BLOOMINGTON — Riverdale wanted the double gold from the get-go this season.
And Saturday, after senior Tyler Bussert sank a 3½ foot putt on the 18th green at Prairie Vista Golf Course, the Rams had it.
Bussert won the Class A individual state championship with a two-over 146 score for the two days; and Riverdale won the state team title by six shots over Hillsboro.
Bussert, a senior, won the individual title over junior teammate Anthony Ruthey, who shot a par-72 on the final round.
“That was crazy,” said Bussert of the Ram duo going 1-2 at state.
Bussert, who finished ninth as a sophomore and second last year, essentially led the entire two days, but the lead had shrunk to one shot after 15. But he birdied the 17th and parred the 18th to win by two.
“It’s a short par-4,” he said of the 17th on Prairie Vista’s 6,427 par-72 course. “I hit one probably 60 yards (out) and got it up and down from about 2 to 3 feet.”
After making the final putt and with it achieving the double gold, Bussert said he gave it a rare double-fist pump.
Nerves aplenty were felt by Bussert on 18.
“On 18 tee, I was super nervous,” he said. “Anthony (playing one foresome ahead of him) actually birdied 17, so that tied us up. So I knew I had to birdie 17 to get a one-stroke lead.”
On 18, two quality iron shots and two putts put it away for Bussert, especially after Ruthey’s second shot on 18 went in the water, leading to a bogey.
Along with help from their teammates, who saw a once seven-shot lead slip to two shots, Riverdale won by six over Hillsboro for the Rams’ first-ever golf and team state title in school history.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bussert said. “I can’t even really describe it. I am sure the next couple hours it will just set in. But right now, everybody is just super excited.”
Everybody includes Bussert who shot his second straight 36-37-73 for a 146 total; Ruthey, a junior, who shot a 76-72 for a 148 total; Ryan Bussert (Tyler’s younger brother), who shot an 83 Saturday and an 88 Friday for a 171 total; senior Kade Jenkins, whose 86 Saturday provided the fourth score (six golfers play, top four scores count). In addition, Gannon Haskins shot an 87-88 for a 175, his first round counting in the team total Friday, and freshman Hayden Musser shot 90-92. Jenkins shot a 93 on Friday.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Riverdale coach Trent Groves. “I couldn’t be more proud of them boys. They really gutted through some tough golf these last couple days. They really showed what they had in them. So they deserved it.”
It was windy on Friday with winds reaching 20 mph often, Groves said. On Saturday, there were a couple of showers that lasted just a few minutes.
And there was also Hillsboro charging.
“Hillsboro’s tough,” Groves said of the second-place team that gave a gallant chase of the Rams. “They are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“But I knew that coming into today. I also knew with our seven-shot advantage on them coming into today that if the boys just played their game, we had a real good shot of winning it.”
Other top local finishers in the boys meet included Ridgewood freshman Thomas Bumann, who shot a 158 and tied for seventh, and teammate Levi Swanson, who finished 16 over for the two days, to finish 12th and helped lead the co-op to a fifth-place team finish. Fulton’s Andrew Schrader finished 25th with a two-day total of 163, and teammate Jason Sikkeman who took 34th with a 171. Top 20 finishers are considered all-state.
In the girls Class A meet, Kewanee’s Riley Hanson nearly won a title herself, taking second, three shots out of first place, while Sherrard’s Nikki Schmitt tied for seventh with a 159. In addition, Geneseo’s Jenna Cheek took 55th, tying Erie’s Madison Newton with 177, while Galva’s Elizabeth Whitford finished 67th with a 184.
But it was the Rams’ day.
“It’s unbelievable,” Groves said, thinking this was the first time two golfers (Bussert and Ruthey) from the same team ever went 1-2 at state. “This team’s led by these two boys, Anthony and Tyler,” he added. “They are enthusiastic about golf, and how they go about their business.
“They’re two fine young men. They led their team to a state championship. That’s what they did.”