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Local courses test area golfers early

WILMINGTON – Golf is a rare sport in that the quality of play at the beginning of the prep season should, theoretically, be comparable to that near the end.

There’s no time spent memorizing a playbook and learning to play with one’s teammates.

It’s an individual game, and one that can be – and almost always is – played often by athletes on their own all summer long.

Wednesday’s triangular match between local teams Coal City, Morris and Seneca at Cinder Ridge, showed it’s not quite that easy. The Redskins won handily, shooting a respectable 167, although they’d admittedly played poorly in their two past outings. Seneca, meanwhile, shot a 189, and that was enough to defeat Coal City and its 192.

Justin Larsen, the No. 1 golfer, from Morris, was medalist by a margin of five strokes over teammate Nick McPherson, but he said he’d struggled in his first two events of the season.

It wasn’t because of lack of preparation. Larsen played regularly for months leading up to the season and even competed in some tournaments.

Sometimes, he said, a player’s mindset changes when they are representing their school.

“A little bit, because your teammates kind of go on your back,” Larsen said. “I just wanted to make sure I could come out [Wednesday] and play a good round. I think it was basically just getting comfortable in this kind of atmosphere.”

Coach Matt Lafond said McPherson has been the one player he’s been able to count on in every match.

“McPherson, he’s been my low guy the past couple matches, so it’s good to see him still staying consistent down low,” Lafond said. “Just good to see the guys shooting what they’re capable of, and maybe even still a little bit of room for improvement for some of them.”

For the Fighting Irish, the triangular tested them to improve on the 191 they scored in a match earlier this week at Mendota, in an environment where they have historically not done well.

“I had to stress to the kids that they needed to play smart out here,” Seneca coach Bryan Erickson said. “Typically, we come over here and we don’t play well. Kids struggle with the hazards that line both sides of the fairways.”

Coal City coach David Sinkular was able to find a bright spot in defeat, but it’s primarily a bright spot because it illustrates the inconsistency that has plagued the Coalers early in the season.

“I’d like to give credit to Keegan Clampett. ... He’s been shooting [47s] consistently every night, which I don’t know if any one of my other guys can say that they’re hitting the same thing every single night. He came in tonight and was excited that, ‘Well, I’m Mr. Consistency. I got the same score,’ ” Sinkular said.

“That’s what I’ve been preaching to my guys for the last three, four years. If you’re going to shoot the same score every night, something will happen. The up and down is what kills us.”

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