For Evanston juniors Tommy Barbato and Leo Lynk, it was just a case of “wait ‘til next year” when it comes to qualifying for the Illinois High School Association state golf tournament.
But an air of finality surrounded senior standout Matt Barbato, whose score of 44-43-87 fell 10 shots off the individual qualifying pace to play at The Den in Bloomington this weekend.
None of Evanston’s golfers made the cut at the Class 3A New Trier Sectional tournament held Monday at Winnetka Golf Club. The younger Barbato recorded a 40-40-80 and Lynk turned in a solid round of 43-39-82, but none of the trio could crack the top 10 of potential individual qualifiers from teams that didn’t advance.
Loyola Academy (291), New Trier (294) and Lake Park (308) claimed the team qualifying berths on a sunny day in Winnetka.
Barbato, one of the few golfers in ETHS history to reach the sectional level three years in a row, saw his season — and this time his career — come to a sudden halt with another exit from postseason play.
“After the first 9 (with a score of 7 over par) I started pressing, because I knew I had be low — even par or 2 under — the rest of the way to make it through,” Barbato admitted. “It was a 6 hour round (10 teams, 40 individuals participated) and it was hard for me to get into any kind of a rhythm today.
“I struggled off the tee — I didn’t hit the ball well — and because of that I had to scramble a lot. And the greens were still a bit bumpy from the (wet weather) weekend, so I couldn’t get anything going with my putter, either. I didn’t hit many greens and I just scrambled all day. That’s all I had. There was no ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ about it.”
Barbato did record pars on the No. 2, No. 5, No. 11, No. 12 and No. 15 holes, but couldn’t cut into the scoring any more than that and didn’t register a single birdie.
“Coming in, the guys knew how tough the field was and the quality of the teams and the players here,” said Evanston coach Jed Curtis. “We figured the number (to qualify) was about at 76 or 77. Even though it was a nice day, the course was still kinda wet and a little beat up from the weather.
“We had a good game plan, and they all fought until the end. This is really tough for Matt. He’s been such an outstanding leader for our team, really for the past 3 years, and he’s inspired a lot of the younger kids, too. I couldn’t be prouder of that young man. He’s such a quality individual, and I wouldn’t trade him for any other kid here.
“Both Tommy and Leo were just a hole or two away from being in the thick of things (to advance) at the end. The experience of playing in the sectional gives them a carrot to see what’s out there for them. Tommy got to within 3 over through his first 11 holes, but he got into a tough spot on a par 3 (after hitting over the green) and he ended up with a double. That really slowed him down.”
“I was striking the ball well, but I missed a short putt on No. 13 (his fourth hole of actual competition),” said Tommy Barbato. “It didn’t destroy my confidence, but I was a little out of sorts emotionally for awhile after that happened.
“I got it back together, but then I got that double on No. 17. I just made too many bogeys when I needed to play even. I missed a par putt on No. 4 and a birdie putt on No. 5, and those could have changed the way my round was going, too. My short game is something I’ll continue to work on for next year.
“Just getting to the sectional was enough to get my confidence up. I know I could just as easily have taken a couple of shots off my score today and made it Downstate. It’s definitely doable for me next year, and that’s something I’ll keep in mind.”
Lynk looked like he might challenge for a qualifying spot, but bogeyed 2 of his last 3 holes and slipped out of contention.
“After I bogeyed No. 17, I didn’t have much of a chance,” said Lynk. “But overall I thought I played pretty well. I come out of the season happy knowing how much my game has developed. For me to shoot in the 70s as a junior, compared to where I was as a freshman — in the 90s and 100s — feels great. This sectional experience is great for me. Now I know what it’s like to have my scores count (on the varsity level), and what it takes to qualify.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.