Boys golf: Dynamic duo takes Geneva to new heights

 
Updated 10/10/2018 3:59 PM
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  • Geneva's Tyler Isenhart chips at the South Elgin boys golf sectional in Bartlett on Monday.

      Geneva's Tyler Isenhart chips at the South Elgin boys golf sectional in Bartlett on Monday. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Like teammate Tyler Isenhart, Jack McDonald is a four-time state qualifier for the Vikings.

    Like teammate Tyler Isenhart, Jack McDonald is a four-time state qualifier for the Vikings. Daily Herald file photo

Individually, Tyler Isenhart and Jack McDonald own a laundry list of accomplishments on the golf course.

Together, they have helped raise Geneva's golf team to new heights the past four seasons.

Prior to their arrival, the Vikings had advanced to the state tournament once in school history -- placing fifth in Class A competition in 1989.

This weekend, the Vikings will make their fourth consecutive trip to the Class 3A state tournament in Bloomington as a result of Monday's second-place team finish in the South Elgin sectional held at Bartlett Hills.

Isenhart placed sixth with a 2-over-par 73 while McDonald added a 77 as the Vikings' No. 2 scorer.

Geneva coach Eric Hatczel admitted watching Isenhart and McDonald tee it up in this weekend's state gathering at The Den at Fox Creek has a little extra special personal meaning.

"It's a bittersweet thing," said Hatczel, whose teams have placed 7th, 6th, and 12th at state the last three years. "On one hand, it's like, 'gosh, what a bummer' thinking about it being the last week working with them.

"The exciting part is that there is still a lot yet to be accomplished."

Isenhart, who claimed back-to-back regional individual titles, will try to improve upon his back-to-back third-place state finishes this weekend.

Another top-3 showing would cap what already has been an amazing year for the 17-year-old senior.

This past summer, Isenhart qualified for both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, advancing to the Round of 64 (match play) in the latter event held at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey.

In addition to his U.S. Amateur appearance in mid-August at famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, Isenhart captured his first American Junior Golf Association title with a 3-day total of 2-under-par 214 at the Memorial Junior in Ohio this past June.

He added a runner-up showing (9-under-par 207) at the Circle K Junior Championship held in July in Columbus, Ind., and finished 17th at the Western Junior Championship held in Skokie last June.

"It was crazy to play on two major championship golf courses," Isenhart said of Baltusrol and Pebble Beach, which have combined to host 12 U.S. Open Championships.

Isenhart, who played baseball as a youth, started playing golf seriously as a 7th grader.

"I like that golf is an individual sport -- the work that you put in you get out," he said. "I also like the team aspect."

McDonald, who began playing golf at the age of 6 with his dad at Geneva Golf Club, lists basketball as his first love.

For good reason.

During his first varsity season as a sophomore, McDonald broke the school's single-season assist mark (168 -- regular season) as the Vikings won 28 of 31 games.

Last year as a junior, the 5-foot-11 point guard averaged 15 points per game and became the Vikings' career assist leader -- at midseason.

This weekend, however, McDonald will focus on the smaller dimpled ball.

"I have really enjoyed golf these past four years," said McDonald. "I put a lot of time into golf this summer, playing rounds with my friends and working on my short game. I think it has shown."

Earlier this season, the Vikings established a new 9-hole scoring mark with their 8-under-par 132 during a match against Lake Park and Wheaton Warrenville South.

Naturally, Isenhart (2 eagles) and McDonald (5 birdies) led the way with 4-under-par 31s.

"Their attitudes are so great," said Hatczel. "Tyler kind of drives the talent while Jack is such a true competitor. Jack thrives being around Tyler, and he has a competitive skill set that pushes Tyler as well."

At first glance, Isenhart and McDonald are not imposing figures.

Don't let that fool you.

"Even as freshmen, they were two smaller-type guys who could bang it down the fairway," said the coach. "Both of them are sneaky long players who are mentally tough.

"We were at LaSalle-Peru a week ago and Jack went for the green off the tee on a par-4 hole," said Hatczel. "They can both put it out there pretty far."

Both players respect each other's games and are friends on and off the course.

"We're real good friends," said Isenhart, who will continue his golf career at Baylor next fall. "Jack is a very competitive person."

"I first starting hearing about Tyler in 7th grade," said McDonald, who remains uncommitted on his college basketball future. "His consistency is amazing. He shows up locked in at every tournament. We're good friends. He's usually sitting in the front row at our basketball games."

Hatczel realizes his good fortune to have had Isenhart and McDonald around for the past 4 seasons -- this year supported by Nathan Dalton, Will Klaus, Quin McNeive and Joe Novak, among others.

"They're great teammates," he said. "They all offer great support for each other."

Support that will continue this weekend in Bloomington.

"Tyler and I were talking this summer about really wanting to finish the deal (at state)," said McDonald. "That was our goal."

You can reach Craig Brueske at csb4k@hotmail.com.

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