Herald-Whig

Raiders right back in swing of things

Quincy Notre Dame senior Jack Leffers is one of four golfers the Raiders believe will consistently shoot in the 70s as they attempt to return to the Class 2A state tournament and position themselves as a title contender. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 14, 2019 12:10 am

QUINCY -- Monday morning's thunderstorms made Westview Golf Course's fairways and greens soft and the pins more accessible.

So the Quincy Notre Dame boys golfers took advantage.

The Raiders shot a 294 team score in humid conditions Monday afternoon during the first round of qualifying for the fall season, setting the proper tone for a team with a state championship in its sights.

"We know 294 is a good score and will win a lot of places," QND senior David Hutson said. "Anytime we go out, whatever we shot previously, we want to shoot better."

If the Raiders shoot 294 or better Thursday in the official season opener, it will resonate.

QND received an invitation to play in the Illinois Prep Tour's High School Showcase at Oak Ridge Golf Course in Seneca. The event pits eight northern teams against eight southern teams and showcases some of the best golfers in the state.

Seven of the nine teams that won trophies at the state tournament last fall are in the field.

"That tournament is tier-one competition," QND junior Alex McCulla said. "It's really going to show us where we stand. That's the best competition we're going to face all year."

The Raiders want and need to be tested.

They return the top four players from a team that finished third at the Class 2A state tournament last October, shooting a 315 after weather reduced the two-day event to just 18 holes. And they have some underclassmen ready to push for varsity time, creating competition necessary to keep those three seniors and a junior sharp.

"We have an older team," senior Luke Siebers said. "Not only do we know each other, but we play the game different with that experience."

It should mean more scores that will be tough to match.

"We threw up some decent scores last year," senior Jack Leffers said. "If we can get more of those under 300, it's going to give us a chance to do some special things."

Shooting 294 out of the gate simply heightens those expectations.

"Every tournament we play, we want to shoot as low as we can, as close to that 290 range as we can," Leffers said. "We know we're going to see some of the best golfers in the state Thursday. We're going to see if we can get in under 300 and really set the tone."

Having a leader capable of breaking par no matter the course helps.

McCulla won the Quincy Men's City Golf Championship this summer -- along with a couple other events -- and enjoyed the opportunity to play for a number of top college coaches. He's picking up interest from Illinois, Missouri and other programs in both the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference.

He finished second at the state tournament last year with an even-par 71 and continues to improve daily.

He sees similar improvements in his teammates, too.

"We're all another year older and have improved because of that maturity," McCulla said. "I think we have good chemistry and really can help each other out."

They all contribute, too. Each of the top four broke 80 at least once during the postseason last year, and all are capable of shooting in the 70s on a daily basis. It's comforting knowing it's possible, but it can be nerve-racking when you're expected to do it.

This group handles those expectations and the pressure well.

"There's a lot of excitement and a lot of pressure," Siebers said. "We just have to pull it all together on the same weekend to make a run at the state championship."