran Alleman head coach Gene Elsner, and it got even better late Monday afternoon.
A year that saw Elsner earn his 200th career victory and the Pioneers capture the Western Big 6 Conference championship continued at the Class 1A Wethersfield Regional as Alleman earned its third consecutive regional title and fourth in the last five years.
Led by a 2-over par 74 from junior and individual runner-up Luke Lofgren, the Pioneers tallied 328 strokes to earn their first 1A regional crown since their 2015 team finished third at state. The last two seasons, Alleman won back-to-back 2A regional titles, qualifying for last year's state meet.
"I played pretty well, although I was disappointed to bogey my last hole," said Lofgren, who ended up one stroke behind Rockridge sophomore Drew Hall. "I'm happy the team won. That makes up for it. We just wanted to advance, but now, hopefully we can carry our play (Monday) to sectionals, and advance to state. That's the main goal."
In moving on from Monday's meet at the Kewanee Dunes to next Monday's Brown County Sectional in Mount Sterling, the Pioneers saw four of their six players shoot in the upper 80s or lower.
Augmenting Lofgren's performance was an 82 by Drew Coleman and A.J. Shoemaker's 84, with Billy Taylor overcoming a bumpy start to card an 88.
"What did it for us was Billy," said Elsner. "He had a rough start on the front nine, then gave us a nice back nine. We started a bit rough, but we managed to settle down and did what we needed to do; we played to our averages."
Like Lofgren, Elsner came to the Dunes not thinking so much of a championship, but just wanting to be among the three teams moving on to next week.
"Absolutely not," he said emphatically. "We looked at the scores, and we were the third-best team here. We wanted to go out and take what the course would give us. We were trying to advance; that was the entire goal. And, I tell you this: that is our goal next week, to play the best we can and hopefully advance."
Joining Alleman at Mount Sterling next Monday will be Lincoln Trail Conference champion Ridgewood, which tallied 336 strokes to take the third and final sectional team berth. Led by top 5 performances from juniors Thomas Bumann and Ganon Greenman, the Spartans finished a stroke behind runner-up Williamsfield.
Bumann shot a 77 to finish third individually, with Greenman turning in a 78 to place fourth.
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"This is a stacked regional, so just to get out of it, that was the goal," said Bumann. "But, seeing the scores now. ... with our 319 last week (at the LTC Railsplitter meet), we could've won here with that. As far as I'm concerned, though, both first and third go to sectionals. We'll save it for next week."
Greenman admitted that a first regional title for Ridgewood would have been nice, but he echoed his teammate's sentiments in terms of living to fight another day.
"We would've liked a regional title, but we set our minds on making sectionals," he said. "We know what our team is capable of. One, two, three, it didn't matter. We know what our team is capable of."
On the individual front, Rockridge's Hall achieved a career milestone by winning his first individual regional title. Battling a soggy course and windy conditions, Hall parlayed a 2-under 34 on the front nine into a final round of 73.
"When I was 2-under on the front nine, that's when I started thinking about winning," said Hall. "The main goal is to win state, and this is a good start."
However, the Rockets' fourth-place team finish, just three strokes behind Ridgewood, took away some of Hall's enjoyment at winning the individual crown.
"I was trying to help the team. I was thinking more about that," he said. "I thought the team had a good chance to at getting in the top three, but it didn't happen. It's a little disappointing."
Joining Hall at sectionals will be teammate Dan O'Neill, who carded an 84.
Sherrard, which took fifth with 342 strokes, advanced five of its six players to the next round. Evan Earl's 82 led that quintet, with Jaeger Harkey shooting an 86. Austin Fratzke and Brennen Welch carded 87s, and Blake Wynn shot an 89.
Also sectional-bound are Mid-County's Trey Rogers and United's Evan Wynne, both with 88s, and Orion's Reece Holst, who fired an 89.