Boys prevail for third title

Bryan Veginski
Delivering a low round: Nick McClellan, a Washington senior, hits a pitch shot Sept. 30 at the 15th hole at Arrowhead Country Club in the Mid-Illini Conference boys golf tournament. The Panthers won their third straight title.

A dynasty is developing with the Washington boys golf team.

The Panthers won their third consecutive Mid-Illini Conference championship Sept. 30 with another magical performance in the 18-hole league tournament.

Led by a phenomenal 68 by junior Austin Worner, Washington shot a 305 at Arrowhead Country Club to beat Metamora by six strokes.

“It’s fun to be positive with the kids and watch them respond,” WCHS boys head coach Dwight Hershberger said.

In the overall conference standings, combining dual wins with the tournament finish, the Panthers had 15.5 points for 2009 to edge the Redbirds by a half-point.

Pekin, which shot a 313 in the finale, was third with 13.5 points.

Senior Nick McClellan added a four-over-par 76 for Washington, good for fourth place individually, and classmate Trevor Underwood was in a three-way tie for fifth with a 77.

In 2007, the Panthers shot a 309 at Leo Donovan Golf Course to begin their run.

Last year, a 311 at Canton Country Club sparked them to a repeat title.

Starting his round on the fourth hole, Worner birdied the short par three.

He added birdies on Nos. 8, 10, 11, 16 and 1 to win medalist honors by two shots over Daniel Young of Metamora.

“I slowed down my swing to hit it in the fairway,” said Worner.

His putter also returned to form in a career-low effort.

“My putting was what let me shoot what I shot,” Worner said.

Worner previously played the private course twice, courtesy of his aunt and uncle’s Arrowhead membership.

Worner said he stayed calm all day and did not think about anything too far ahead.

An 84 by junior Nick Finney completed the Panthers’ championship.

Washington has come through in the clutch in recent seasons despite not holding the lead entering the tournament.

“We’re fortunate that the guys really can turn it around and not get down on themselves,” Hershberger said.

The Panthers came into the event relaxed after a practice round the day before at WeaverRidge Golf Club in which Hershberger took his top 16 players.

Worner and McClellan landed first-team all-conference slots, while Underwood was a second-team selection.

Worner and Underwood’s distinction matched their standing from ’08.

Hershberger complimented some of the good leaders of the boys program over the last eight years such as Narish Punjabi and Sam Norbom, up through this year’s tri-captains, McClellan, Underwood and Worner.

Normal Best Ball

Washington was third in a 16-team field at par-72 Ironwood Golf Course.

Two of the Panthers’ tandems were in the top 10 as the squad shot a 225 in the best-ball format.

Zach Jacobs and Worner tied for seventh with a 73 and Underwood and McClellan were in a ninth-place tie with a 74.

Finney and Alex Frost combined for a 78 for Washington.

Normal Community won a sudden-death playoff with Champaign Centennial after both totaled 221s.

Postseason: Washington was scheduled to take part Tuesday in the Class 2A Bloomington Regional at Prairie Vista Golf Course.

The top three teams and top eight individuals not on a qualifying team advance to Saturday’s Lincoln Sectional at Lincoln Elks Club.

Junior varsity

Washington also won the junior varsity title.

The Panthers broke a tie with Pekin after the dual season by topping the Dragons by six shots in the tournament.

Ryan Fitzpatrick of Washington carded a 75 to the take spot by threes strokes over Ryan McNish of Pekin.

The other scores used by the Panthers were an Adam Rankin 83, Cory Cooper 86 and Matt Fletcher 87.

Girls golf

Washington made a huge move Thursday at Leo Donovan Golf Course in the Mid-Illini Conference tournament.

With a fourth-place result in the 18-hole finale under rainy and chilly conditions, the Lady Panthers broke out of tie with Canton and Metamora.

Washington, the Lady Giants and Redbirds all were 2-4 in duals, so the tournament would decide fourth through sixth positions in the final rankings.

“That was probably as good as we were going to get,” WCHS girls head coach Matt Reiser said. “I was thrilled with fourth.”

A 461 for the Lady Panthers on the par-71 Peoria layout was 13 strokes better than Canton. Metamora shot a 477.

Sophomore Mackenzie Barker posted the highest Washington finish with a 109, which shared 13th place in a varsity field of 42 players.

Barker earned second-team all-conference acclaim.

Three strokes back, in a tie for 16th, was Ellen Corbin.

Brianna Salmi added a 116 for the Lady Panthers and Carly Slagel a 124.

The overall showing was a big improvement on Washington’s sixth-place standing in a six-team league in 2008.

None of the golfers are seniors, making next season’s prospects very optimistic if the girls can improve like they did this year. 

The Lady Panthers were the host of a tournament won by three-time champion Pekin.

Postseason: Washington was part of yesterday’s Class AA Geneseo Regional at Maple Bluff Golf Course.

“We’re hoping to get one or two out as individuals,” said Reiser.

The top three teams and top eight individuals not on a qualifying team move to Monday’s Rockford Guilford Sectional at Ingersoll Golf Course.

The Lady Panthers have not advanced a player to the sectional since the girls golf team formed.