Vernon Hills senior Russell Swansen wanted one last picture with the Class 2A Vernon Hills Regional plaque.
As his teammates milled around celebrating the program’s ninth straight regional title, Swansen reveled in contributing to the team’s streak.
Three years ago, Swansen got cut from the golf team. During his junior year, Swansen was not among the top six that competed at the regional.
It’s been a long and winding road for Swansen, but the payoff came Monday.
Swansen shot a 79 to help extend the Cougars’ regional title streak with a team score of 328. Carmel, with a 333, and St. Viator, with a 345, also advanced to Monday’s Burlington Central Sectional at Whisper Creek in Huntley.
Vernon Hills senior Rohan Vasudeva earned the meet medalist honors by shooting a 76.
“This year I worked really hard, and most of my scores have been pretty consistent,” Swansen said. “My swing was feeling good today. I had a few bad holes. In the past, I would let it get to me, but that didn’t happen here. I’m feeling super-good about sectionals — get a good week of practice and try and put up another good score.”
Vernon Hills coach Shawn Healey said Swansen has shown a lot of perseverance in his career to build up his game.
“Russell has had his good and bad rounds, and he’s really worked hard at it, so it’s great to see him come out today and put a nice number when we really needed it,” he said. “He just kept on working, never quit and kept on getting better. He got better as a sophomore, helped us as a junior and now is leading the way.”
Vasudeva said Swansen’s strong play bodes well for the Cougars.
“Russell really pulled through,” he said. “He struggled earlier in the season, but he’s really pulling it together for us, which is really good for us. Hopefully, he can carry it into next week.”
Wardin wards off affects of illness: Grayslake Central senior Kollin Wardin was simply happy to be playing golf Monday. After dealing with a sinus and ear infection that caused him to shoot a 94 at the Northern Lake County tournament, Wardin wasn’t sure what to expect at the regional.
“I was really upset because I love the golf program so much, and I was pretty sick and wanted to prove to myself I could do better,” Wardin said. “I tried to come out and play calm and build some confidence.”
Aside from requiring his mother to make an in-meet run for some medicine, Wardin had a pretty successful showing. He carded an 85 to advance as an individual to the sectional. A year ago, Wardin missed the cut by one stroke.
“I was frustrated last year not making it to sectionals,” he said. “I worked on a different swing pattern, and I’ve been getting better. It’s really helped me. I’m happy to advance.”
In total, Grayslake Central advanced four individuals, with Cameron Mussay (91), Gianni Lucchesi (93) and Keegan Fitzgerald (93) all joining Wardin.
“Kollin has shot competitive rounds less than this, but they were nine-hole rounds,” Grayslake Central coach Jim Mazzetta said. “It was probably one of his best 18-hole tournaments. He’s worked on his game a lot.”
Bailes leads Carmel: Carmel junior Clint Bailes overcame a sluggish finish to card a 78 and help his team reach the sectional. Bailes said he’s aiming to improve there to lead the Corsairs to state.
“I could’ve done better,” Bailes said. “I was 2-under through eight, but not sure if I tired out, but I fell apart in the back nine. I know I can do better.”
Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.