NORMAL — What the Charleston boys golf team did on Saturday left coach Randy Harpster speechless.
The Trojans came into the day six strokes off the pace for first place at the Class 2A state boys golf tournament, held at Weibring Golf Club in Normal, trailing St. Viator and Normal University High.
Charleston, which shot a solid 307 on the first day of the tournament, was on another level on Saturday's second day. Not only did the Trojans shoot their lowest score of the season, they broke the school record for an 18-hole round by six strokes.
Charleston shot a 292 as a team on Saturday for a two-day total of 599, nine strokes better than St. Viator to claim first place.
"I don't have the words," Harpster said. "Unbelievable. More than I expected. I told them to just go out and have fun. Every year this group has stepped up to the next challenge after the next challenge. Our goal coming here was to win and that's how we approached it from day one."
The state title was quickly dedicated to Jordan Holly, as was the whole season. Holly was a Charleston High School student who passed away in a car accident back in May. Holly was in the same graduating class as many of the Charleston golfers, who were friends with Holly. The Trojans wore their gold polos on Friday at the state tournament that were bought this year to honor Holly.
"Anytime things got tough this season, we would say that Jordan wouldn't want them to make excuses," Harpster said. "She was an inspiration to our whole season."
Robert Rardin led the Trojans with a sixth-place finish after shooting four-under par 67 on Saturday. He finished with a two-day total of 146.
Mattoon's Nick Nguyen took fourth. For the last year, Nguyen was motivated by what he did, or maybe even didn't, accomplish at the Class 2A state golf tournament last season. Nguyen had a solid two days as a junior, but finished in 11th place, one stroke and one place away from earning a medal and All-State honors.
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This season Nguyen was determined to finish in the top 10. But the first day didn't go as planned. After a strong start on Friday, the bogeys started to add up for Nguyen and he was sitting in 18th and three strokes away from the top 10.
Nguyen, though, quickly got into the top 10 on Saturday. Then he started inching closer and closer to the top five. By the end of Saturday's round, Nguyen had a two-under 69 for a two-day score of 144, which placed him fourth and earned him All-State honors.
"Just to be able to get back here was awesome, but to be able to do this, it makes it a whole lot better," Nguyen said. "It was my last round, so I wanted to have fun, but I knew being 18th, I had to go low today to get All-State. This last round, it's not my lowest, best the circumstances and everything, it's my best round. It's awesome to end that way for me."
Ellis places 12th
Sullivan's Caden Ellis had the best area finish at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington, tying for 12th with a two-day 157.
Monticello's Noah Wright was next among area finishers, tying for 19th with a 159. The Sages shot 694 during the two-day tournament to finish 11th as a team.
LSA/DCS/Argenta's Dayton Pate's opened with a promising 80 on Friday, but struggled on Saturday with a 91 to tie for 54th (171).
Port Byron Riverdale won the team title by six strokes over second-place Hillsboro, led by individual state champ Tyler Bussert (146, two strokes ahead of teammate Anthony Ruthey). Effingham St. Anthony (682) placed ninth.