Men’s golf places third at IHSA State Meet

Cassidy Jackson, co-a&e editor

The men’s golf team walked into the 2016-17 season with two goals: to qualify for State and to capture the State title, according to senior co-captain Charlie Nikitas. The men achieved the first goal and sent six players (Nikitas, senior co-captain Kevin Paek, senior Robert Hopkins, junior Jarrett Prchal, junior Jack Grier, and sophomore Jack Upperman) to compete at the IHSA tournament. In the end, the men fell short of the State title but tied with Barrington for third, surpassing the previous year’s fourth place Regional finish.

Collectively, the team made GBS history, achieving the second best postseason finish in the golf program’s history behind the State win in 1967, according to head coach Steve Gale. The boys also qualified for State as a team, which hasn’t been done in over a decade. Individually, top finishers included Prchal, who placed 11th with 151 strokes, one shot back from qualifying for All-State, and Nikitas and Paek who each placed 17th with 153 strokes.

“We [had] a lot of expectations going into this year, and [the school] expected a lot of us,” Nikitas said. “We did a good job handling [the pressure]. The past two years […], we did not make it past Regionals, and we definitely had the talent to do it, [but] we didn’t know we were as good as we were. This year […], we knew we had the talent.”

According to Nikitas, the team’s talent shone through at Sectionals. The team tied with Loyola for first place and won the fifth score tiebreaker, taking home the plaque.  According to Nikitas, the first place finish boosted the team’s spirit going into the State meet.

“If we just advanced and slid into third [at Sectionals,] we would [have] just felt grateful to be [at State],” Nikitas said. “Since we won, we felt like we really had a chance to […] contend [at State].”

Sectionals didn’t only serve as a confidence booster; according to Prchal, tie breakers’ unpredictability and Sectionals’ intense final moments brought the team closer together.

“At Sectionals, we all stood together […] and watched the final groups come in,” Prchal said. “It was really special to be together, […] be supportive of one another and watch how things turned out. [Tie breakers are] always really tense […] [because] if you don’t win it’s always demoralizing.”

The team experienced this demoralization at the end of the State meet, as they lost the fifth score tiebreaker to Barrington, according to Nikitas. Not taking home the third place trophy was disheartening, but the team remained positive.

“We were definitely disappointed especially because the Barrington team was right next to us,” Nikitas said. “They kind of celebrated and didn’t realize we were right there. We did all we could. We were proud of our guys.”

   Paek adds that losing the third place trophy to Barrington doesn’t take away from the team’s success.

“We played just as good as [Barrington],” Paek said. “We just didn’t get to bring home some hardware.”

   According to Hopkins, the team focused on the comeback they achieved over the course of the two-day tournament rather than the trophy loss. At the end of day one, the men were sitting at eighth place. Over the course of day two, GBS jumped to third. According to Hopkins, making the comeback the team’s focal point allowed the men to walk out of state with a positive attitude. Hopkins credits this jump to the team’s perseverance in difficult weather conditions.

“The second day we came out gunning […],” Hopkins said. “The conditions were worse [than the day before] […] where other teams got dominated by the wind, we persevered. We passed up Loyola that day and tied with Barrington. We were only two back of New Trier, which after the first day we were 14 back of those teams […]. That day we were the second best team at the tournament.”

After the first day of State, team captains Nikitas and Paek led a team meeting to reassure the rest of the team. According to Nikitas, this moment was crucial to the team’s comeback the next day as it allowed the team to walk in with a refreshed outlook.

“[The] meeting [was] to reassure the guys that it’s not the end of the world,” Nikitas said. “The guys weren’t really used to losing and to put ourselves so far back after the first day was different for us. We had put ourselves in a bad spot, so we had to readjust our goal [to top three].”

The team’s overarching goal throughout the regular season and postseason was to contend, according to Gale. The team’s ability to come back from the first day’s setback proved the team’s ability to compete, according to Gale. He credits this year’s success to persistence.

“Hard work pays off,” Gale said. “This wasn’t given to us; the guys worked for it […]. They know they had to perform each time they came out and hit the ball.”