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Saving your best for last in a given season might be the hardest task for any high school athlete.
But that’s just what every single member of the Evanston boys golf team accomplished Monday at the Class 3A Lyons Township Sectional tournament held in Lockport.
The Wildkits chopped an astonishing 22 strokes off their regional tournament effort, scoring a season-best 320 while finishing back in the pack in a loaded sectional field.
ETHS more than passed the 18-hole test as a team. Led by junior Ryder Bellios, who by one stroke missed out on a chance for a playoff for an individual State qualifying spot, the Wildkits were at their best when it mattered most.
Bellios carded a 38-37-75 on the par-72 course at Prairie Bluff Golf Course in Lockport, and the only disappointment for Evanston head coach Jed Curtis was the fact that he and his teammates couldn’t keep their season alive with a trip to the Illinois High School Association State finals this weekend.
Also contributing to that scintillating finish for ETHS were Jamie Young at 40-40-80 (counting four birdies), Jack Clair at 81, Alex Vasquez at 38-46-84, Sid Mehrotra at 45-39-84, and Jack McGaughy at 45-41-86. Bellios, Young and Clair are juniors.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” said Curtis. “We had played a practice round there right after the regional, and we felt like that course really fit us well as a team. To a man, they played their best golf, and except for the fact we would have liked to get someone to State, if you want to come out and end the season on a high note, this is the way to do it.
“I think this was a bit of a validation for all of them, that we’re a better team than we showed at the regional,” where the Kits took second place with a 342 total, the first time ETHS advanced as a team since 2013.
Bellios, one of the team’s lowest-scoring performers during the regular season, bounced back from a disappointing start to his postseason with a score of 88 at the regional. He found his form again Monday with a couple of birdies and five bogeys matched up against some of the best golfers in the State.
“Ryder was a little down after the regional, and to tell the truth, I think what happened woke him up a little,” Curtis said. “Today he drove the ball fantastically, and he had some great up and down saves. Of course, it stung a little that he just missed out on the playoff, but he squeezed every ounce out of his game today.
“I know he felt good about it, and I also know there will be even more of a fire in his belly now to make [a State finals appearance] happen next year.”
Evanston placed 11th among the 12 teams that advanced out of the regionals. New Trier (279), Glenbrook North (281) and Lyons (284) claimed the team State qualifying berths.