St. Anthony’s Thomas Chojnicki walked up the 18th fairway at the Effingham Country Club on Tuesday along with his counterpart, Mattoon’s Colton Romine, all square in their singles match.
Each had made their fairway shot to the green. Romine’s lie was far longer than Chojnicki’s. If Romine birdied, it would solidify a second place finish for Mattoon and possibly first. If Chojnicki birdied and got some help from teammates, the Bulldogs could get a third place finish in the 18-hole St. Anthony Match Play Event that varied stroke play per hole and better ball placement play.
The sun was setting at Chojnicki’s back, going down over the trees shrouding the 9th hole. He bent down, picked up his ball, and placed a marker. He looked at the pin from where his marker was at. He circled the green, and looked at his lie from the opposite direction. Romine, wearing darkened sunglasses, had the sun in his eyes.
Chojnicki said he felt good about his performance on the first nine holes.
He bested Oblong’s Grant Kidwell, 3 and 1. Romine was playing well too. The Green Wave golfer won his first match over Effingham’s Nick Burgess 5 and 3 in the first half of the event.
Then they were paired up for the back nine to finish out the second half.
“I knew I was hitting the ball well,” he said. “My shot came up short, but I had a decent shot at birdie.”
Meanwhile, the extra help began to materialize. Jonathan Willenborg went 2 UP on Paris’ Reese Wagoner. There was hope.
Then it disappeared just as quickly. The better ball duos of Lane Ludwig and Aidan Tegeler lost 4 and 2 to the eventual champions, Vandalia’s Riley Ruckman and Jacob Schaal. Michael Martelli and Charlie Wegman lost a close one to Vandalia’s Dylan Halford and Jonah Beesley, 2 and 1.
Chojnicki putted first, with Romine watching a few yards away. His ball sailed to the pin, then slowed and veered to the right. No birdie.
“I misread it and it did not fall,” he said. “After I missed the final putt I was disappointed that I didn’t fully take advantage of my ball striking.”
Romine was next. If he birdie’d, he’d win the match. His putt came up short, too. They traded putts that went into the cup, finishing par for all square. Tied. Mattoon would finish with 6 ½ points and in second place. St. Anthony finished with 5 points, half a point out of third place, which was captured by Charleston.
Chojnicki walked over to Romine and shook his hand. For a course he hadn’t competed match play on before, he was satisifed with his performance.
“I was happy with how I played against some tough competition,” he said.
St. Anthony head coach Phil Zaccari thought the putt was true.
“It was a good putt, he said he hit it right where he wanted to hit to but it just kinda broke off,” Zaccari said. “He got a half point out of that. Romine out of Mattoon is very good. Thomas (Chojnicki) shot a 72 and had 1 ½ points,” Zaccari said. “That’s the competition that we’re playing with. He won his first match by one and tied the second. He played some pretty good competition.”
Overall, Zaccari was pleased with the team’s performance, particularly playing a new format.
“We played pretty well today,” Zaccari said. “Thomas and Jonathan led the way. It is what I expected from them, but it is a different type of event and I saw a different type of focus that they normally have. We didn’t come out with a ‘W’ but that’s okay, there’s some good teams here from our area.”
For the freshmen and sophomores, it was a big learning experience.
“It’s not that they played terrible but being in this kind of atmosphere for the first time they did learn a lot. If you look out there,” pointing to freshman Lane Ludwig and his father, Jeff, out on the driving range. “There’s our freshman already out on the range. He’s going to hit until dark. He’s going to make sure he fixes what he didn’t do right. That’s our program.”