By Tim Cronin
From the moment the pairings were issued, it was clear the title in the Boys 16-to-18 Division of the 27th Illinois Golfer Challenge Junior Golf Championship could come down to two men: Beecher’s Michael Barber and Lockport’s Gehrig Hollatz.
The Milliken-ticketed Barber scored four straight regional titles playing for the Beecher Bobcats. Butler-bound Hollatz was a threat for the Porters every time he teed it up.
They didn’t disappoint on Wednesday. Barber went out in 1-under-par 35. Hollatz recovered from a three-putt bogey after a 295-yard drive on the par-4 first hole with a birdie on the second and went out in 1-over 37.
After each player had trouble on the treacherous par-4 11th, back-to-back birdies on the par-3 12th and par-5 13th allowed Hollatz to pull even.
The break came on the par-4 17th, a runt of a hole at 284 yards from the newish white tee, down in the valley. Barber struggled to a double-bogey 6. Hollatz scored a birdie 3. Therein was the difference in Hollatz’s winning 1-under-par 71 and Barber’s runner-up 2-over 74. For his effort, Hollatz was awarded the 2015 iteration of the Joe Jemsek Trophy, named after the Hall of Famer who long leased Glenwoodie.
Two fine rounds. One hole the difference.
“I did not know what to hit,” Hollatz said of his quandary on the tee. “I finally hit driver and was 10 yards in front of the green.”
A chip and a putt equaled a 3, while Barber doubled that.
Hollatz’s round was up and down early – he drilled a wedge to five feet from 115 yards on the second hole for a bird, then sailed his second on the par-4 fourth out of bounds – and then settled into a comfort zone that featured, with the exception of the 11th hole, nothing but pars and birdies.
“It was the first time I’d see the course,” Hollatz said. “If I had a practice round, I’d have put myself in better spots.”
He’ll make sure to have a practice round at Illinois State’s Weibring course in advance of U.S. Amateur qualifying. He’d dearly like to make the field of 312 that will tee it up at Olympia Fields Country Club in August.
For Barber, this is just about the end of his junior golf road. He picked Milliken after considering Monmouth and Carthage, and. while he’ll play for Milliken, doesn’t see a career in golf beckoning.
“Business, maybe accounting,” he said.
All the better to add up low scores.
Ryan Dahlkamp of Crown Point was third with a 6-over 78. A double-bogey 5 on the third hole put him behind, and Hollatz and Barber gradually pulled away.
By Tim Cronin