Putnam County captures conference title by five strokes
PONTIAC — For the past 17 years, Peoria Christian had won the Tri-County Conference golf tournament.
2018 will be the last time that happens, as Putnam County shut them down in their last season in the Tri-County by taking first place in the 2019 conference golf tourney on Oct. 2.
The Panthers finished with a team score of 347 to beat second-place Peoria Christian (352) by five strokes at the Pontiac Elks Golf Club in Pontiac.
Ben Cyr shot a 76 to lead the Putnam County boys, placing him second overall.
When asked what he thought about the season overall, Cyr said it had been a struggle because the team just didn’t have the numbers that they were used to in the past.
However, Cyr continued: “The team made it work and is now the conference champs. This hasn’t been done for 18 years, and we did it with a great group of kids making great memories.”
Ian Roach was just behind Cyr with a 77, placing him third overall. Roach said his “up and down game was solid as well as the iron game, but my driver was not reliable and straight.”
Cyr also commented about his frustration off the tee. “I only hit five greens in regulation, (but) my chipping and putting was phenomenal all day,” he said.
Coach Chelsi Niewinski felt the same way with the boys’ performances.
“Ben and Ian both put together solid rounds, as usual,” Niewinski said.
“They both aim to be right around par, so, of course, they can always pick a few shots out that they wish they could have back when they are a few over par. But I was really happy with the rounds they put together, and it gave Ben second and Ian third overall, which is great. “
Senior Luke Olson finished with a 93 and sophomore Chris Uzella a 101. Both had some difficulties on the front nine but pushed through the second nine with improvement.
“Ben and Ian usually get the majority of the attention, but I was extremely proud of the other guys out there, too,” Niewinski said.
“Both Luke and Chris did not shoot the greatest on their first nine. They could have let that frustration carry out to their second nine, but they didn’t. They improved eight to 10 strokes each from their front nine to their back nine. Without that, we don’t win.”
Niewinski was also pleased with the strong performance of freshman teammates Josh Jessen (103) and Ryan Hundley (109).
When asked what was different between the front nine and the back nine, Olson said: “We all wanted to win. I played better the second nine because the stakes were higher. We knew we needed to get hot to win.”
Uzella said, “I took my time on the back nine and put myself in a better position and scored better.”
Ali Ciucci (98) was the top medalist for the Lady Panthers in the girls Tri-County Conference golf tournament.
Ciucci noted her struggles on a par 5 hole.
“I had to take a couple shots to get out,” she said.
“On the other hand, my short game was very good that day, which helped me out a lot. I was pretty content with my overall score considering that Pontiac has always been a tough course for me. I was thrilled with the win for my senior year.”
Coach Niewinski remarked: “Ali was kind of the same story. She had a tough front nine but turned around and had an awesome back nine and was able to win medalist honors by two strokes.”