Eagles trio advances to sectional; Van Winkle two strokes short of state cut

RANTOUL — For the second consecutive year, the Rantoul/Paxton-Buckley-Loda golf team sent multiple golfers to the sectional round.

Trey Van Winkle (80) finished fourth overall at the Class 2A Rantoul Regional, Noah Shields (81) was fifth and Chase Moore (82) finished sixth for the Eagles last Tuesday at Willow Pond Golf Course.

With their top-10 finishes, the Eagles’ trio helped Rantoul/PBL finish fifth overall (334) among nine teams at the meet, which was won by Bloomington Central Catholic (316).

Van Winkle and Shields each advanced to the sectional in 2017, and Moore advanced past the regional as a sophomore in 2016.

Van Winkle shot an 80, finishing in a tie for 26th and two shots behind the state cutoff of 78. Shields shot a 90 and finished tied for 80th, and Moore tied for 93rd with a 93.

“They did a great job. And, hopefully, they keep learning,” Eagles coach Tom Wilks said. “It was a great learning step for them for regionals, and hopefully they can keep this (momentum) going into sectionals. Hopefully they’ll have a chance to make it to state, and Trey’s in a great spot. If he can keep his head into the game and finish, he can definitely get to state. No doubt.”

With high expectations headed into the regional round, however, Wilks admitted there was disappointment. The Eagles were gunning for a regional championship on their home course, or at least a top-three finish for sectional qualification.

“That was a bummer for us. We wanted to win regionals as a team,” Wilks said. “I don’t know if we just made some bad decisions or just didn’t play good enough. But on the bright side, the two seniors made it, and it’s a great thing for them to finish their high school career out going to sectionals and having a chance to go to state.

“It took me a while to digest what happened, especially on our home course. We were ready to go play golf. I know when they came in they were disappointed. That shows me they gave it all, and that’s all you can ask.”

Perhaps it was the weight of the expectations that wore down the Eagles, as the team was not used to setting sights on a regional title.

“When you play this game and start thinking about the score instead of going out and just playing, I think it affected them a little bit, and the scores were high, and we didn’t make it out,” Wilks said. “I’m glad the older guys hung in there and got in with their numbers. On a few (holes), it could’ve gotten out of hand for them, but they adjusted well to hang on, and they got a chance to move on. I’m proud of them on that part.”

The team’s two seniors, Shields and Moore, will end their careers having made it to the sectional round twice, with the Lincoln Sectional being played Monday.
Wilks was impressed with Shields’ play down the stretch in the regional round. The senior southpaw finished strong by shooting an eagle on the 17th hole and a par on the 18th.

“Noah’s a phenomenal kid. He carries himself well. He is a kid whose work ethics are great. He loves this game. He was bound and determined (to advance),” Wilks said. “It showed the determination of what he wanted to do. He didn’t want to finish his career in regionals.

“He was struggling coming into those holes. He held it together, and we chatted and told him he needed to finish, and he did.  I don’t know numbers-wise if he still would’ve made it, but that eagle and par on the last hole helped his chances very, very much. He was right on the borderline. If he would’ve bogey-bogey’d he wouldn’t have made it.”

What’s made Shields’ career success even more noteworthy has been his perseverance in the face of adversity.

When Shields was 9 months old, he had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, but he has battled back to have a durable and impressive career.

“Noah’s strong as an ox. He’s overcome everything,” Wilks said. “He gets it done. It’s awesome. He’s vocal. This was a big year for him. Last year he was on and off. He didn’t have a lot of experience going into this year, so he’s shown up big playing in these events. As a senior, he’s shown what needs to be done on a golf course and how to carry yourself. That’s something I’m very big on.

“All the kids are fun to watch. They’re a group. They’re friends, and I’m lucky to have a group of kids that likes playing golf together and being around each other.”

Van Winkle, Casey Dillman, Eli Remington and Jalen Childs will return for the Eagles in 2019, and Wilks — who will be in his third year in charge of the program — is excited for the prospect of having several experienced players coming back.

“The JV, the freshmen and the sophomores, they’re seeing how these guys led,” Wilks said. “It’s really exciting to see these kids get excited about something they’re going to be a part of in the future. Hopefully we’re starting a tradition.”

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Boys' Golf, Sports

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