ST. ANNE — The final time Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Mark Robinson spoke with any of his coaches or teammates at Tuesday’s boys golf All-City tournament before he finished his round was when the Boilermakers trailed Kankakee by a stroke, information he received from coach John Klimchuk on the 16th green.
By the time Robinson wrapped up a birdie on 17 and a par on 18 and saw Klimchuck again, he was met with radiant joy from his coach.
“I knew I shot pretty well the last two holes, and when I told him what I got and saw his reaction, it was the best feeling ever,” Robinson said.
Robinson carded an 85 on the day to earn medalist honors and help Bradley-Bourbonnais come back from a two-stroke deficit to the Kays at the turn to shoot a team score of 363. The Kays settled for second with a 370, and Bishop McNamara shot a 389.
Klimchuk said the Boilers had their best nine-hole score of the season Tuesday, a 185, yet they still trailed Kankakee by a pair with the day half over.
“It wasn’t like we were playing bad, so we just told the kids to stick with it and play smart ...” Klimchuk said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the kids — they had bad holes, and that happens, but in high school golf, it’s about how you respond, and our kids, one through six, all did a fantastic job responding.”
When Robinson and Klimchuk had their last conference, Robinson knew he needed to finish strong to give his team a chance. After his tee shot on the par five 17th hole went right of the fairway and nearly caught water, he made up for it with a booming second shot that put him in the rough past the green before chipping to the fringe, where a sensational second chip gave him a birdie on what could have been a catastrophic hole.
“I could have played it safer, but it’s a short par five, so I just said, ‘I’m gonna go for it,’” Robinson said.
Robinson played it a little more safely with a short two-putt for par on the 18th to end his round three strokes ahead of teammate Ben Chenoweth and Kankakee’s Payne Tedford.
As the groupings before the final trio of Robinson, Kankakee’s Joe Holohan and Bishop McNamara’s Colton Provost finished their rounds, the nerves jumped tenfold with each group entering their scores, as it became more and more clear how tight the finish would be.
“It was a wonderful match. I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and we’ve never had a tighter match than this one today,” Klimchuk said. “It’s a credit to both of those schools and coaches; they do a great job.”
For the Kays and coach Donya Tetrault, Tuesday was an impressive showing from a group of six golfers who are all sophomores or a juniors, especially considering how much the program has closed the gap in All-City competition the past few years.
“Last year, we improved by 80-something strokes, and this year, we improved by another 47 strokes, so you’re talking 130 strokes in two years, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for that,” Tetrault said. “We’ve been working hard. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, teaching them course management and the little stuff.”
Entering the back nine with a lead at their home course in a position they haven’t normally been in at this stage, most coaches might be worried about a young team handling pressure. But Tetrault said her club was ready to play a tight one Tuesday.
“I talked to the team beforehand and one of the things we talked about was that we’d been watching scores [from the Boilers and Irish], so we already knew we were going to be close,” Tetrault said. “I just told them, ‘You have to go out and play your game; you have to trust your game; you have to make smart decisions.’
“Every stroke matters.”
With a lineup half full of freshmen, Irish coach R.J. Tyson was pleased to see two of his All-City rookies, Eamon O’Brien (94) and Johannes Peddinghause (99), break triple-digits on an 18-hole round for the first time.
“They’re making strides in the right direction, and I thought these were the type of rounds they could shoot,” Tyson said. “They just have a lot of talent and a lot of potential.”
In a year highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, all three coaches gushed at the fact their kids were just able to get back into golf this season — or join golf in the case of some golfers who normally play football or soccer. Klimchuk said in a season in which he’s asked his golfers to focus on the fact they’re fortunate to be able to golf, Tuesday was the first night when competition was just as much on the mind.
“This is the first time we actually emphasized the competition because it’s All-City, but we didn’t want to overblow the competition part of it,” Klimchuk said. “It was a great day to be out there, a great day to play golf and enjoy the experience, because a lot of kids aren’t getting to do that right now.”