He has an incredible work ethic. He hits the ball down the middle of the fairway often. He would love to be a pro someday.

But Riverdale golfer Tyler Bussert, who finished second at state last year in Class 1A, appears to see the whole fairway.

“I mean at the end of the day we are just playing a game so it’s nice to know if you have a bad round of golf, there’s other things in your life that’s going on,” said Bussert, who also has a 4.07 GPA on a 4-point scale. “You can kind of take your mind off golf. When I have bad days, I just chalk it up to a bad round because that’s literally what it is. It’s a game.”

It’s a game he’s come pretty close to winning a state title in, too. Last fall, he finished just two strokes behind then-senior Tyler Snodgrass of Byron.

Bussert is a Tiger Woods fan. But sans Woods, he still cherishes the chance every summer to watch some of the world’s best at the John Deere Classic, just 10 minutes from his home.

He’s thrilled to have already committed to play at Western Illinois University when he graduates from Riverdale High School in the spring.

But it’s pretty clear he would like nothing more than to bring home both an individual state title and a team title, too, later this fall.

“I’ve slowly improved each year,” said Bussert, who finished in the top 20 as a freshman and ninth as a sophomore. “Last year getting runner-up … I had a chance to win it last year so the only way to go from here is to win it."

Tyler believes the team could do something, too.

Teammate Anthony Ruthey is back after taking ninth as a junior. And Tyler’s younger brother, Ryan, is playing No. 3 and has even beat his older brother on occasion. Also in the top six for the Rams are Gannon Haskins, Cade Jenkins and Hayden Musser. 

“I would like to see our team make it down there,” Tyler Bussert said. “I know we have a good shot if we just play good golf and get past sectionals, we should have a shot to compete for a team title as well.”

His coach, Trent Groves, thinks both titles could happen.

“We talk about it every year,” said Groves, in his third year as head coach at Riverdale. “Our goal is to win state. That’s what we are striving to do. It’s something Riverdale has never done is bring home a state title by any team. We would really like to do that for our community. It would be really neat. We are good enough to do it. It’s just a matter of accomplishing it.”

First, though, the Rams have to make it as a team. Plenty will come down to Bussert. 

Taught the game beginning in sixth grade by his dad, Mike, an avid golfer, Bussert remembers many a frustrating day.

He played the Prep Tour a few tourneys this summer, winning two events, and also played the Mid-American Junior Golf Tour a few times, winning once.

He may have the game to win state.

“I am not super long but I know I can hit it down the center of the fairway when I need to,” he said. “I think my short game is good. It’s something I practice a lot. That’s what our team does, too. It’s something that’s definitely nice to fall back on.”

He enjoys playing with his brother.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Tyler said. “I played basketball with my older brother, Jake. That was a blast. It’s cool to have my little brother (on the golf team).

“I want to beat him, but at the same time I want him to do well because he’s on the same team as me. He pushes me, and I push him.”

But the clear leader of the Rams is Tyler, whom Groves notes has a lot of attributes that make him good.

“His work ethic towards golf is better than any I’ve ever seen,” Groves said. “His attitude is good. He’s one of the most consistent players I’ve ever seen.”

The coach believes his pupil could take the title this year.

"It would mean a lot," Tyler said. "I have been practicing since sixth grade thinking about winning a state title as an individual and as a team. So, it would mean a lot to win one of those, if not both."

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