Centennial's Smith aims high for final tourney
QUINCY – Centennial's Joe Smith is going to get one more chance to capture that elusive state golf title.
Smith finished 1 shot off the lead, carding a 1-under-par 70 to tie for second at the Quincy Notre Dame Class 2A Golf Sectional at Westview Golf Course. Normal University High's Eric Meier won medalist honors with a 69.
"I putted a lot better today," Smith said. "I hit the ball OK, no better than I have been, but I made the putts when I needed them."
Smith qualified for his fourth state tournament, which is Friday and Saturday at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State in Normal.
"I played a practice round there a couple weeks ago. It is kind of similar to the course today," Smith said. "I played pretty well. The trouble spots are left on that course, and usually my misses aren't left."
Smith has been in this position before, finishing seventh at state as a freshman, third as a sophomore and fifth as a junior.
"It's really no different this time around," Smith said, except for one thing. "I'm not settling for anything less than first."
Smith said he doesn't feel as much pressure this go-around.
"After finishing third as a sophomore, everyone thought I was going to win last year," he said. "I don't think I had as much confidence going in last year as I do this year."
Smith expects to come out firing and stay aggressive throughout the tournament.
"I don't think I'll play any differently than I always do," Smith said. "I'm going to go at pins no matter what, that's just my style. If I can make some putts, I should score well."
Champaign Central finished fifth at 315, 11 shots out of the two state-qualifying spots that went to Quincy Notre Dame (301) and Normal U-High (288).
"It's tough for a while, but this team overachieved all season long," Maroons coach Art Mayeda said. "No one expected us to win the Big 12 and three tournaments this year."
Clinton's Shawn Evans qualified for state after shooting a 73. Seven players tied for the final individual spots in the state tournament with 77s, including Rantoul senior Bryan Ideus and Mahomet-Seymour freshman Seth Trolia. The Central players narrowly missed the cut.
Michael Peters shot a 78 and teammates Andy Brunson, Ben Peden and Patrick Wampler shot 79s.
"All our guys were 1 or 2 strokes from going to state," Mayeda said. "It would have been great if one or all of them made it to state, but they were just outgunned by some very good teams.
"They got used to winning, and they were very disappointed. But they have nothing to feel bad about. They all played hard, and they'll take away good memories from this."
Urbana's Eun-won Kim shot an 82 and Ben Thompson shot a 101. Rantoul's Joe Wood shot an 84. The Chargers' Bryan Wachtel also didn't make the final cut after carding an 88.
"It was a rough day. I couldn't find my driver," Wachtel said. "This whole month I've been struggling with my driver. I putted well, but I just couldn't find the fairway. I really depend on my driver, and today was one of those days that that one thing prevented me from shooting a lower score."