Pershing qualifies for nationals

Steve Stein GateHouse Media Illinois
Drew Pershing, a 2015 Washington Community High School graduate, hits out of a bunker at the par-5 11th hole at Lick Creek Golf Course Thursday. Pershing placed third at the Trusted Choice Big I Junior Classic state tournament to advance to the national level.

Drake Bushong of Pekin and David Perkins of East Peoria are both headed to the Trusted Choice Big I Junior Classic national championship golf tournament, but they’re on different paths.

Bushong finished sixth at last year’s tournament and earned an automatic berth into this year’s event Aug. 3-6 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

Perkins also played in the 2014 tournament and made the second-day cut, but he didn’t finish high enough to gain an automatic berth.

He had to earn his way back to the tournament and he did that at the 47th annual Trusted Choice Big I Junior Classic state tournament held Wednesday and Thursday at Lick Creek Golf Course in Pekin.

Perkins shot even-par 73-71—144 in the 36-hole event and won the boys competition for the second consecutive year. Michael Mounce of El Paso (74-75—149) and Drew Pershing of Washington (75-75—150) gained the other national tournament berths from the 25-golfer field.

Pershing is a 2015 Washington Community High School graduate who twice earned second-team all-Mid-Illini Conference honors.

Rob Wuethrich of Bloomington (73-77—150), who lost a scorecard tiebreaker to Pershing, is the alternate.

Lance Hays of Pekin (79-80—159) and Miguel Montelongo of Peoria (84-78—162) were among those who trailed the leaders.

Dakota Limekmann of West Point topped the 11 golfers in the girls field and earned the lone national tournament berth. She shot 4-over 75-75—150. Emma Vickery of Northbrook (75-79—154) is the alternate.

Madison Hill of Pekin (82-85—167) couldn’t make up a seven-stroke first-day deficit. Erica Kerr of Peoria (88-80—168) and Allison Kinsinger of Washington (101-93—194) each improved their first-day scores by eight strokes.

Kinsinger is an incoming WCHS junior who twice has garnered first-team all-league accolades.

Bushong qualified for last year’s national tournament at the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, W.Va., by finishing second behind Perkins at the state tournament.

It didn’t take any arm-twisting to get Bushong, a former Pekin High School star and Bradley University recruit, to compete in this year’s national tournament.

“As soon as I found out at last year’s national tournament that I had an automatic berth, I put it on my schedule,” he said.

Bushong said he didn’t feel a need to participate in the state tournament this week because he played four rounds last weekend at Lick Creek in the Tri-County Match Play Tournament.

It didn’t surprise Bushong to hear Perkins won the Big I state tournament for the second straight year.

“From what I’ve seen, David is a lot like me,” Bushong said. “He’s very consistent. He makes shots even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.”

Perkins wasn’t consistent at last year’s Big I national tournament.

He was tied for seventh place going into the third day of the four-day, 72-hole event, then uncharacteristically fell apart. He shot 72-76-92-80—320 on the par-72 Pete Dye course.

“I really took that hard,” he said. “That’s not the kind of golfer I am. I’m using what happened as a learning experience even though I’m not entirely sure what happened to me. I just couldn’t find my game. It was my first national tournament, so maybe I let that get to me.

“I’m so glad I qualified again because this tournament owes me one. So does golf.”

Bryan Veginski contributed to this story