ELBURN – Kaneland golfer Matt Yonkovich wasn’t surprised that he qualified for the sectional meet last season as a sophomore. He felt he improved leaps and bounds from the previous season and he deserved it.
What surprised Yonkovich was that he was the only one to qualify from his team, which won the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
“It was sad to see them all go,” Yonkovich said. “Playing by myself was crazy. You’re the only one on the team to make it that far. … I expected to at least have one of my other teammates with me. It just didn’t happen.”
Yonkovich doesn’t expect that to happen again.
The Knights, who beat Hinckley-Big Rock, 161-192, at Hughes Creek Country Club on Wednesday, put in more time on the course this offseason and several members of the varsity played in summer tournaments, something they didn’t do in 2011.
“I think we’ve improved a lot,” Yonkovich said. “We put in a lot of work over the offseason.”
Kaneland coach Mark Meyer said he thinks that dose of extra pressure will be enough to put his team over the top after it buckled under the pressure at last year’s regional meet.
“We didn’t have quite as much tournament experience last year,” Meyer said. “Not as many kids played in summer tournaments, whereas this year, most of our top five have played in a lot of tournaments.”
In Wednesday’s nine-hole dual meet, Yonkovich led the way for the Knights with a 38, while Connor Williams, Brody Kuhar and Sean Glennon all came in with a score of 41.
Austin Scott led the way for the Royals with a 46. H-BR was playing without its top golfer, senior Luke Winkle, who might miss the rest of the season after injuring his shoulder in gym class this week.
After the Royals won their first conference championship last season, coach Rod Jandt says playing against bigger schools can help his team reach another level.
“It’s good for them to be challenged,” Jandt said. “If you play poor golf with poor golfers, you never really get a measure of how bad you are, for one, or a measure of how good you can be.”
The Knights, who also are coming off of a conference championship, simply want to improve from last year’s disappointment. Williams is confident they will.
“We’re pretty solid as a team,” Williams said. “If we keep it up, at the end of the season, we should go to state, that’s our goal.”
With the amount of work his team put in over the offseason, Meyer thinks that goal is realistic.
“Usually the teams that advance are the teams that are battle-tested in summer tournaments,” he said. “We’re hoping that pays off for us.”