The sweet part: Railers Collin Antoine and Jordan Perry advanced to
the IHSA state tournament this weekend at Illinois State University.
The not-so-sweet part: Lincoln fell heartbreakingly short of their
much-desired goal of advancing to the state tournament as a team.
With the top three teams advancing, the Railers finished tied
with Washington for third place with a score of 324. The tiebreaker
went to each team's fifth-highest score, where the Railers fell one
One stroke from any player and Lincoln would have had 323 and
been on their way to state.
But, unfortunate as it was to come up just short, Lincoln coach
Chris Ciaccio stressed that now is the time to celebrate Antoine and
"That part is hard to swallow," said Ciaccio of falling one
stroke short. "But at the same time, Collin and Jordan are going. We
need to celebrate that. It's mixed emotions. We'll get over it."
Antoine and Perry each shot 79s to advance as individuals.
Each advanced thanks to their own strengths as golfers.
Cool Collin keeps calm
Antoine, renowned by his teammates and his coach for his "mental
game," was able to put together a steady round, with no real
round-killing bogey stretches.
Where for other players, a bad hole can derail an entire round,
Antoine is able to rebound quickly. And that has paid off in recent
weeks, first with an all-conference finish at the Central State
Eight tournament and then again at sectionals.
Antoine said his short game felt especially good on Monday.
"I hit a lot of solid shots today. My chipping was pretty good. I
almost holed two or three shots on chips, but they just didn't
fall," said Antoine, a junior. "I just hit a lot of pure shots. And
putting at that course, the greens are pretty tough. If you don't
putt well, you're in trouble. But all around, I just played solid."
Ciaccio lauded Antoine's improvement from a year ago and
especially in recent weeks, crediting it to Antoine's sound mental
"He's gotten so much better with his mental game. He's able to
focus, stay within a game plan," said the coach. "Last year, a lot
of things bothered him... When I go out there this year and watch him
play, I can't tell if he's playing well or struggling, because he's
the same kind of temperament all the way around the course. That's
exactly what I'm looking for. I don't want them too high when
they're playing well or too low when they hit a bad shot. His mental
game has really come along.
"He didn't really get in trouble today. Just kind of went out and
played his game. He's a really good putter and he's really improved
on that part of his game. I'm really happy for him. I think last
year at regionals, he shot a 99. This year, in sectionals in tough
conditions, he shoots a 79 and is going to state."
Antoine credited his recent improvement to confidence he's gained
from his teammates.
"My confidence has improved a ton. My teammates made me believe
in myself that I can do it," said Antoine. "I have nothing to lose.
I just went out today and shot the best that I could. That was one
of my goals this year, to go to state. I accomplished it."
Perry catches fire for first 14 holes
Perry, a sophomore, used the sectional round to show just how
good he can be when he's in a groove.
Perry was only 2-over par on the first 14 holes, putting himself
in contention for medalist honors.
[to top of second column]
But Perry would hit a rough patch starting on hole No. 15. He
double-bogeyed the hole and would bogey 16, 17 and 18 to finish with
"I was hot for the first 14 holes. I couldn't miss a beat," said
Perry. "I was hitting fairways, hitting greens, two-putting and
getting out of there with par. That's what I want to do."
Going from scorching hot to a chilly finish was tough for Perry
to stomach, but nevertheless, he is heading to the IHSA state
tournament for the first time.
For Perry -- who has played in various area summer tournaments
since middle school -- that's been a longtime dream.
"It feels really good," said Perry. "It shows that all of the
hard work, all of the competitive golf I've played was worth it. It
paid off in the long run."
If Perry can avoid a rough patch this weekend at the state
tournament, the sky is the limit.
"For me, it's not getting too carried away with where I am at a
certain point. That's what happened today," said Perry of what would
be the key for him this coming weekend. "Thinking about going to
state, I really got off track. For me, this year, state is just a
learning experience. I don't have a reason to get mad. I just want
to go there and have fun."
"He's just got a nice swing. When he is up there, and he's
relaxed, and he's playing the right way, he's just fun to watch. He
is just automatic," said Ciaccio. "He did play well the first 14
holes today. The realization about going to state crept into his
"He is only a sophomore, which is hard to imagine since it seems
like for a lot of people, he's been around forever. ... I know it
wasn't quite the score he was hoping for. He felt like he blew it.
But he made it, he'll be there with Collin, and we'll have some
Dean's last day in red and green
Ciaccio said the hardest part of falling short of the team goal
was that it meant Ryan Dean's career as a Railer came to a close.
Dean, who won the Central State Eight championship two weeks ago,
wasn't able to qualify as an individual, meaning his high school
career is over.
A four-year varsity player, Dean has been a mainstay for the LCHS
This season, he was the only senior and a vocal team leader.
"He's shown us all a lot," said Perry, who finished second to
Dean at the conference tournament. "He's the most mature player on
the team. He's showed me not to let a bad shot ruin your whole
round, to get over it and move on.
"He showed great leadership throughout the whole year, pushing
everybody to keep working hard."
Ciaccio had hoped to be Dean's coach for six days and said the
worst part of not advancing was the end of Dean's high school
"I was so proud of him this year. He's really come a long way.
Especially maturity-wise," said Ciaccio. "Playing with older guys
(as an underclassmen), he never had to be a leader. He had to grow
into that. He really matured this year. He mentored the other boys.
He grew up a lot.
"It was fun to watch, because I've known him since he was a young
kid. I'm just really, really proud of him."
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]