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RANTOUL — Brock Peavler doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t search for the right word. He doesn’t pause to consider the question.
It’s like the Paxton-Buckley-Loda senior and top golfer on the Rantoul Township High School/PBL co-op team has had the answer prepared for the last 10 months — which, of course, is how long he’s had to think about a missed opportunity to qualify for the Class 2A state finals after last year’s LaSalle-Peru Sectional ended with him missing the state cut by one stroke.
“Get to state,” Peavler said when asked what his goals were for the upcoming 2012 season. “I just want to get to state. That’s the only thing I want to do. It’s my only goal. If I don’t achieve that, then it’s a disappointment.”
At this point in the season — which started on Monday for the squad at the Tiger Kick-Off Classic at Urbana Country Club — Peavler is easily the Eagles best chance to play at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University, the site of the 2A state finals, come mid-October.
Right now, though, Peavler will have to work on his game away from the Eagles’ first four meets and tournaments as he serves a suspension for athletic code violations. He is set to tee off at the Champaign County Tournament on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet, but missed Monday’s tournament in Urbana and will miss the squad’s dual meet at Pontiac on Thursday, Aug. 23, and home meet against Fisher on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Peavler and senior Joe Barton are both back to lead RTHS/PBL this fall after both advanced out of regional play last year. Barton didn’t come as close to making it to state like Peavler did, but knows he’ll have an increased role on the team this season. RTHS/PBL head coach Travis Flesner, back for his sixth season, said just as much.
“Brock and Joe should definitely be one and two throughout the year,” Flesner said. “I think that (Brock) just needs to hopefully have a hunger to make it to the state tournament. You can’t look past regionals and sectionals, but he definitely has the talent to make it to state. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, continuing to improve and working towards that final goal of getting to play at the state tournament.”
With Barton, Flesner would like to see more consistency out of him during the course of the season. Barton has the capabilities to shoot in the low 40s, but also showed last year his scores could skyrocket after a few bad holes.
“Joe’s got a nice swing,” Flesner said. “He just needs to have golf savvy is what he needs to learn. He needs to learn how to score hitting different shots. You don’t always have to take a full swing every time. Once he continues to learn the game of golf, I know down the road he’s going to be a real good golfer because his swing is so nice.”
Barton said he knows much is expected of him and Peavler, and he’s ready to handle that role.
“You just have to go out there and play your best,” Barton said. “You want to help the other kids. That’s part of our job as seniors to help out the younger kids. Maybe one of these sophomores and freshmen could have a good season, and that’d be pretty nice.”
Two other seniors, Kyler Swanson and Dylin Harris, both from PBL, could also factor into the Eagles’ scoring at dual meets. Harris is a transfer from Bloomington.
Freshman Keegan Brooks, of RTHS, has shown promise early on and Flesner said he could contribute to the top four scores. Junior Aaron Padilla of RTHS and sophomore Cody Bauman of PBL might also have to produce on a relatively young team. Of the 16 players on the roster, 11 are freshmen or sophomores.
“We’re going to have a pretty young group,” Flesner said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores coming out this year, more than we’ve had in the past. We’re just looking to work with some of this raw and untouched talent to hopefully make improvements throughout the year.”
Besides the Tiger Kick-Off and the Champaign County Tournament, RTHS/PBL — which will have its home matches at Brookhill Golf Course in Rantoul — will compete in the Danville Invitational at Turtle Run Golf Club on Friday, Aug. 31, the Mattoon Invitational at Mattoon County Club and Meadowview Golf Course on Sept. 7-8, the Trojan Fall Classic at Charleston Country Club on Friday, Sept. 21, as 18-hole tournaments. The Corn Belt Meet arrives on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Railside Golf Club in Gibson City. Flesner said he anticipates Normal U-High as the squad to beat, along with Mahomet-Seymour and Pontiac factoring into the mix.
“It’s tough to say with the conference,” Flesner said. “U-High is going to be tough. Mahomet might be slightly down, but they’re still going to be good. They just might be down from what they have been. Pontiac’s going to be a little bit better. Their program is improving quite a bit. By the end of the season, if we can have our guys to not have blowups and find a way to shoot 88 or 89 at the conference tournament, we could finish in the middle of the pack.”
Regional play is expected to take place on Tuesday, Oct. 2. Where RTHS/PBL will compete in the postseason has not been decided yet, but the University of Illinois Orange Course in Savoy will host a sectional, with the Eagles most likely being put in one of the four regionals that feed into that sectional.
“It’d be nice to get back to sectionals,” Barton said. “I’d like to break 80 this year. I’ve never done it yet. I shot an 81 at regionals (last year). That was my best round ever. I don’t know how far we’ll be able to get as a team, but if I can make it to sectionals or even state, that’d be nice.”
Wherever the sectional meet is, Peavler — who said he has received interest from Parkland College and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville to possibly play in college — would like to spend that Monday mid-October day celebrating a state berth rather than regretting another missed opportunity.
“Off the tee, I’ve given myself a better chance of getting it closer to the pin,” Peavler said. “I’ve gotten my drives straighter, and my putting’s come around a little bit. It still feels like I’ve got a century left of high school golf, (but) but I’ve got one more chance this year to prove myself.”