ROSCOE — TJ Baker plans to follow in the big golf shoes of former Boylan stars Kyle Slattery and Danny Gorman, who set school records at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
“Hopefully, it works the same for me,” said Baker, who committed to SIUE last month.
The record-setting part is already happening. The Boylan senior finished fourth in the Men’s City last week, broke Ingersoll’s course record by two strokes with a 61 in Monday’s team qualifying and shot 6-under 66 Thursday at the season-opening Boylan Invitational at Ledges.
“It’s been a good summer,” Baker said. “Ever since I got the scholarship, all the pressure has been off my chest.”
Even with birdies on the final two holes, Baker’s 66 wasn’t quite low enough to win the individual title Thursday as DeKalb’s Jack Paeglow shot 65. Boylan coach John Canova said those are the two lowest scores he’s ever seen in the tourney — and should have been low enough for Baker to win.
Well, Baker did win. His 66 gave Boylan a 302 team score, one shot lower than DeKalb.
“I birdied the last two holes; that was a great kick start to our victory,” Baker said. “We have a great team, great guys. It’s all about team right now.”
Freshman Cooper Watt finished third overall for Boylan with a 73 and Nolan Brauns was ninth at 78. Two Titans shot 85 for Boylan’s final score.
“This was really special,” Watt said of his varsity debut. “It’s great for the team to get the win. That’s the most important part. I am happy I played well, but it’s all about the team.”
Hononegah shot 326 to edge Belvidere North for third. Adam He led Hononegah with a 76 to tie for fourth.
“I didn’t get off to a good start and I didn’t finish well,” said Bennett Baker, TJ’s cousin, who led North with a 77. “Off the tee I wasn’t great, so I couldn’t put myself at an advantage to get on the greens. It wasn’t my day, but as a team we didn’t do bad, so I am excited for our season ..."
Bennett Baker used to be neck-and-neck with his cousin until the last month.
“He’s 20-under in his last four rounds. That’s amazing,” Bennett Baker said. “I like to see us go back-and-forth. He’s been kicking my butt lately. I’ve got to catch him.”
TJ Baker was 5-under-par from the middle tees on both the front and back nines to break five-time Men’s City champion Lloyd McWilliams’ long-standing record of 63 at Ingersoll.
“It’s awesome being ahead of all of those great players,” TJ Baker said. “It was weird because I didn’t feel like I was playing that good. I was just making putts and everything was clicking.
“I am expecting big things, not only for me, but for my team.”
Speaking of big things, on which course does he plan to set his next record?
“Hopefully, the next one I play,” Baker said.
Matt Trowbridge: 815-987-1383; firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge