EFFINGHAM — Effingham sophomore Jackson Wendling can’t drive a car yet, but he sure can drive a golf ball.
Wendling was 4-under par through his first nine holes at the IHSA Class 2A boys golf regional at Effingham Country Club on Tuesday.
A double-bogey on hole 13 dropped Wendling to 1-under par. He’d finish the day at that mark, carding a 71 on the par 72 course.
Wendling’s 71 earned him medalist honors. The rest of the Hearts also pitched in and helped Effingham win the team title with a score of 312, just one stroke ahead of runner-up Highland, and five in front of third-place Mt. Vernon.
“I just made some putts there and I was hitting some good shots,” Wendling said of his front-nine performance.
As Wendling hit the back nine, the weather changed from a gentle breeze and light rain to a stiff wind and blowing rain.
“I knew the scores were going to be higher, due to the weather,” Wendling said. “I just couldn’t worry about it and had to keep grinding it out on the back nine.”
Managing to finish under par was a goal for Wendling, something that he said will give him confidence heading into sectionals.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Anytime you can go into a tournament feeling good and playing good, it’s definitely a positive.”
The other Effingham golfers also had solid days, despite battling tough weather conditions.
Anthony Lechman shot a 76 to finish in third place overall and Anthony Barrett carded a 79 to finish ninth.
Jake Linders (86), Sean Sandifer (95) and Reed Schafer (110) rounded out the scoring for Effingham.
“The win marked the Hearts’ first regional victory since 1961. The team advances to the sectional round, to be played Monday at Hickory Ridge Golf Course in Carbondale.
Highland (313) and Mt. Vernon (319) also advanced as teams.
Going to sectionals as a team has been the Hearts’ goal all season, especially after advancing last year.
“It means a lot to go,” Lechman said. “It’s a lot better going up as a team.”
“It’s awesome,” Wendling added. “I couldn’t do it without these guys.”
Coach Jeff Schafer hopes last year’s disappointing sectional performance motivates the team to do better this time around.
“We got the taste of what it was like to play in sectionals last year and we kind of three-putted our way right out of it,” he said. “Hopefully we learned from that.”
“I’ll be working a lot on my putting and chipping for sure,” Lechman said.
If the Hearts finish in the top three teams at sectionals, they will advance to the state tournament.
Schafer said that, no matter what happens in sectionals, he’s proud of what his team has accomplished so far.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s really rewarding and fun to see their hard work and dedication pay off. I’m really, really proud of them.”
7 straight for St. Anthony
At Quail Creek Country Club in Robinson, the Bulldogs finished with a team score of 314 for a 20-stroke victory and cruised to their seventh straight regional title.
“We handled the tough conditions pretty well,” Bulldogs coach Phil Zaccari said. “It never really quit raining, but the team held their focus and came away with an impressive win.”
Senior Joe Powell carded a 75 to earn medalist honors, and sophomore Garrett
Hixenbaugh shot a 78 to finish in second place. Senior Dalton Anderson had an 80 to finish fifth.
Jack Niebrugge (81), Connor Greene (85) and Cole Buehnerkemper (85) rounded out the scoring for the Bulldogs.
“(Powell) really played well today,” Zaccari said. “His clutch putting was the key. Garrett also played great, especially on the front. Dalton had a couple bad holes but recovered nicely to grind out an 80. His iron play was spot on and he almost aced No. 5.”
Teutopolis shot a 391 to finish seventh out of 11 teams. Newton (397) and Altamont (417) finished eighth and ninth.
Phil Blank of Newton (87) and Ross Sheehan of Teutopolis (93) advanced as individuals.
“We get to take the next step,” Zaccari said. “Sectionals will be much tougher as we will be playing a new course for the first time.”
Neoga, Windsor send 3
In the Windsor golf regional, freshman Luke Baker of Neoga finished third at Angus Links Golf Course to advance to the sectionals. He carded a score of 82 on the par 71 course.
Teammate Christopher Walk also advanced, shooting a 90.
Senior Jason Becker of Windsor shot an 87 to advance for the Blue Devils, but Windsor failed to advance as a team, finishing in ninth place out of 12 teams with a score of 418.
Cumberland finished 11th with a team score of 429.
CLASS 2A EFFINGHAM REGIONAL
Team Standings: 1. Effingham 312; 2. Highland 313; 3. Mt. Vernon 319; 4. Troy Triad 333; 5. Centralia 339; 6. Salem 355; 7; Olney 366; 7. Hillsboro; 9. Greenville 369; 10. Breese Central 403.
Top 20 individuals: 1. Jackson Wendling (E) 71; 2. Blaine Bucnte (T) 75; 3. Anthony Lechman (E) 76; 4. Jonathan Stowers (MV) 77; 4. Chris Ehlke (H) 77; 4. Cam Loyct (H) 77; 7. Trevor Flota (MV) 78; 7. Brock Portell (H) 78; 9. Anthony Barrett (E) 79; 10. Austin Buente (T) 81; 10. Jay Hargis (H) 81; 10. Mason McReaken (C) 81; 13. Matthew Williams (MV) 82; 13. Hayden Poninski (MV) 82; 13. Jesse Johnson (H) 82; 16. Alex Young (H) 83; 16. Brandon Middleton (C) 83; 16. Ben Leible (H) 83; 19. Rob Foreman (S) 84; 20. Blake Moss (G) 85; Joshua Haussy (O) 85; 20. Broc Everly (H) 85; 20. Joe Tolliver (S) 85.
Effingham: 1. Jackson Wendling 71; 3. Anthony Lechman 76; 9. Anthony Barrett 79; 24. Jake Linders 86; 39. Sean Sandifer 95; 56. Reed Schafer 110.
CLASS 1A ROBINSON REGIONAL
Team Standings: 1. St. Anthony 314; 2. Carmi White County 334; 3. Robinson 339; 4. Woodlawn 356; 5. Fairfield 378; 6. Lawrenceville 378; 7. Teutopolis 391.
Top 5 individuals: 1. Joe Powell (SA) 75; 2. Garrett Hixenbaugh (SA) 78; 3. James Gibson (ER), 79; 3. Andy Vaughn (CWC) 79; 5. Dalton Anderson (SA) 80.
St. Anthony: Joe Powell 75; Jack Niebrugge 81; Garrett Hixenbaugh 78; Connor Greene 85; Dalton Anderson 80; Cole Buehnerkemper 85.
CLASS 1A WINDSOR REGIONAL
Team Standings: 1. Casey-Westfield 342; 2. St. Teresa 351; 3. Shelbyville 367; 4. Decatur Lutheran 384; 5. Okaw Valley 393; 6. Sullivan 393; 7. Meridian 396; 8. Marshall 402; 9. Windsor 418; 10. Oakland 422; Cumberland 429; 12. Arcola 457.
Individual Medalist: Hunter York (DL), 72.
Local advancing players: Luke Baker (Neoga), 82; Jason Becker (Windsor) 87; Christopher Walk (Neoga) 90; Tristan Warner (Windsor) 94.