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Boys Golf: Wheaton Academy sophomore Sam Dykema repeats as sectional champ

Hinsdale South junior Billy Gneiser second, St. Francis' team takes third

Sam Dykema
Sam Dykema

WEST CHICAGO – Sam Dykema is no stranger to St. Andrews Golf and Country Club.

Dykema, a Wheaton Academy sophomore, lives across the street from the West Chicago club. He doesn't play there often, but it's a frequent practice spot.

"I don't have a strong like for it, but I know my way around the course," Dykema said.

It was home sweet home on Thursday.

Dykema fired a 2-over par 73 for a one-shot win over Hinsdale South junior Billy Gneiser at the Class 2A Wheaton Academy Sectional.

Dykema, also medalist at sectionals as a freshman, finished his round in steady fashion with 12 straight pars after his only birdie on the 447-yard par 4 sixth hole.

"Nothing was really clicking today; near the end I just had a good short game, good ups and downs," Dykema said. "I made a good putt on 15 to save par and then played even out. Had two good ups and downs, a good second shot on 18 from under the trees."

St. Ignatius (313) won the team sectional championship, with Fenwick (322) second, St. Francis (323) third, Benet (326) fourth and Wheaton Academy (330) sixth.

Dykema, 14th at state as a freshman, won't get the opportunity to top that yet with the IHSA not hosting a state meet this fall. But he did give himself a strong finish to build on. Dykema was medalist at regionals and sectionals, after taking second place at conference behind teammate Ben Eldersveld.

"My ball striking is just so good right now," Dykema said. "I'm just hitting so many greens. I had some good opportunities to make birdies that just didn't fall but my lag putting was very good and putting them close. I just have to get the putter rolling, have to start making those 15-footers."

Gneiser, medalist at the West Suburban Gold and regional meets, will be another underclassmen to watch going forward.

On Thursday he parred five of his last six holes to finish a spot behind Dykema, just like at state last year when Gneiser placed 15th as a sophomore.

"I feel great," Gneiser said. "I played pretty well. The greens are really tricky here so it's all about placement."

Gneiser's lone birdie came at the 485-yard par 5 eighth hole, where he drove the green in two and made a nice lag putt to set up a tap-in. Gneiser said he didn't feel he drove the ball that well off the tee but did enough to get the job done.

"You just have to stay positive, don't go too fast, keep your head up," Gneiser said. "It was a grind but I had to fight through in order to play well. I got to work harder in the offseason, practice my putting, practice my short game."

St. Francis, which was second at conference and regionals before taking third on Thursday, was paced by Zach Mulhearn's 76, good for a tie for fifth place individually. Danny Rice's 79 put him in a three-way tie for 11th.

The Spartans' third-place team finish would have qualified them for state for the sixth time since 2013.

"It was good to see us perform well, good for our future," said Mulhearn, one of three St. Francis seniors to play their last round Thursday. "It's always our goal to play well in our last tournament of the year. We know in a normal year we would have made state."

On a cool, crisp day Mulhearn showed good fortitude in an up-and-down round. On his sixth hole, the par 3 15th, Mulhearn made a 40-foot birdie putt "that I'll be honest, I had no business making." He doubled the next hole but came back with a par to make the turn at 2-over. Later he stuck the approach on the par 3 third hole and made another birdie.

"I was happy that I was upset in the moment at times but able to shrug it off," Mulhearn said. "The temperature was a little cooler, it was windy, I knew there would be high scores out there. The most important thing was I had to keep my mental game steady throughout the round."

Lemont's Paulius Malcius shot a 77 to tie for seventh. Jack DiTrani shot Benet's low round of 78 to tie for ninth.

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