After finishing 20th, ninth and second his first three years at the IHSA Class 1A state tournament, Riverdale’s Tyler Bussert is definitely on a mission today and Saturday.
“I am going down there with the mindset of trying to win it,” said Bussert of the individual state title. “I feel like the last three years have really prepared me for this weekend.”
From his experience, he knows that won’t be easy even if it appears the weather will be in the 70s both days with only a chance of rain on Saturday.
He just shot a 68 at the Rockford Christian Life Sectional on Monday. The key today and Saturday, he said, is “just keeping a level head for two days and taking every shot one at a time.
“It’s going to be a long two days,” Bussert added, “so, I just want to keep a level head and play my game and see how it will play out.”
It helps that he has played Prairie Vista Golf Course the three preceding years, plus a couple of times in other tournaments.
“I feel pretty comfortable on it,” he added, noting it’s usually pretty windy there. “I just try to play my usual game. There’s a couple of quirky holes out there. Really, what you see is what you get.
“So if you just put the ball in the fairway and hit greens, you are going to score well.”
He’s thrilled that, for the first time in four years, the Riverdale team is down there, too.
Last year then-sophomore Anthony Ruthey also qualified. Ruthey is back, but he and Bussert are joined by the whole team, which won the sectional with a 300, some 10 shots ahead of Greenville Putnam County.
“It’s awesome,” Bussert said. “It’s quite a way to end my senior year to have everybody down there.
“From the beginning of this summer, we were all playing to get everybody down there this fall.”
Both he and Ruthey plan to advise their teammates to enjoy the experience. “It doesn’t happen a lot to get a team down there,” Bussert said.
“It’s a big accomplishment getting down there to compete against the best in the state,” Ruthey said. “That’s been our goal ever since my freshmen year. We finally accomplished it and it’s a great feeling.”
Other members of the team that will play today and Saturday are Ryan Bussert (Tyler’s younger brother), Hayden Musser, Kade Jenkins and Gannon Haskins. The top four scores count.
Coach Trent Groves likes the way the team has played down the stretch and thinks they could win a state title.
“I think we’ve got a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s hard to say you are going to go out and win the dang thing, but looking at how we played all year long, these boys are ready to go.
“If they play the way they have all year, they’ve got one heck of a shot at winning the whole thing.”
He believes the experience of Tyler Bussert and Ruthey is invaluable.
“They get it,” he said, noting every player down this weekend is good. “They understand what’s going on around them. They are going to have a better opportunity to be successful. They are going to be relaxed and just feel comfortable where they are at. That’s a big deal.”
Ruthey advises his teammates to treat it like any other tournament.
“Don’t let one hole take you out of the whole tournament,” he added. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
“Even though it’s a big tournament,” he concluded, noting there’s a definite buzz in the air before the start, “you don’t want to make it too big because otherwise stuff just goes down the drain because you get too overwhelmed and frustrated.
“Just enjoy it and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”
Also competing at the Class A state level is the Ridgewood team, which won the Havana sectional, led by freshman Thomas Bumann’s 76, and Fulton’s Jason Sikkema (72 at the Rockford Christian Life sectional) and Andrew Schrader, who shot a 76.
In the girls, the only area team to advance is Geneseo, which took third at the Class 1A Metamora Sectional led by Jenna Cheek’s 80. Individuals who advanced are Sherrard’s Nikki Schmitt, who shot a 76, Kewanee’s Riley Hansen, who shot an 80, and Galva’s Elizabeth Whitford, who shot an 84, also at the Metamora Sectional.