TUSCOLA – As Arcola/Arthur's Derrick Herschberger and St. Thomas More's Ryan Murphy waited to tee off on the first playoff hole of Saturday's Class 1A Tuscola Sectional, they engaged in some lighthearted conversation.
Both players had posted tourney-best 72s on Tuscola's breezy Ironhorse Golf Club, and both seemed a little surprised to be standing in the tee box at all.
Murphy: "I thought I had it won, and then they said I was in a playoff."
Replied Herschberger: "I thought I had it won."
Turns out neither did. Their 72s were far ahead of the rest of the field – next best: 76 – leaving them in a playoff for medalist.
And they arrived in different manners. Murphy was in the final group of the day. He finished his round – saving par on 18 after hitting over the green – signed his card and went straight to the first tee for the playoff.
Herschberger, meanwhile, had played in the day's first group. He spent the better part of two hours eating a cheeseburger and fries and watching college football games on the clubhouse TVs.
"It's really tough to wait a couple of hours then come back out against somebody that just got done," Murphy said. "He's a great player, and he hit it good."
If Herschberger felt rusty, he was able to shake it off, winning medalist honors with a par on the fourth playoff hole.
For those two hours, Herschberger watched as score after score came in without threatening his 72. When Murphy's 72 was posted, Herschberger's appetite – figuratively – was whetted.
"I wanted to be medalist," he said, "because I thought I (already) was. I was sitting in there, and then I hear I have a playoff. So I wanted to go get it."
The playoff victory capped a fulfilling day for the senior, who also earned a state berth last fall. Herschberger was coming off an 83 at Tuesday's regional, higher than his 81.6 stroke average.
His game was working Saturday, though, shooting a season-best score on a course that he didn't expect to yield such a number.
"I've never really played good here," he said, "but I did today."
So did Murphy's Sabers. St. Thomas More earned its third straight state trip by capturing the team title with a 307 total.
Effingham St. Anthony (319) grabbed the other team spot, edging Monticello (323).
Sabers coach Tim Murphy said he could sense some nerves from his team, but Clark Schmidt's 77 settled the coach's worries.
"When that came in, I was pretty happy," Murphy said.
Nathaniel Khachaturian added a 78 for the Sabers. Murphy hopes his team lets the pressure go after achieving an important goal.
"Getting out of the sectional, it's like we're getting to the big dance and (when) you get to state it's gravy," he said. "You play good and have fun and say 'We got to state.' I expect them to play well at state."
St. Thomas More will have plenty of area company. The top eight individual finishers who weren't a part of qualifying teams advanced to next weekend's state tournament, and all eight were from the area: Herschberger's teammate, Mark Klinger (76, tied for third), Judah Christian's Willy Wilner (76), Monticello's Corbin Sebens (77) and Cameron Magsamen (79), Milford's Charles Hopkins (78), Salt Fork's Jordan Danzl (80) and Villa Grove's Travis Albin (80).