Last step at Sycamore: The 30-year conference title drought is almost over at Sycamore.
A 157-163 win against Yorkville on Tuesday at Sycamore means the Spartans (6-1, 5-0 NI big 12 East) only need a second-place finish at the NI Big 12 East tournament on Sept. 26 to win the long-coveted title.
"The kids know we've been waiting since 1982 to win conference," Sycamore coach Dave Burdick said. "They played great against Yorkville and made the conference tournament a little easier on us. But we still know we've got to go out and play well because there is work to do."
Sycamore has seven players with conference points, but can only take six to the meet. Finding time in the lineup for every dependable scorer has been a burden Burdick has welcomed.
"It's tough that we can only take six to conference," Burdick said. "But, it's a good problem to have."
Spoiler at DeKalb: Inconsistency kept the Barbs from making a run at the NI Big 12 East during the regular season.
But, with two consecutive dual meet wins and a third-place finish at the Freeport Invitational on Saturday, DeKalb (2-4, 2-3 NI Big 12 East) is putting together better performances on the eve of regionals.
"We aren't firing on all cylinders," DeKalb coach John Cordes said. "But we are playing a lot better."
The Barbs aren't mathematically eliminated from taking first at the conference tournament, but they need the perfect storm of events to fall their way. Rather than taking a nothing-to-lose approach, Cordes wants the Barbs to stay focused.
"We still have a lot to play for when it comes to guys playing for a spot at regionals," Cordes said. "The best six players will go to regionals. We have started to figure out that it's not necessary to go out every round and shoot par. We just need five to six guys to go out and post good scores."
Knights need help: Unlike last year, Kaneland has no margin for error at the NI Big 12 East Conference Tournament. The Knights finished second last year, but because they were one stroke ahead of third-place DeKalb, they claimed a conference title.
Kaneland (8-6, 3-2 NI Big 12 East) will need to play well and get some help from their opponents this year.
"We don't control our destiny this year," Kaneland coach Mark Meyer said. "We had some luck last year."
VIEWS: Match play takes center stage this weekend as the Ryder Cup is played locally at west suburban Medinah Country Club.
Sure, alternate shot and four ball are other formats utilized this weekend, but the one-on-one drama of singles play can't be duplicated. Burdick is taking advantage of his PGA membership to attend the event. He wouldn't miss the drama that will unfold.
But when it comes to regionals, sectionals and the state tournament, Sycamore coach Dave Burdick prefers stroke play.
"When playing a longer tournament I like stroke play," Burdick said. "In match play you can get away with a bad shot or bad hole and still be in it. To win a stroke play tournament you've got to earn it by avoiding the big number.
"There is gamesmanship in match play though that makes it fun to watch. Players have to decide which putts they will cede and the impact it could have."
The mental component has made for legendary theater at the Ryder Cup and can enhance a casual weekend round as well.
"I love match play and think it's a lot of fun to play with friends," Kaneland coach Mark Meyer said. "It would be hard to do with a high school tournament though. With 25 schools and brackets it's something that couldn't be done in a single day."
Which is unfortunate.
Imagine the possibilities that could unfold at the upcoming conference tournaments.
Felix Mack, Sycamore, junior
Assimilation came easy for Mack, who is an exchange student from Germany. He's fit right into the team and has added to the Northern Illinois Big 12 East-leading Spartans' depth. The biggest adjustment has come with club selection.
"He speaks good English and is adjusting to playing golf in the cooler fall weather here," Sycamore coach Dave Burdick said. "But I was watching him hit from the fairway and everything was long of his target.
"You'd think culturally he'd struggle to fit in, but that wasn't the case. We made an oversight in yardages. He is used to meters. So every shot ended up long at first. But, we've got a conversion chart now and he's been able to contribute to our conference wins."
What to watch for
Kaneland, DeKalb at Genoa-Kingston Invitational Saturday at the Oak Club of Genoa
A reprieve from the regular stroke-play grind awaits teams at the Cogs' late-season tournament that uses the modified Stableford scoring system. Birdies and Eagles are rewarded with points. Players won't have to worry about a blowup hole; a hole ends when a double bogey is recorded.