Boys Golf: Experienced Illiana Christian to contend for state titleMatt Stoner, of Lincoln-Way East, keeps an eye on his shot off the 4th hole for boys golf regionals at The Sanctuary golf course, Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 in New Lenox, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:59PM
Illiana Christian spent the season testing its mettle in big tournaments against bigger schools. With a senior laden lineup, it was a go big or go home and graduate season for the Vikings.
They’re not going home just yet.
Illiana, placing second in the Class AA Nazareth Sectional on Monday, booked the program’s third ever trip to the state finals.
Led by four-year letter winner Jon Zandstra, the Vikings bring five seniors and a freshman to Weibring Golf Club on Friday and Saturday at Illinois State University.
“We have tremendous leadership,” Illiana coach Jack Rudenga added. “We talked about that early in the season. Not only are you representing yourself, but you’re representing your teammates, your family, me as a coach and the school.
“Jon understands that. He has the right temperament and he’s been a great representative of our school.”
Zandstra will be making his second appearance at state after qualifying individually as a sophomore.
“Both (Jon’s) regional and sectional observer made it a point to tell me how impressed they were with how Jon handles himself on the course,” Rudenga added. “With how he plays and the type of person he is.”
Joining Zandstra at state will be seniors Dan Lagestee, Trevor Wheaton, Jake Boender and Chris Tempelman. Lagestee finished one stroke behind Zandstra at sectionals.
The freshman, arguably the team’s second best player, is Zandstra’s brother, Mathew.
“Jon’s been a mentor to Mathew all season,” Rudenga added.
While Illiana is the lone team representative from the Southland, 12 individuals made the cut, led by a pair of Chicago Catholic League sophomores.
St. Laurence’s Jordan Velez triumphed at the Chicago Christian Regional and the Nazareth Sectional in Class AA, while Providence’s Mickey Brick navigated a strong field to finish fourth in the Pekin 3A Sectional.
St. Laurence coach Larry Kluk said, “(Jordan) is already the finest golfer in school history.”
Velez finished 19th in state last season.
Brick is also a returning qualifier, and he’s been a steady force atop the Celtics lineup all season.
“Mickey’s striking the ball the best I’ve seen him all year,” Providence coach John Platt said.
“He was in contention to win (the Pekin Sectional), but he had a rough 16th hole with a triple-bogey. He calmed himself down and hit nothing but good shots after that.
“I’m proud of him. I’m not sure he would have recovered from that last year as a freshman.”
Platt noted that Brick enjoys playing at The Den, and he’s expecting the sophomore do well.
Another returnee to The Den is Sandburg’s Tom Thanasouras. The senior was a near miss for the state tournament, but showed his moxie by nailing a birdie in a four-person playoff for the last advancing spot out of the New Trier Sectional on Monday.
“I think Tom is comfortable and confident (at The Den) and in his game to have a successful showing,” Sandburg coach Jeff Kwilose said.