The Pekin boys golf team needed to bounce back mentally after the heartbreak of a one-stroke loss to Limestone Monday.
On Thursday, the Dragons rebounded with a third-place finish at Wee-Ma-Tuk golf course at the Mid-Illini Conference tournament.
Morton was the favorite entering the tournament and capped off a perfect season in conference play, going 7-0 in duals and winning the tournament by six strokes over second-place Dunlap.
Pekin and Dunlap were tied for second place in the conference entering the tournament, but the Eagles beat Pekin by six strokes to secure a second place finish in the tournament and conference.
“It’s more about the mental rebound from Monday,” Pekin head coach Brett McGinnis said. “Monday was tough for us. We came in here mentally a little upset. Getting third is not bad. We’re trying to move forward and get our head straight, get on the path and get back on the train tracks.”
On Monday, the Dragons lost to Limestone by one stroke after the greens at Coyote Creek were aerated. Golfers were given the option to take an automatic two-putt or try to putt to the hole themselves. Pekin went more than two putts on four instances, which would have changed the outcome.
Morton shot 308 Thursday behind a 2-under-par 70 from tournament medalist Tommy Kuhl, followed by Dunlap’s 314 and Pekin’s 320.
Monday’s outcome did not have an impact on the final conference standings. Even with a victory on Monday, finishing behind Dunlap on Thursday is what sealed third place for Pekin.
Mason Ghidina led Pekin with a 76 on the day, good enough to capture third place among all golfers. The junior shot 38 on both the front and back nine.
On Saturday, Ghidina was the medalist at the Canton Invitational at the same course, shooting a 70 on the day. McGinnis chalked up the weather to the higher scores across the board.
“It was windy and it was the first cold-weather day we’ve had all season,” McGinnis said. “That played a factor into the higher scores.”
“I thought it was a pretty good day other than a couple bad holes,” Ghidina said.
Ghidina said the team is confident entering regional play Tuesday at Oakwood Country Club in Moline.
“I know we could have played better as a team, but we still have regionals coming up,” Ghidina said.
Lance Hays shot 78 for the Dragons, Carter Taphorn shot 82 and Chad DuPage and Jacob Hill each record an 84. Jack Halstead also competed, shooting an 85.
McGinnis said having six different guys who can score for the Dragons is a big mental boost for Pekin.
Despite not dethroning now three-time defending Mid-Illini Champion Morton, McGinnis got advice from his girls golf counterpart for the remainder of the season.
“(Pekin girls head coach) Chris Neville said to me, ‘Nobody cares where you finish in conference if you make a run at state.’ That’s the goal now,” McGinnis said.
East Peoria (336), Washington (339), Metamora (341), Limestone (356) and Canton (361) rounded out the scoring Thursday.
Ghidina, Hays and Taphorn were each named to the Mid-Illini first team and Hill was named to the second team for Pekin.
Kuhl, Morton’s Isaac Ingold, Dunlap’s Evan Fairfield, East Peoria’s Matthew Cox and Reid Johnson were also named to the first team.