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Evanston’s boys golf team settled for a fifth place finish Tuesday at the Central Suburban League South division championship meet held at rain-drenched Sportsman’s Country Club in Northbrook.

But head coach Jed Curtis is convinced that the arrow is pointing up for his squad with the Class 3A Regional tournament set for next Tuesday at New Trier’s home course.

Are the Wildkits saving their best for last? They’ll play a tuneup at the Winnetka Park District course on Saturday as part of the New Trier Invitational, then will take aim at either a team qualifying spot (top three advance from the regional to sectional) or individual qualifying berths.

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ETHS put together a team score of 342 and trailed New Trier (295), Glenbrook South (310), Maine South (314) and Niles West (318) while beating out only Waukegan (400) at the annual CSL showdown. The Kits counted an 83 from sophomore Matthew Barbato, plus an 85 from Nick Lydon and 87s from Rob James and Dylan Thompson.

Also competing were Ethan Stein (88), Daniel Nortz (90) and Jordan Wallace (91) for the Wildkits.

“The conditions were tough today, especially this morning. I think we had three different (weather) seasons in one day,” Curtis pointed out. “I was proud of the way our guys hung in there.

“I definitely think we have some momentum going for us now after hitting rock bottom with a 370 earlier this year. I’m excited to see how we play the rest of the way and I think all of our guys are looking to finish strong. Given the conditions, Matthew Barbato had a good, solid score today. Rob James has played in the program for four years and has struggled most of this year, but he’s come on lately with a 39 yesterday in our match with Loyola, and we counted his 87 today.

“And Lydon is another guy who’s been struggling, but I’m proud of the way he came back with an 85 today.”

Barbato, after moving up to the varsity midway through his freshman season, has taken over the No. 1 position for the Wildkits as a sophomore and admitted Tuesday that the pressure of playing a more significant role is something he’s had to deal with.

“Even last year when I came up l was only in the 6-7-8 spots, so they didn’t always expect my score to count,” Barbato said. “I really wasn’t under much pressure. It’s a lot different this year. We lost some good players (to graduation) from last year, and now there’s more pressure on me to post a low number.

“I grew a little bit, so naturally I’m hitting the ball a little bit farther than I did last year. But I think the biggest change for me is that last year I’d get frustrated more easily and give up on a round sometimes. Now over the summer I think I gained some grit, and I know that when things are going downhill, I just have to keep grinding.”

Barbato fired birdies on the No. 1 and No. 11 holes Tuesday en route to his round of 42-41-83.

“It was pretty rainy and chilly on the front nine today, and we all just had to battle through the conditions,” he said. “And then once it cleared up, I lost my feel a little off the tee. It was just an OK round.

“I shot a 74 down at The Den (in Bloomington, site of the state final tournament) and that was a great round. Then I hit a little bit of a slump. But now I feel I’m getting more consistent and I feel like the arrow is starting to point up for me. I’ve played a lot on that regional course so I have a pretty good sense of it. We’d love to move on as a team (to the sectional) but there are a lot of tough teams in the regional.

“Individually, I’d like to move on to sectional and to State.”

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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