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Battling winds gusting up to 40 mph, Vandalia junior Derrick Herker finished in a tie for 26th at the Illinois State Golf Tournament last weekend, shooting a two-day total of 157 in Bloomington.
“I’m ecstatic,” said first-year coach Brandon Taylor. “Hopefully, it shows him he can hang with the big dogs in the state tournament, and next year, he can go back and improve on his finish.”
But on Friday, it didn’t appear Herker was going to stay around the top of the leaderboard after shooting a 79 and quadruple-bogeying hole No. 9 to finish the day in 40th place.
“I pulled a three-wood straight left into the other fairway,” Herker said of that hole. “Then, I tried getting too cute with the next chip shot, and it went in the water.
“It was a horrible hole.”
On hole No. 18, Herker double-bogeyed, because his tee shot went into the water.
Taylor said he was not concerned on Saturday, even though Herker had made those two errors.
“I told him at breakfast, ‘There’s nothing you can do about it now. Just try to improve, and stay with it. Let all the other kids make the mistakes,’” Taylor said. “And he did that.”
Scoring no worse than a bogey on each hole on Saturday, Herker mastered the two holes that had doomed him the day before, shooting a par on 18 and a birdie on nine to finish one stroke better than Friday.
“On 18, I told myself, ‘Do not go in the water. If you have to do anything, go left because you have enough room over there,’” Herker said. “On No. 9, I told myself, ‘Just swing through.’
“I swung it, it went right down the middle and I got up and down for a birdie.”
Taylor said he was pleased that Herker erased those bad shots from his memory.
“That’s all you can ask for,” Taylor said. “He did what he said he was going to do, playing for pars.”
There were 111 golfers at the tournament, and Winchester senior Nate Davis placed first with a 145. Mt. Carmel won the team title by five strokes over St. Anthony.
With Herker returning next season as a senior leader, Taylor said his experience will of primary importance during practices and regular-season matches.
“It’s a huge asset for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we can relate that back to practice and show kids what they need to do.”