In postseason golf, the goal is always to advance as a team, but if that’s not possible, what Hillsboro accomplished on Tuesday was the next best thing.
Playing in the Mt. Olive Regional on Oct. 6, the Hiltoppers finished third overall, narrowly missing the cut to advance to next week’s Zeigler-Royalton Sectional as a team, an honor that went to Vandalia and Alton Marquette Catholic this year.
But what the Toppers managed to do was equally as impressive, as they claimed four of the six individual spots destined for the next round of the postseason.
Dillon Smail, Drake Vogel, Preston Lyerla and Dom Haggard all finished among the top four individuals not on an advancing team, thus earning a spot in next Tuesday’s tournament at the Franklin County Country Club in West Frankfort.
All four players would finish in the top 12 overall, the second most to Vandalia, who had five of the top 12. The Vandals would shoot an impressive 298 with Chase Laack carding a 5-under-par 67 to earn medalist honors.
Marquette would have three players in the top 12, with another finishing 16th to give them a team score of 326, 11 strokes better than the third place Hiltoppers.
Coach Jim Luckett’s squad was led by a small army of juniors, who accounted for five of the six spots in the Hillsboro lineup.
Dillon Smail and Drake Vogel would lead the Hiltoppers with an 82 and an 83.
Smail finished in a three-way tie for seventh with Marquette’s Nolan Rea and Vandalia’s Riley Ruckman, while Vogel finished tenth. Smail shot a 39 on the front half of the course, with birdies on the first two holes before finishing the round with three pars, three bogeys and a double. On the back half, he would shoot a 7-over 43, posting four pars and three bogeys in the round.
Vogel would match Smail with a 39 on the front nine, with six pars and three bogeys, then shot a 44 on the back half, with four pars and three bogeys.
Smail and Vogel would have the second and third best scores from a non-advancing team, with Father McGivney’s Joey Hyten posting the only better round with a 78. That left one more spot to advance to the sectional, or in this case three due to ties.
Preston Lyerla, Dom Haggard and Litchfield freshman Ian Otto all tied for 12th overall with a trio of 86s, earning an extension to their seasons.
Lyerla and Haggard would accomplish the task in different ways, both of which proved effective.
Lyerla was steady throughout, shooting 7-over-par on both the front nine and the back nine. He would finish the day with seven pars and only two holes worse than a bogey, a double on the par-5 fourth hole and a triple on the par-5 eighth hole.
Haggard would have some struggles on the back nine of the course, shooting a 49, despite a birdie on number ten to start the round, but was saved by a stellar opening nine holes. After posting back-to-back birdies on one and two, Haggard finished the front nine with a 37, giving him some safe space to keep his season going.
While the Topper foursome will continue on, Tuesday marked the end of the season for senior Tad Daniels and junior Devin Speiser.
Daniels capped off a solid career for Hillsboro with a 93, good for a 26th place finish overall, while Speiser ended his debut season with a 109 and a 49th place finish out of 56 golfers.
With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of the state tournament, Tuesday’s sectional in West Frankfort is the equivalent of the “big dance” for the Topper foursome. They will face off against golfers from the Mt. Carmel, Okawville and West Frankfort regionals with medals, bragging rights and memories on the line.
October 6 at Staunton
IHSA 1A Boys Golf
Mt. Olive Regional
Timber Lakes Golf Course - Par 72
Team Results: 1. Vandalia 298; 2. Alton Marquette Catholic 326; 3. Hillsboro 337; 4. Father McGivney Catholic 350; 5. Litchfield 368; 6. Staunton 378; 7. Mt. Olive 388; 8. Ramsey-Nokomis 392; 9. Gillespie 420; 10. Metro-East Lutheran 426.
Medalist: Chase Laack (V) 67.
Hillsboro (337) - 7. Dillon Smail 82; 10. Drake Vogel 83; 12. Preston Lyerla 86; 12. Dom Haggard 86; 26. Tad Daniels 93; 49. Devin Speiser 109.
Advancing Individuals: 5. Joey Hyten (Father McGivney) 78; 7. Dillon Smail (Hillsboro) 82; 10. Drake Vogel (Hillsboro) 83; 12. Preston Lyerla (Hillsboro) 86; 12. Ian Otto (Litchfield) 86; 12. Dom Haggard (Hillsboro) 86.