Class 2A regional golf from the Elks Club

    Payton Dunahee was the fourth-place player for Scott Willi’s Prairie Central Hawks when they hit the Elks Club golf course Tuesday. But Dunahee finished No. 1 overall in leading his team to the championship of the Class 2A Pontiac Regional.
    The Hawks came in with a 323 on a day when the course was damp, there was a bit of a breeze and it was overcast. Only after Prairie Central won the title and got on the bus did the sun break through the clouds.
    Joliet Catholic was second at 330 and Pontiac took third with a 346 as all three teams advanced to the Lemont Sectional at Broken Arrow Golf Club in Lockport.
    Dunahee took medalist honors with a 78.
    “I thought, just starting off with a birdie, helped a lot,” Dunahee, a sophomore, said. “I played good on the front nine, but didn’t finish well on the back. I birdied the first (hole), that helped a lot. I bogeyed 2 and birdied 3. I wasn’t too worried about (the bogey), I was still even.”
    Dunahee finished with a one-over 37 on the front side and shot 41 on the back.
    “I really hit my long irons well, my 4-5-6 was key,” Dunahee said. “I did putt (well), hit some long putts for birdie.”
    Teammate Ty Drach shot a 79 for second place overall while Josh Kilcullen and Rylie Vaughan each came in with an 83 to complete the Prairie Central scoring. Carter Nowak and Trey Bazzell each finished at 86.
    “We prepared really well, we had good practices,” PC head coach Scott Willi said. “We were all getting frustrated, some of the things we were planning for weren’t going so well. We struggled on the back 9 a little.
    “Payton played great, Ty did a phenomenal job. The kids held together and it feels really good.”
    The Hawks played well enough to win their first regional title since 2002. But it wasn’t easy.
    “It felt weird out there,” Willi said. “(Dunahee) hit his tee shot off a tree on the right and it bounced over to the left of the fairway. He hit a 6-iron over the trees to 15 feet and buries it.
    “Josh Kilcullen goes out double-double and goes eagle-birdie right after that. We didn’t know what to expect. It’s the one thing this team does well, it keeps going.”
    The pairings had Prairie Central, Pontiac and Joliet Catholic playing together, which might have helped the competitive juices flow. It worked for the Indians to stay in contention.
    “All year long, we’ve bounced around from a 320 to a 350,” PTHS head coach Paul Ritter said. “Us coming in at 346, that doesn’t surprise me.
    “At the same time, the fact that someone else jumped in when someone was having a bad day, that’s where our strength lies. I was very excited about Peyton Cheek coming in with a 92. Peyton is a freshman, he’s been playing right there and in a pressure situation, he does the same thing.”
    Cheek was the No. 4 scorer for the Tribe with a 92. Leading the Pontiac contingent was senior Griffin Nyi with an 81, which tied him for fourth best among the individuals on the day. Rocco Sartoris had an 85 for second-best among the Indians and was followed by Griffin Brunner at 88. Garrett Brunner came in at 93 and Ethan Finnegan shot 111.
    “The Elks was in great shape but the conditions were difficult with the rain we had prior and the drizzle,” Ritter said. “If you look at the scores across the board, they’re pretty reflective of that.
    “I’m proud of my team. It’s about survival and being able to move on and these guys all stepped up. Everybody did as much as he could to make that score as low as he could. Today it was good enough for third.
    “It was a fun day playing against Prairie Central and Joliet Catholic. Our congratulations to Prairie Central.”