Golf may not be the most physically demanding sport offered at local high schools, but its postseason can offer athletes some particularly unique and formidable challenges.
From mid-August through the end of September, prep golfers were treated to weather that was usually favorable and often spectacular. Shorts and short sleeves were common on the local links; rain was rare, and winds were generally tame by Illinois standards.
But the IHSA postseason doesn't begin until October, and as is often the case, golfers have had face significantly conditions than they've been accustomed to as they try to advance to state. Conditions were generally favorable when the area's boys golfers teed off in the regional round on Oct. 2. By the following day, when the girls postseason opened, temperatures were considerably cooler, and sporadic rain swept through the region.
The conditions didn't phase the Minooka girls team or Morris individuals Olivia Kief and Hailey Hoaglund, who all advanced to the sectional round.
"It wasn't really that bad," Minooka senior Rachel Herzberger said after shooting a team-low 80 at the La Salle-Peru Regional. "We didn't really get any (rain) this morning."
Other than Kief and Hoaglund, who were assigned to the one golf sectional in the state held on Tuesday, all of the area's sectional qualifiers had to turn around and compete on Columbus Day. If playing conditions were less than ideal during the regional round, they were significantly worse Monday. Temperatures were in the 30s when golfers teed off in the morning. Minooka golfers Kent Hudson, Jason Chobor and Jake Hogan had the start of their competition, the 3A Pekin Boys Sectional, delayed by an hour and a half due to heavy frost on the greens.
"It was cold this morning," Morris golfer Justin Larsen told me at a 2A boys sectional at The Links at Carillon in Plainfield Monday, "but for whatever reason, that's when I played my best golf."
Temperatures eventually warmed so that players were at least not seeing their breath by the afternoon. What never got any better was the wind, which wreaked havoc on anything hit in the air all day long.
"(The wind) was definitely a factor," senior Michael McPherson of Morris said. "You just had to adjust to it as best you could."
Larsen was in a group that finished before most of the field at Carillon Monday. With a 98, he knew his chances of advancing to state were slim to none. McPherson and another Morris player, Trevor Lines, finished a short time later, and with an 85 and an 86, Knowing how difficult the conditions had been, they could have been forgiven for being hopeful.
Of course, neither McPherson nor Lines had any real idea where they stood, because so many scores had yet to come in. So after playing several hours of golf, they were forced to wait — and rely on hearsay and speculation to try and gauge their chances.
"They just said everything over an 85 is out, so it doesn't look good," Lines told me maybe a half-hour after his round had ended. It wasn't until about two hours later that the final players finished and some finality was given to the bubble players.
Most sports offer instant feedback for an athlete after he or she is done competing; they've either won or they've lost. I suppose a diver might not know how his or her score is going to hold up at a sectional swimming meet for a period of time, or that track and field athletes may have to wait for other groups to finish to learn their fate at state. But it strikes me that no other sport can match the long days and the hours of waiting and wondering that come with the territory in golf's postseason.