Andy Bott, Bismarck-Henning
Bott, last year's Area Player of the Year who tied for medalist honors at state before finishing second in a playoff, has improved as a junior. "His short game is getting better," B-H coach Terry French said. In 2011, three of the Blue Devils' top four scorers at state were underclassmen who helped the squad to a runner-up Class 1A finish. Senior Austin Toler, who tied for ninth in 1A, returns as does sophomore David Warren. In duals and triangulars, B-H is 14-0 this season. French noted the team is matching or improving its performance from comparable meets a year ago. B-H's team score at the recent Danville Invitational was 323. Last year, it was 330. "People expect a lot of us, and we're looking forward to making another run," French said. "We're trying to minimize mistakes." Sophomore Noah Campbell, junior Caleb Hodshire, junior Logan Reifsteck and senior Dustin Simpson are other key contributors. In a meet last week at Gibson City, the Blue Devils posted a 157 team score.
Nick Berger and Ryan Erhard, Judah Christian
The Tribe has its version of the Dynamic Duo in seniors Nick Berger and Ryan Erhard. As Berger has grown physically in the past year (approaching 6-foot-7), his game has expanded. "He can cream the ball (nearly 300 yards)," Judah coach Doug Erhard said. "He has always been a great competitor, and he works at his game so diligently." Berger, who tied for 15th at state last year, has cut his nine-hole average from 38.96 last fall to its current 35.78. Ryan Erhard, the coach's son, has a 41.22 nine-hole average, a drop from last year's 43.56 final mark. After lessons with Champaign's Dan Punkay and Danville's Neil Moore, the younger Erhard is "in the 70s a lot more consistently," according to his father. Ryan tied for fourth in the Champaign County meet with a 79. The biggest improvement is with the mental side. "Historically, if he had a bad hole, he'd get frustrated," Doug Erhard said. "It's so huge to control your emotions. That can take 5 or 6 strokes off your score."
The Champaign County champion Chargers have two legitimate medal contenders in Grey Schultz and Christian Khachaturian. Schultz will be a four-year golf letterman and coach Mike Wallner said "there's no substitute for distance, and he hits it a long ways. He can get to most par 5s in 2, and he's a pretty good putter." Khachaturian "is a star in the making," Wallner said. "He plays in a lot of summer tournaments and works hard on his game. He is rapidly becoming a really good player." A strength is his ability to keep the ball in play and, Wallner said, "his all-around course management." Sophomores Mike Braverman and Isaac Overman have been other steady contributors. Centennial will have a familiar route in its quest to reach state. Central will host the regional at the UI Orange Course. Centennial will host a sectional, also at the UI Orange. "We're gearing up for the postseason," Wallner said. "We have a good corps of golfers, but we've been a little up and down."
Brock Peavler, Rantoul/PBL
The third-year cooperative features 18 members, 12 from Rantoul. Peavler is the team's top player and coach Travis Flesner said "he hits his driver really well and can make putts from anywhere on the green. We look for him to consistently lead us." In Saturday's Mattoon Invitational, he shot a 75 and tied for second. Peavler is backed by a supporting cast of four teammates who have posted nine-hole scores between 40 and 44: senior Joseph Barton, sophomore Cody Bauman, freshman Keegan Brooks and senior Dylan Harris. "We don't expect to go out and knock the socks off our competition," Flesner said, "but we do expect to play each hole the best we can and leave bad shots behind us. It is those players that can limit the damage of their imperfect shots that do well in tournaments and matches." Flesner is an advocate of schools with limited numbers joining forces. "I am very happy with the co-op and would encourage more schools struggling to put together a team of six competitive golfers to do so as well."
Cameron Westjohn, Tuscola
The senior is clearly the Warriors' leader as well as one of the area's top individuals. In last week's listing of area leaders, his 37.2 nine-hole average ranked second to Berger. "His major strength is his consistent length off the tee box," Tuscola coach Matt Franks said. "It is his great work ethic that separates himself from other players. He is almost always one of the last kids to leave the golf course, either the putting green, driving range or chipping area." Westjohn won the Decatur Junior Open during the summer, which catapulted him into his final high school season. "He has a ton of confidence and is playing really well," Franks said. "For the rest of the season, the sky is the limit for him." The regional medalist as a junior, he concentrated in the offseason on his short game, and it shows. "The most improved area of his game is his putting," Franks said. In a recent meet at Ironhorse in Tuscola, Westjohn shot a 36, which was 4 strokes better than senior teammate Austin Cochennour.