The hole was regulation size at the Class 2A Freeport Sectional.
But to Tommy Lucca it looked like a massive target. The Genoa-Kingston sophomore used a pair of birdie chip-in approach shots as motivation to get into the zone. Lucca matched his best-ever round at G-K with a 77 and qualified for the Class 2A state tournament today and Saturday at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University in Normal.
“The two chip-ins on the front nine were big mood swing,” said Lucca, who posted a personal-best 74 in Illinois Junior Golf Association summer competition. “They really kept me going.”
Because he started on the harder back nine loop, the opportunity to save shots was vital to a successful round. On No. 12, a long par-4, Lucca found the left rough with his drive and landed a pitching wedge just left of the green.
A large hill guarded the hole. With his 60-degree wedge opened up to play a high flop shot that would land soft, Lucca watched as the ball trickled slowly to the hole.
He thought of running up to mark the ball just in case it stopped on the precipitous slope. But, then it trickled in for birdie.
On his second birdie of his outward nine, there was no doubt. He played a 3-wood and 6-iron to 150 yards before laying sod over a heavy pitching wedge approach. Undeterred by the mistake, he chose a perfect line and watched the ball roll in for a birdie-four.
“I knew that shot was good the second I’d hit it,” Lucca said. “It just felt crisp. It checked about three feet from the cup and just rolled right in. The shot was on a great line.”
With back-to-back 77s headed into state, G-K coach Mike Lauer said the sophomore should have high expectations, but also learn from the chance to play the state’s best.
“He’s been hitting the ball very well,” Lauer said. “He’s just such a competitor. He got zoned in and had his mind set on going to state. It just felt like it was his day at sectionals.
“I want Tommy to go and try to duplicate his sectionals performance. It’s going to be a great experience for him though because he’s only a sophomore.”