DECATUR — As a rain fell down on the ninth hole at Hickory Point Golf Course with a slight wind crossing the putting greens on an already chilly Thursday afternoon, Tyler Davis had more work to do.
Clad in khaki shorts and a blue polo, Davis had already finished his last home golf match of his sophomore season for Maroa-Forsyth. But he wasn’t done. He wasn’t happy with his chip shot on to the green before he finished with a bogey on the hole; so as players filtered towards the nearby clubhouse, Davis returned to fix his shot.
Just outside the clubhouse, Maroa-Forsyth athletic director Phil Applebee smiled a bit, recognizing what was happening.
“That’s why he’s as good as he is,” Applebee said.
Davis is good — and only a sophomore. The reality is he isn’t alone as a talented sophomore on the Trojans’ team and his internal push to fix that particular shot is, in part, thanks to an external push from sophomore teammates Ryan Crowe and Grant Reid. It's quite the competitive group.
“It pushes each one of us every day to compete for that (No.) 1 spot,” Davis said. “It’s just a good way to compete against each other.”
The trio is young but still has goals of deep runs in the IHSA Class 2A playoffs for each of the next three postseasons — though this year will only include a regional and sectional round because of the COVID-19 pandemic — beginning with Tuesday’s Class 2A Lincoln Regional. They push each other daily, hitting either Hickory Point or the South Side Country Club seven days a week. At times, head coach Meg Hickey said, she had to check to see that the competition hasn’t devolved to anger.
“It’s great,” Crowe said. “It’s fun. The competitiveness pushes each other and pushing each other makes us all better. Just wanting to beat the next guy. Sometimes we’re pushing each other to the limits. Coach thinks we’re bullying each other sometimes. It’s just competitiveness.”
It’s been like this since seventh grade when Davis moved from West Lafayette, Ind., and ran into Reid and Crowe on the course. They’ve been golfing together since. In eighth grade, they decided there was no doubt they’d join the Trojans’ team as freshmen and begin their high school careers.
Hickey had them in class in eighth grade and wasn’t sure she totally bought into the idea that they’d follow through and play the following year. Sure enough, they went out for the team and took off.
“I didn’t take them seriously,” Hickey said. “I wasn’t expecting that much. When they came out last year I was like, ‘OK, you guys are serious. You play.’ Then obviously this year, a lot better.”
Davis is averaging a score of 38.6 this season and shot a season low of 33 at the Clinton Country Club. Reid's average is 41.2 and he twice shot a 36 this season, once at Moweaqua and once at The Rail in Springfield. Crowe's averaging a score of 46 and shot a season-best 40 at Hickory Point. Those three, in addition to juniors Jaxson Grubbs and Rob Gentle and senior Brandon Hill, make the Trojans a more-than-formidable team going into the postseason.
Expecting the three to take off as sophomores might have been a reach. Golf can be notoriously fickle. A new course can spell problems, particularly for younger golfers. Not them. They're undaunted by new courses, have postseason experience and have been exceptional all season.
“All of us have progressed really good," Davis said. "I didn’t think honestly we were going to be this good but it’s turned out to be a really good season. I hope state comes around but we’ve got sectionals and regionals which is good."
There was a bit of an expectation to improve among the players. It's a natural progression through high school. The postseason, Crowe said, will be a good barometer. Both Davis and Reid advanced out of last season's Class 2A Springfield Regional and onto the Macomb Sectional.
These sophomores will be ready, and it they golf like Hickey knows they can, a run to sectionals is every bit on the table.
“We definitely expected ourselves to be better," Crowe said. "We’ll see postseason if we can get further than last year, that will prove that."
Either way, they've still got two more years.
“I just want all of us to keep growing and we’ll see," Crowe said. "Maybe we can go pretty deep."
Said Davis: “It’s really cool because last year, I wouldn’t say we were bad but we weren’t where we wanted to be necessarily. It’s really cool to have a team that over the course of the next two years we could get really good and hopefully win conference, regionals and hopefully make it to state as a team."
PHOTOS: The Maroa-Forsyth boys golf team golf team plays at the Clinton Country Club earlier this season
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25
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