Technically, it’s a five-team race when the Western Big Six boys teams tee it up at Galeburg’s Bunker Links Monday morning.
United Township has only two players, so it won’t be eligible to win the team championship. Big Six golf coaches say there are three main contenders — defending champion Alleman, host Galesburg and Quincy.
“It’s a horse race,” said Rock Island coach Craig Sharp. “Alleman, Galesburg and Quincy all have really strong teams this year. Since it is Galesburg at home, they are probably the favorite, but Alleman is the defending champions and they have played really well this year and Quincy is always really good.”
Moline coach Max Haverland said the favorites are the Pioneers and Streaks. But more than one coach pointed out the Streaks are streaking in the right direction at the right time.
“Our team has gotten better and better as the season has went on,” said Galesburg coach Steve Cheesman. “Our top three players (seniors Matt Tamar, Noah Benbow and Sean Peterson) have played outstanding golf. We have been searching for consistency at the back end of the lineup.”
Alleman, which placed third at state in Class A a year ago, is 10-0 in duals this season. Galesburg placed third in the state two years ago in Class 2A with their three current seniors leading the way.
Alleman coach Gene Elsner agrees his Pioneers and the Streaks are the favorites.
“And you could flip those either way,” he said Thursday prior to defeating Rock Island, 161-177, at Highland Springs. “And Quincy may just be a half step behind. But we haven’t been playing well the last half a week or so and Galesburg has put up some outstanding scores. And they are on their home course."
By the time the Class 2A regional rolls around, the Pioneers should be plenty familiar with Bunker Links, as it will be their third time playing there in about two weeks time. On Saturday at Bunker Links, Alleman took second shooting a 296, Quincy (303) third, Galesburg (307) fourth and Moline (325) (sixth) at the nine-team Galesburg Invite.
Alleman is led by one of the area’s top players, senior Dylan Cervantes, who tied for second Saturday with a 72. Sophomore Ryan Rochholz has put up a strong season at No. 2 (and shot a 75 Saturday) and returning state placer Conner Boyd is at No. 3 (also shot a 72 Saturday) with sophomore Gabe Beardsley (77 Saturday) rounding out the top four. Also playing major roles for the Pioneers are senior Jordan Copeland, who carded a 39 at Highland Springs Thursday to lead the Pioneers, and Hunter Love, who had a 41.
The game has its ups and downs, Elsner says, adding there’s really nothing wrong with the Pioneers.
“I am hoping an 18-hole round will bring us back to where we need to be,” Elsner said before Saturday's meet.
Sharp saluted his three seniors, who are leading a young team that is learning. Jeff Perez shot a 77 recently at Pekin and led the Rocks with a 40 against Alleman. Other seniors pacing the Rocks are Connor Dusch and Isaach Thompson.
Moline is led by Eric Spurgetis, who was all-conference a year ago, and Carver Westphall.
“We’ve held our own for being so inexperienced,” Haverland said of the Maroons' overall season. “The guys seem to understand that they get a new chance at the season starting Monday at conference.”
UT’s two golfers are senior Nic Wadsager and junior Jayson Miner. Coach Patrick Green only wishes he had the challenge Alleman, Galseburg and Quincy have.
“All three teams are solid one through six,” Green said, “and are very good at the top of their order.”
Five girls teams tee it up Monday morning at Bunker Links, too, for the Western Big Six title. Galesburg is the favorite, according to two local coaches, and just took its own invite title Saturday.