The Benton High School boys golf team has pretty much picked up where it left off after finishing second at state last fall.
One key player returning from last year who is performing well again this fall is senior Brad Hammond.
"We have so much more motivation after last year when we had the state championship in our hands," Hammond said. "One shot in golf is not even equivalent to one point in basketball. 'One shot' has been our motto."
Last week, Benton won its fourth match in a row, beating Herrin by nine strokes and Pinckneyville and Goreville by 56 strokes.
Freshman Cy Norman was medalist honor a second time this season with a round of 35, followed by Jared Shaw at 39 and Hammond and Cole Brugger at 43.
"I've been pretty consistent in some ways, but have been kind of struggling the past week with my short putts. I think that's finally starting to come around," Hammond said. "I'd rather the struggles happen now than later in the year."
This past Friday, the Rangers played at the Champaign Invitational and finished third by six strokes behind Edwardsville and Belleville Althoff with a 322. Norman finished tied for fifth with a 76 with Hammond carded a 79, Shaw an 83 and Brugger an 84.
"At Champaign, I got off the tee the best I've had all year and my long irons were fine, but from 125 yards and in I really struggled," Hammond said. "I'm hitting the ball much farther than last year, so I'm still trying to find the comfortability. It's starting to get closer, so I'm waitimg to break out. The next two weeks are a good time to do that with five home events."
Hammond said he got his first clubs at age 4 or 5. His father, Rob, played golf and graduated from Benton High School in 1979 before playing golf at SIU from 1980 to 1983.
"Basketball is the sport in my family, so my dad never really pushed me to play golf," Hammond said. "It wasn't until fifth or sixth grade that I started to enjoy it, and eighth grade when it became my favorite sport."
His freshman year, Hammond shot an 83 at the regional, but along with the rest of the team, didn't make it out of the sectional.
Last year he earned All-South honors and finishing tied for 20th at the state tournament after shooting 78.
This season, Hammond tied for 18th with a 77 at the IHSA Showcase. He then shot a 75 at the A-J McDonald's Challenge before earning his sixth career medalist honor with a 35 against Mt. Vernon before shooting an 80 at Massac County.
This week, the Rangers host Massac County, Pinckneyville and Carterville Tuesday, and then host Hamilton County, Marion and Du Quoin Thursday before hosting the Benton Invitational Saturday.