Only two months into the school year, Ben Gardner has made his senior year special. At the Byron 1A golf sectional on Oct. 14, Gardner scored an 83 to grab the 10th and final at-large state-qualifying berth.
The state meet will be held Oct. 18-19 at the Prairie Vista course in Bloomington.
Gardner recovered after a slow start that put him in danger of missing the cut.
“The front nine (46) was terrible,” Gardner said. “I couldn’t chip or put.”
That all changed after the turn, as Gardner began to be more aggressive. On the par-4, No. 12, he put his drive in middle of the fairway 80 yards out. A wedge shot landed within 12 feet and the putt found the hole for a birdie.
“That was the biggest hole for me,” Gardner said. “I started making putts for birdies and ended up with a 37.”
Gardner followed the birdie on No. 12 with another one on the par-3, No. 13. That put him at two under for the back nine and he finished with pars and bogeys the rest of the way.
As a team, Oregon took seventh place out of 12 teams with 352 strokes. Mitchell Nehrkorn had an 86, Carson Buck an 89 and Taylor Brubaker a 94 on the par-72 Prairie View course. Those three will return in 2014.
“The guys that didn’t score well, didn’t putt well,” Oregon coach Jim Spratt said. “We competed hard, but didn’t execute the mid irons into the green and couldn’t avoid triple bogies.” Justin Provo (96) and Matt Murray (123) competed, but their scores were not used.
Even though 2-time defending state champ North Shore graduated its top three golfers, it was able to defeat Byron on the Tigers’ home course to take team honors. It’s help, though, when your No. 6 man shoots a 77.
“After a poor regional, we came ready to play,” NS coach Joe Bosco said. “It also helps being as deep as we are.”
North Shore’s Andrew Blechman shot a 74 to claim medalist honors. Byron had three golfers with 79s and one with a 78.
‘We’re senior-dominated and our kids have been on this course forever,” Byron coach Tim Sedam said. “We know how good North Shore is. They proved it today.”
North Shore had a 311 and Byron 315. Stockton grabbed the final team state berth with a 320.
Forreston had two individuals at the sectional, but neither qualified. Marcus Edler had a 96.
“It wasn’t too good on the front nine,” Edler said. “It ate me up. I had a couple of bad holes in a row.”
Brock Wolf closed his varsity career with a disappointing 105.
“It was a tough day, but Brock capped off a good career,” Forreston coach Matt Hanley said. “I’m proud of both golfers.”