The Lincoln Railer boys golf team finished the regular season with a
16-0 mark in nine-hole matches this season.
And last week, they won the Central State Conference golf meet,
shooting a team score of 310, besting second-place finisher Sacred
Heart-Griffin by one stroke.
The Railers also had the top two individuals in the event, with
senior Ryan Dean defeating sophomore Jordan Perry for conference
Yet, in many ways, the Railers' real season starts on Tuesday at
the Lincoln Elks, when they'll tee off for regional play.
One of the top goals for the squad in the preseason was to
advance to the state tournament as a team.
Now they're in a position to make that dream a reality, according
to coach Chris Ciaccio.
"We have that kind of potential," said Ciaccio. "It would be the
first time Lincoln has done that since I have been the coach and for
quite awhile really, I believe."
While perhaps no one could have predicted things like an
undefeated record or a conference championship, the Railers entered
the season with one big advantage that over the course of the season
has paid big dividends:
Lincoln returned the majority of their key contributors from last
season, including the dangerous one-two punch of Dean and Perry at
the top of the Railer lineup, both of whom advanced to sectionals
The Railers also returned junior Collin Antoine, sophomore Kyle
Fitzpatrick, sophomore Aaron Butler and sophomore Brock Byrge, all
of whom have shot in the high 30s or low 40s at various points this
Antoine had a solid showing at the conference meet, finishing
13th overall to earn all-conference honors.
That kind of depth is what makes this Lincoln squad a threat to
make some noise in the postseason.
It's also made for a fun, competitive year of practice, according
"It helps a lot, because they really push each other and make
each other better," said Ciaccio. "Jordan and Ryan like to compete
for that top spot, but it's not just those two. It's the whole team.
And it's not about who is golfing in what spot for them. They just
enjoy the competition, and they know it makes them better as a
As the lone senior, Dean said he has tried to instill the
competitive atmosphere in his younger, less experienced teammates,
because he knows what it's like to be in their shoes.
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As an underclassman, Dean had former Railers like Jordan Nelson,
Brant Coyne, John Costello and Nick Adcock to show him the ropes.
Coyne, Costello and Adcock all played golf in college, while Nelson
plays basketball at the University of Evansville.
"I feel like those guys all pushed me to become better. They kind
of showed me what varsity golf was like," said Dean. "I remember
going to watch Brant at the state tournament as a sophomore, and
that pushed me because I've wanted to get there too."
Ciaccio phrased the growth of his team this season as "more
"We were a young team last year. This year, we're just a lot more
mature," said Ciaccio. "For most of the season, we've gone with one
senior, one junior and four sophomores. All six of those kids played
varsity last year. We had the potential, but we needed the maturity.
The talent has always been there."
This newfound maturity could pay off again this week, as the
Railers are set to host the regional on their home course.
By all indications, they should be the favorites to win the
regional, or at least finish in the top three, which would allow
them to advance to sectionals.
But Dean says the team's approach will be a focused, humble one.
"Concentration. A lot of it will come down to that," said Dean
when asked of the key to securing a regional victory. "For us, the
Elks is an easier course than we'd see at sectionals. But we can't
come in with a big head and act like just because we've played it
before that we're going to do well.
"We have to play it like we don't know it, with that kind of
intensity and focus. At the same time, we have to respect that we do
know certain things, like the way the greens play and things like
Dean said he's seen the Railers put up the kind of scores that it
will take to get to state as a team.
The challenge now will be doing it with the burdens that only
postseason play can provide.
"Earlier in the year, at Illinois State University, we shot 303
as a team and got third out of 25 teams," said Dean. "If we can do
that again, or get somewhere down in there, we can do pretty well.
If we can get to sectionals as a team, that would be pretty good.
But I think we've got the potential to go a long ways."
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]