Stevenson junior Conan Pan says opening up his personality has helped open up his game.
Pan preferred to stay in the background during the previous two years while older players like Mark Noonan, Alexander Kim and Jackson Bussell were around. Those three led the Patriots to a Class 3A second-place state trophy last season. But after they graduated, Pan was the most experienced returning player.
“I’m definitely trying to stay laser-focused and try and show what I’m capable of and play my best game,” Pan said. “The goal is still to have fun. ... I’ve always been the younger guy with seniors on the team. I’ve always been kind of quiet. But this team is fun to be around, lets me be myself.”
Pan, who tied for 31st at the state finals last season, is riding a hot streak after a slow start in the first couple of weeks this season. He was on top of his game Monday, when he shot a 75 at the Class 3A DeKalb Sectional at Kishwaukee Country Club to qualify for this weekend’s state finals.
Teammate Jake Surane (77), Highland Park’s Jared Grossman (75) and Libertyville’s Danny Keating (77) also are headed to the state finals at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington.
Jack Paeglow shot a 72 to earn medalist honors for DeKalb, which won the sectional title with a 305, edging out Barrington’s 310. Stevenson, bidding for its third straight trip to state, missed the cut by two strokes.
The Patriots lost two strokes when a player was disqualified for signing for a lower score. Stevenson coach John Rueth walked the last hole to double-check his math and reported the inaccuracy, which opened the door for Lake Forest to advance to state with a 311.
Throughout the past year, Rueth has been candid about his health problems that severely limit his eating options and require numerous pills. He said he chose to be upfront Monday and play by the rules rather than accept a trip to state by not reporting the error.
“It was the right thing to do, for that’s my fault as a coach probably for not emphasizing enough to make sure to keep track of your own score but also your opponents’ score,” Rueth said. “It’s a lifelong lesson. Those are the rules of golf, and we play by the rules of golf.”
Lake Forest, led Jack Marshall’s 75, is motivated to take advantage of a second chance, coach James Matheson said.
“That was a roller coaster at the end,” he said. “We tried to hang on, just faltered a bit at the end. Obviously, coach Rueth, that’s a big man. … I can’t say enough about what he did. I give him credit. We got a break today. We talked about life giving you a break and how you deal with it. Hopefully, we can do something with it.”
Keating makes the cut: Keating didn’t qualify for state last season and said his sectional performance “was on my mind.”
After shooting a 41 on his first nine holes Monday, Keating stormed back to fire a 36 to just make the cut.
“We started on the back (nine), and it was kind of rough, but I got back into it and shot 1-over on the front nine,” Keating said. “The course is short and tight, but a nice course. I can’t be mad at a 77 considering the first nine I played.”
Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.