WOOD RIVER — For the fourth time in five years the Marquette Catholic Explorers are regional champions.
They achieved that feat in dominant fashion Tuesday at the Class 2A Roxana Regional at Belk Park Golf Course. The Explorers shot 293 as a team, 58 strokes in front of runner-up Highland (351). Triad advanced with the third score, carding a 358, staving off East Alton-Wood River (359) by one stroke.
“The first step, it's nice,” Marquette head coach Pat Moore said. “Jim (Rowan) and I were saying 295 today probably — well, 293. They got it done.”
Sophomore Kolten Bauer — playing in the No. 3 position for the Explorers — led the field with a 2-under-70. He finished two strokes ahead of teammate and senior Michael Holtz (72) and three in front of EA-WR senior standout Drew Sobol (73).
“I didn't really expect anything,” Bauer said. “I was actually over par for my front nine and then turned it on on the back nine. Michael's been playing real well, Nick (Messinger) has been playing real well and Drew, they've all been playing phenomenal golf. I didn't expect to beat them. I just came out and played my own game and got it done.”
Bauer, Holtz, Duncan McLain (75) and Sam Cogan (76) provided the scoring for Marquette on Tuesday. McLain and Cogan played No. 5 and No. 6 respectively. Messinger (80) and Jack Patterson (83) rounded out the lineup.
That depth and balance is what makes the Explorers so dangerous heading into the postseason.
“That's the thing about our team,” Bauer said. “You could be having a bad day like Nick did today and he was stress free because he knew Duncan was having a pretty good day and Sam had a pretty good day. It's stress free out there, because someone will pick you up if you're having a bad day.”
The field rounded out behind the Explorers, Bulldogs, Knights and Oilers with: Civic Memorial (369), Roxana (370), Jersey (374) and Southwestern (383). Greenville also entered three individuals.
Sobol is on a mission for EA-WR. As a senior, he's looking to advance to state as an individual for the first time. He did make it to the Class 1A state tournament with the Oilers on the team front as a sophomore in 2014.
“I know we made it as a team, but I still feel like I didn't qualify myself,” Sobol said. “I didn't make the qualifying score, but team wise we did. Going up there is very nerve racking, no matter how many times you've been there. You could have been there three times and still have the same pressure I do going in for the first time.”
Sobol will be joined by teammates, senior Brenden Allen and sophomore Kalib Harrop at the Mattoon Sectional at Mattoon Golf and Country Club on Oct. 11. Allen carded a 92, while Harrop got out with a 93 on Tuesday.
Harrop joined CM's Chase Spanhook and Michael Dixon and Jersey's Austin Seymour in a playoff to determine the final two advancing spots. Spanhook (93) also grabbed a qualifying spot out of the playoff.
The Eagles also got Will Spencer (87) through to sectionals. Spencer and Spanhook are both seniors.
Host Roxana qualified two individuals with, senior Jacob Maguire (81) and junior Scott Anderson (85).
The top three teams and top 10 individuals on non-advancing squads qualified out of the regional on Tuesday at Belk Park.
The Charleston Regional, Marion Regional and Mount Vernon Regional joined the Roxana field feeding into the Mattoon Sectional next week.
Charleston (311), Mattoon (320) and Effingham (345) advanced out of Charleston, while Benton (312), Massac County (314) and Herrin (325) came out of Marion and Columbia (310), Mater Dei (321) and Salem (327) qualified from Mount Vernon.
The Explorers will be the favorite for the sectional title on paper. While they won their fourth regional crown in five tries on Tuesday, they haven't corralled a sectional championship since 2002. Marquette carded a 319 to win the Class A Breese Central Sectional at Governors Run Golf Course that year.
“That was a long time ago back there at Governors Run,” said Moore, who was a freshman on that team.
He added of the 2016 squad, “They want it. They want a clean sweep and it's definitely attainable. If they just do (what they did today) they aren't going to have a problem at all. Keep all four scores under 76 and they won't have a problem at all.”
Marquette wants to build on its seventh place finish at state last season, too. The Explorers shot 656 over two days at Weibring Golf Course in Normal last season and enter the exact same lineup in this year's postseason.
“We definitely think we can win state this year,” Bauer said. “That doesn't mean we're going to, but we have the depth and the game to definitely win state. Last year was a good prep for this year for sure.”
Other advancing individuals on Tuesday were: Greenville's Sam Knebel (86), Southwestern's Collin Baumgartner (88) and Jersey's Colton Winters (91).