Boys golf: Lessner leads Rolling Meadows to regional crown
The Rolling Meadows boys golf team achieved quite a milestone on Wednesday afternoon at the Fox Run Golf Links in Elk Grove.
According to the IHSA website, coach Joe Szabo's Mustangs became the program's first team to win a regional since the early 1980s.
With senior Frank Lesner's 74 (second-place medalist) leading the way on the par-70 layout, the Mustangs (315) took the top prize over Conant (317) and Lake Park (318).
Those three schools advance to Monday's Conant sectional at the Bridges of Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates.
"That sounds great," Lesner said about his team qualifying. "Last year we missed by only a few strokes so it feels great to make it as a team. Not only that, we won the tournament."
Joining Lesner's score on the Mustangs card were senior Tyler Wengronowitz (77), sophomore Jack Duffer (81), sophomore Nico Haber (83) and senior J.J. Bartosch (83). Sophomore Connor Towle shot an 87.
"Six kids who play a ton of golf year round and it paid off," Szabo said. "Tyler has been our best kid all season. He is in line to have one of our lowest averages for a season in school history. Jack, only a sophomore, just battled today. He came out here over the weekend and wasn't thrilled with how he was hitting but he made a couple of adjustments. He kept the ball in play and battled through some windy conditions.
"Nico (43-40) kind of turned it around on the back nine, making some great shots and J.J. (39-44) got off a hot start and kind of kept it together long enough at the end. They both stayed through it and that's something we've been talking about all season: just play smart and not always compounding a penalty with a bad decision. And we made some good decisions, had some good putts and the rest is history."
Conant's history under coach Scott Cieplik has been impressive. In his eight seasons, five of his teams have qualified for the sectional. The Cougars were second to Barrington in the MSL meet last week.
"We've been fortunate to have good teams," Cieplik said. "I think our kids would be a little disappointed with their scores today. We came in with an ultimate goal of winning the regional. We were the No. 1 seed based on our scores. But making it to the sectional as a team was a goal and we did that."
Conant junior Nicolas Simon earned the individual title with a 70. Rounding out the Cougars scorecard were sophomore Antonio Gutierrez (77), senior Aashir Patel (80), freshman Peyton Kittivat (90), sophomore Ahilan Nayani (90) and senior Blake Smith (90).
"We beat (Meadows) at the conference meet but they stepped up today," Cieplik said. "I give them all the praise in the world. They have a fantastic coach and fantastic players. They won the tournament today because they did what was needed. They made the putts. So all the props to them."
Cieplek also gave props to his individual champion Simon, the MSL runner-up who recorded 3 birdies while winning a second straight regional crown.
"He came in this being the best player in the area," Cieplek said. "He just played smart golf, He made the putts when they were needed. He hit his approaches close enough where he could two-putt and make pars."
"I wanted to defend my (regional) title," said Simon, who was fifth in the state tourney last year. "I lost the conference title (at Palatine Hills) by 1 stroke so it's good to get this one here. I was really able to grind through the weather. I had to shoot low for my team to advance so I used that for my motivation. I was just consistent, kind of boring golf. But one of our goals was to advance to the sectional and hopefully we'll be able to play well there and make a run at it."
Coach Tim Moran's Lake Park squad will have a chance to make a run at a sectional thanks to the scores from junior Sonni Lomeli (78), senior Josh Lahner (79), freshman Adin Patel (79) and junior Dane Ellis (82). Lancers freshman Abhi Patel carded an 84 and senior Ronnie Abrahman had an 85.
The top individual sectional qualifiers were Hoffman Estates freshman Jayden Lim (76), York senior Tyler Koenigsberger (77), Addison Trail's Frankie Barges (78), Addison Trail senior Zack Morris (79), York junior Kevin Koenigsberger (80), York sophomore Brendan Carroll (81), York senior Connor Hess (81), Addison Trail senior Jack Bolsinger (82), Elk Grove senior Peter Pantazis (83) and York senior Jack Ginter (83).
Lim placed in the top five at the MSL meet.
"He was very impressive today," said Hawks coach Todd Meador. "He played very consistent golf. He kept it in the fairway and avoided any big scores. As a freshman, it showed a lot about his composure and mental toughness."
Meadows' Lesner, who tied for the regional title last year before losing in the playoff, turned in his second best round of the season. He said he benefited by playing well in a practice round at Fox Run earlier in the week.
"So I knew I could shoot a really good score," said Lesner, who birdied No. 8 and 14. "My strategy was just to hit the greens, two putt and make pars. I knew I had a chance to win if I did that and I just stuck with it."
Meadows stuck enough good shots and putts to produce one of the biggest wins in program history.
"This was a goal and I thought it was a possibility," said Szabo, who has had three other teams qualify for sectionals. "We lost to Conant a couple of weeks ago by 1 stroke so I thought we could play with them. I didn't know a ton about Lake Park or York (319 to miss third by 1 stroke) but I knew it was going to be a battle. We beat Lake Park last weekend by 2 strokes so I knew it would be tight."