PONTIAC – Clayton Clash says he had never golfed in an environment quite like the one he faced late Monday afternoon at Wolf Creek Golf Course.
Representing Coal City as its No. 6 golfer, Clash shot an 84 over 18 holes at the Interstate Eight Conference Boys Tournament to tie with Connor McCormick of Manteno and Blake Andrew of Sandwich for first place. The three replayed the par-four first hole in a playoff setting with their peers and coaches watching.
"Scary," Clash said, when asked what playing the hole was like. "I wanted to make everything — was trying to go for the hole on every shot."
All three golfers hit their tee shots in the fairway. McCormick was the only one of the three to put his second shot on the green. After Andrew effectively fell out of contention with a poor chip, Clash put his third shot a few feet from the green, with McCormick getting similarly close to the hole with his first putt. Clash attempted his par putt first, and he narrowly missed before McCormick sunk his try to win the title.
"I thought so," Clash said, when asked if he felt his putt would fall at first, "and then it slipped out and it missed. ... It was depressing, 'cause I knew the guy that won was gonna make it."
Behind Clash, Coal City finished tied for fourth with Reed-Custer in the team standings with a cumulative score of 370. Sandwich was team champion with a 345 and was followed by Manteno with a 355 and Dwight with a 369. Seneca placed sixth with a 373.
Matt Gubelman of Coal City and Dan Armstrong of Seneca, along with Bennett Hofmeister of Manteno, tied for 11th place with 90s. Gubelman officially finished 11th on a scorecard playoff, with Hofmeister 12th and Armstrong 13th.
"I thought chipping hurt me more than putts," Armstrong said. "In the early part of the year, I was doing good, but then in the middle, I had a rocky part. I feel better now."
Beyond Clash and Gubelman, the Coalers counted a 97 from Jack Scerine and a 99 from Alex Wills. Also playing were Cody Jerz with a 101 and Keegan Clampett with a 102.
"We were down here two weeks ago for the Livingston County (Tournament), and we played better that day," Coal City coach David Sinkular said. "My upperclassmen struggled a little bit today, nothing that was too out of the ordinary, but we definitely wanted to play a little bit better."
The Seneca score reflected a 91 from Ben Rohder, a 93 from Conlan Callahan and a 99 from Auston Jashari in addition to Armstrong's round. Brenden Tisler, who fired a 108, and Alex Bott, who had a 109, also competed for the Fighting Irish.
"I think we gave up some strokes out there around the cup, lots of three putts that we don't generally have," Seneca assistant coach Todd Yegge said. Yegge coached the Irish in place of head coach Bryan Erickson, who was with the Lady Irish at the I-8 girls tournament. "We had some low 90s, pretty close to our averages, so I'm not disappointed on the day. I thought we could have shot a little bit better."