QUINCY -- The benefit of the experience the Quincy Notre Dame boys golf lineup possesses is knowing how to grind.
It's what earned the Raiders a Class 2A state tournament berth last season.
QND finished third at the Salem Sectional, shooting a 312 as only two of the top six golfers broke 80. The others kept their rounds in check enough to shoot 84 or better, and there is no substitute for learning to fight through tough conditions to help your team.
"It all comes back to practice and focusing on doing drills and staying focused in practice," QND junior David Hutson said. "The idea is to be in contention in every tournament. Even if we don't get first, we've got to be in the top three. We have to keep progressing. Even when we don't have our best rounds, we have to hang in there and try to put up a decent number."
The Raiders believe their numbers could be better than decent.
There's the chance they go low.
Five of the top six players from the team that finished eighth at the state tournament, including sophomore Alex McCulla, who won the boys 14-15 division at the Pepsi Little People's Golf Championships as well as his age group at two other tournaments this summer.
McCulla finished tied for 33rd at the state tournament last year.
"He's got the temperament, and he's got the game," QND coach Mark Longo said. "Last year, he had some great rounds going that kind of fell apart at the end. This year, I think you'll see that completely change.
"He's one of those kids who is ahead of the curve, and he's going to be a pretty good one."
He's getting pushed by those around him.
During the Quincy Junior City Tournament, the Raiders had four players shoot in the 70s, which would have translated to a 290 team score. That would have won any Class 2A sectional in the state last year.
"It helps when we have our own teammates in the same tournament in the summer pushing each other," Hutson said. "It drives us to be better."
The potential for four rounds in the 70s every time out exists.
"All of us can shoot mid to low 70s," Hutson said. "We've all proved it."
Hutson, Jack Leffers and Luke Siebers -- all juniors -- are in their third year on the varsity, while senior Gavin Frese has the ability to come up clutch. Frese shot a 5-under 77 in the sectional last year, helping edge Charleston by two strokes for the state berth.
They are expected to improve as Longo looks for someone to emerge behind McCulla, who inherits the No. 1 spot from Reis Dreyer.
"I don't need one person to step up and take Alex's spot," Longo said. "If those four can each improve by two strokes, that makes up the difference. I'm not looking for one guy to go all of a sudden from a 79 to a 72 or 73, but if those four each improve, there's that difference. That keeps us shooting where we should be shooting."
It should make the Raiders a postseason contender, even with having to travel to Mount Vernon for the Class 2A regional.
"I'm hoping all the time and effort they're putting in keeps them hungry throughout the year," Longo said.
There's no time to waste. Only 55 days remain until the regional tournaments.
"Golf season is the most fun out of any sport in high school," Hutson said. "It's the best time of the year."
Date Event Time
Aug. 9 D.A. Weibring Invitational 8 a.m.
Aug. 13 at Peoria Notre Dame Invitational 1 p.m.
Aug. 18 at Quincy Invitational 8:30 a.m.
Aug, 20 vs. QHS, West Hancock, Unity 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Monmouth-Roseville, Macomb 3 p.m.
Aug. 25 at Monmouth Invitational 8 a.m.
Aug. 28 vs. Pittsfield, Illini West 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Jacksonville 4:15 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Pittsfield 4 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Red Rogers Invitational 8 a.m.
Sept. 11 at QHS, Rushville, Central 3 p.m.
Sept. 13 Ryder Cup vs. QHS at SLCC 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 at Galesburg Invitational 8 a.m.
Sept. 24 Ryder Cup vs. QHS at QCC 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 West Central Conference Tournament 10 a.m.
Sept. 28 at Normal U-High 1 p.m.