MOUNT CARMEL — The Mount Carmel High School boys golf team opened some eyes in the season-opening Mount Carmel Invitational. The Golden Aces may have proved to themselves they can compete for a state tournament berth in 2017.
MCHS won its home tournament Thursday at Mount Carmel Municipal Golf Course, besting 2016 IHSA Class 1A Sectional Tournament champion Hamilton County by 20 strokes (309 to 329).
The Golden Aces missed a state tournament berth by three shots last fall. Hamilton County (327), Teutopolis (328) and Hillsboro (329) all advanced to Bloomington.
For Mount Carmel, 2016 individual state qualifers Blake Golden and Dawson Brown are at the top of the lineup for head coach John White. Golden placed 13th and Brown was 53rd in the IHSA Class 1A State Tournament last fall.
“It's important to have a couple guys battling each other at the top of the lineup,” White said of Brown and Golden. “That's what we had with our state-winning team. We had three and four guys battling (for the best score), and we never knew who was going to win.”
Brown was the medalist with a 1-over 72 on Thursday, two strokes ahead of Golden, who had a 74.
“Dawson is capabale of leading our team. He's had some rounds in the 60s during the summer,” White said. “For anyone who knows golf, it takes anything that can go wrong instantly to have trouble. Blake Golden lost a ball on No. 11 that was in play, and everybody knew it was in play. They never found it.”
Golden ended up with a triple bogey on No. 11. With better luck, he could have shot a 71.
The Golden Aces have depth in addition to Brown and Golden. Brayden Peterson (80), Colton Etzkorn (88), Wade Ruth (83) and Clayton Halbig (85) are golfers who can shoot solidly in the 80s, and sometimes in the high 70s for Mount Carmel.
“One of the best things about our team is the players push each other, and that's great,” White said. “When you get to practice with good players, you get to form good habits. If you're out there practicing with bad players, you tend to form bad habits, and you feel like you're good eoungh. You're not.”
White said Halbig made an adjustment in his swing that has paid off for him.
“We want Clayton to hit the ball in the mddle of the fairways instead of trying to hit it 300 yards out-of-bounds and behind a tree,” White said. “He's starting to get it and, with his short game, we might need him to contribute. If a couple boys have a bad round, we have players like Clayton who can step up for us.”
Max Zimmerman and Zest West are new players for Mount Carmel this season.
White said his Golden Aces were anxious to get the season started.
“We were chomping at the bit to end practice and play a live tournament,” White said. “We have have wanting to play the last 2 or 3 weeks.”
MOUNT CARMEL BOYS GOLF
HEAD COACH: John White.
EXPERIENCE: Twelfth season at Mount Carmel.
COACH'S OVERALL RECORD: N/A; four regional championships (2010, 2009, 2008, 2006), three sectional championships (2010, 2009, 2008), four state qualifying teams (2012, 2010, 2009, 2008), one state runner-up (2009), one state championship (2010).
ASSISTANT COACH: Karin Kelsey.
2016 RECORD: 62-20.
2016 POSTSEASON: Third at IHSA Class 1A Regional Championships, at Effingham St. Anthony; Fourth at IHSA Class 1A Sectional Championships, at Robinson.
GRADUATED PLAYERS: Hunter Fuller, Zach Kemper.
PLAYERS NOT RETURNING: John Harrington, sophomore.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Dawson Brown, senior; Blake Golden, senior; Colton Etzkorn, senior; Brayden Peterson, senior; Wade Ruth, junior; Brock Lane, junior; Clayton Halbig, sophomore.
NEW PLAYERS: Jett West, freshman; Max Zimmerman, freshman.
2017 OUTLOOK: Potential Strengths: Depth, experience, closeness in scoring. Potential Weaknesses: Playing within themselves, concentrating on shot-making.
2017 SCHEDULE (HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS): Aug. 10: MOUNT CARMEL INVITATIONAL, first of five teams; Aug. 14: at Robinson, 1 p.m.; Aug. 15: at Harrisburg, 4 p.m.; Aug. 21: at Hamilton County, 4 p.m.; Aug. 22: LAWRENCEVILLE/RED HILL, 4 p.m.; Aug. 29: FAIRFIELD, 4 p.m.; Aug. 31: at Carmi-White County; Sept. 1: at Richland County Invitational, 1 p.m.; Sept. 6: HAMILTON COUNTY, 4 p.m.; Sept. 8: at Mattoon Invitational, 1 p.m.; Sept. 9: at Mattoon Invitational, 1 p.m.; Sept. 12: at Fairfield, 4 p.m.; Sept. 13: at Marion, 1 p.m.; Sept. 18: RICHLAND COUNTY, 4 p.m.; Sept. 20: at Richland County, 4 p.m.; Sept. 25: CARMI-WHITE COUNTY, 4 p.m.; Oct. 3: IHSA REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, 9 a.m.; Oct. 9: IHSA Sectional Championship, at TBA, Time TBA; Oct. 13: IHSA State Championship, first round, at Bloomington, Time TBA; Oct. 14: IHSA State Championship, final round, at Bloomington, Time TBA.