QUINCY — The challenges the Quincy Notre Dame boys golf team’s lineup faced early in the season due to COVID-19 quarantines and procedures have finally passed.
Now, the Raiders seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.
Blake Arnold does, too.
QND defended its West Central Conference championship, posting its second-best team score of the season with a 325 on Wednesday in gusty conditions at Westview Golf Course. The Raiders were 25 clear of the rest of the field. Illini West was second (350), Central was third (390) and Payson Seymour was fourth (392).
Meanwhile, Arnold continued to establish himself as the area’s top small-school golfers. The Liberty junior shot a 4-over 75 to edge QND’s Ross Thompson by two strokes for individual medalist honors and win his first conference championship.
“I hit the ball really well,” Arnold said. “My putting was, eh, just all right. It was nothing special. But I hit the ball better than I have been lately.”
The same can be said for QND’s entire lineup.
“We’re starting to come around,” Raiders coach Brian Hendrian said. “Some of our guys that had some COVID early in the season, they took a little longer than anticipated to get their feet back under them. But we’re hitting that stride at the right time.
“It’s eerily similar to last year when we struggled and struggled and struggled, and then the conference tournament kind of turned things around for us. I’m hoping for similar things this year.”
Thompson led QND with his second-place finish at 77, while four other QND golfers earned all-conference honors with top-10 finishes — Colin Larson was fourth (81), Zane Douglas was fifth (83), Cole Willer was sixth (84) and Konnor Craven was seventh (85).
Illini West’s Nolan Dietrich took third with an 80, while the Chargers’ Colby Robertson (87), Southeastern’s Nic Nanniga (88) and Illini West’s Nick Bruns (88) rounded out the top 10.
“It was tough,” Hendrian said. “They had the tees back and the pins in the corners of the greens. It wasn’t easy for them out there. So they played well.”
The key is to carry it over. A Class 1A regional will be held at Mount Sterling’s Rolling Greens Golf Course, while QND will play in the Class 2A regional at Lincoln Greens Golf Course in Springfield. All boys regionals are scheduled for next Wednesday.
“It’s the start of postseason and time to really get things turning over as you go into the postseason,” Arnold said.
If he putts better and stays consistent, Arnold is confident he will have the chance to advance.
Wednesday, he two-putted 17 greens and one-putted the other.
“No three-putts, no doubles, no penalty shots,” Arnold said. “If I can roll some putts in, I should be able to shoot some pretty low scores.”