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Four Wildkits advance to IHSA golf sectional

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Postseason golf can be tough on your nerves.

The one-hour wait after they were all done competing at Tuesday’s Class 3A regional  tournament at Wilmette Golf Club may have added a few gray hairs for head coach Jed Curtis and his Evanston golf team and didn’t exactly produce the results the Wildkits desired.

But after losing a tiebreaker for the third qualifying team spot for the Prospect Sectional tourney next week, Evanston still qualified four individuals and kept the season alive for junior Jack Skidmore and seniors Leo Lynk, Tommy Barbato and Henry Goodman.

ETHS tied Glenbrook North at 314 behind Loyola Academy (294) and New Trier (298), but the Spartans prevailed on the fifth score tiebreaker criteria with a couple of 84s to an 88 for the Kits.

Also competing were Glenbrook South (315), Notre Dame (324), Niles West (347), Chicago Taft (393) and Niles North (399). Loyola’s Jack Crawshaw carded a 3-under-par 67 to capture individual medalist honors.

Lynk (77), Skidmore (78), Barbato (78) and Goodman (81) all earned at-large individual  berths among the top 10 qualifiers who weren’t members of qualifying teams.

Overnight rain led to mushy conditions — and standing water in a few spots — along with quick greens, and Curtis praised his veteran squad for the way they handled the environment.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our boys,” Curtis said. “Losing that tiebreaker stings, no doubt about it. We had a nailbiter with GBS (which also finished its rounds early) and we came through that. Then we had to sit and wait for an hour for GBN to come in. We knew it would be close and we were on an emotional roller-coaster for about an hour.

“About 10 years ago we were on the other end of this against Maine South and we got past them. You always emphasize the fact that every shot counts, and they all played their hearts out. The conditions were tough and it was really wet when we started out. The greens were fast but we putted tremendously as a team.

“What’s been so exciting about this year’s team is that they’ve been very consistent all year, but they’ve also gotten better as the season progressed. We always talk about trying to be better today than you were yesterday, and that’s something they embraced.”

Lynk (37), Barbato (38) and Skidmore (38) all finished strong on their respective back nines. Also competing for the Wildkits were juniors Michael Levitas (88) and Joe Bergmann (93).

Lynk qualified for the sectional for the second straight year.

“This is a little bittersweet, because we wanted to take the whole team down,” Lynk admitted. “That 314 was decent. GBN played pretty bad, I thought and so did the No. 1 guy from GBS, so we got a couple of breaks there. But we’re definitely capable of going lower than we did today.

“I only hit 6 greens today, but I chipped really well and that really helped me a lot. I was a little nervous after that front 9 because a 40 was not what I was looking for, but I had set myself up pretty well (for a strong finish). “

Skidmore scored birdies on No. 5, No. 12 and No. 16 to offset a triple bogey.

“I started slow and then I got really hot and stayed hot, except for that one hole,” he said. “I putted really well today. I’ve been playing well all year and this was a pretty decent round under pressure. It’s good to see that hard work pay off. Take away that one hole and I definitely feel good about my game right now.”

Barbato said he was disappointed that the team didn’t automatically qualify because there was a possibility that younger brother Peter might have been promoted to the varsity lineup for Monday’s sectional. But he drew on the experience of another brother — older sibling Matthew — when things went awry for him right from the first shot Tuesday.

“I started the first hole with a triple bogey — I hit my tee shot out of bounds to the right — and I was really down after that,” Barbato said. “But I remembered that Matthew had started out a regional with a quad on the first hole and he came back with an 80 and qualified. It was hard to put it behind me, because that meant the rest of my round had to be more spotless. But I knew it was still possible because I drew on Matthew’s experience.”

Barbato clinched his second straight sectional berth with birdies on No. 5 and No. 11, sinking perhaps the longest putt of his career — “my Dad said it rolled in from 87 feet “— on the 11th hole. “I don’t remember ever making one like that before,” he said.

Goodman described his day as “half solid, half pretty disappointing” after fading with a 44 on the back nine.

“I parred the first four holes, and I was even (par) through seven, and then I kinda fell apart at the end,” he noted. “I had a chip-in for a birdie on No. 6, so that helped because it came right after I had three-putted for a bogey.

“Last year I was disappointed just to watch the sectional and that made me more motivated to get there this year. My main goal was just to play solid today.”     

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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