POPLAR GROVE — The Ottawa boys golf team felt it had something to prove after falling one stroke short of a regional title last week in Dixon.
The Pirates stated their case loud and clear on a blustery day Monday at the Class 2A Belvidere North Sectional.
Ottawa senior Lane Barbier captured the individual title with a round of 77 at Timber Pointe Golf Club and the Pirates claimed a first-place finish in the team competition to earn their first team trip to state since 1999.
Princeton’s Hunter Schultz also advanced to the state meet with a round of 87 that tied for eighth among the 10 individual berths.
Joining Barbier on Ottawa’s winning card were junior Dane Lehr with an 83, senior Baley Lehr with an 85, and freshman Carter Piercey with a 95 as the Pirates edged second-place Wheaton Academy 340-348.
“It feels really good. It was really tough conditions out there. I thought we had a really good chance, but we would all have to play really well,” Barbier said. “We didn’t show up at regionals, so we showed up today and played really well.”
Barbier said consistency was important on a day where golfers battled wind gusts of nearly 30 miles per hour.
“Making par (was key). You had to make pars because if you made pars you were gaining strokes on the field. I made pars and didn’t make anything over a bogey, so that helped a lot, too,” said Barbier, who recorded birdies on Holes No. 7 and 17.
Ottawa coach Dave Wultzen said his squad stepped up after the one-stroke regional setback.
“It’s just a great feeling. I’m so happy for these kids. ... You saw the heartbreak last week of losing by one, and now (after) waiting around for an hour (for the final results) the intensity is so high. I’m thrilled for them.”
Wultzen said his squad’s ability to remain mentally tough helped them prevail in the adverse conditions.
“You saw (other) kids that were getting frustrated and kids that were mentally quitting,” Wultzen said. “I kept telling the guys, ‘Hey, they’re going. Just keep fighting, don’t give up. Don’t think you’re playing bad because everybody’s score is going to be high.’
“What they did and turned in is unbelievable. This is fantastic,” Wultzen added. “Lane with a 77 and Dane with an 83 — those are just fantastic scores in this type of weather.”
The senior Schultz, playing in his first ever sectional, had a long and nervous wait to find out his round of 87 held up for an individual state berth, but the waiting proved to be the hardest part as he was rewarded with a trip to Weibring Golf Club in Normal, the site of the Class 2A state tournament.
“I played good golf, but the wind just made everybody’s score ridiculous,” Schultz said. “When I was out there I thought I was playing bad, but when I came in, it turned out being pretty good.
“This is my first sectional, and making it to state’s the best you can do,” Schultz added. “Really, when I get to state, I’m not hoping to win our anything. I’m just glad I made it there.”
Princeton coach Duane Price was happy to see his senior golfer survive the elements and punch his ticket to state.
“The wind out there today was absolutely brutal from the start, and it only got worse in the afternoon,” Price said. “I really had to grind into his head that today’s scores weren’t your normal day’s scores, and that his 42 on the front nine was actually one of the best scores out there. He didn’t believe me then, but slowly coming down the stretch I think he got the sense that things could happen for him if he continued to finish out.”
Princeton, which finished third at the Dixon Regional, did not earn a team state berth. Cole Evenson’s 93, Ian Nichols’ 94 and Zack Hicks’ 96 joined Schultz in scoring for PHS. The Tigers placed eighth among the 12 teams with a 370.
After earning solo berths out of the Dixon Regional, Mendota’s Jaron Robinson (95) and Mark Prescott (114) both missed the state cut.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.