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ALTON — Nothing fazed Avery Irwin on Monday.

Even when the Althoff junior blasted his ball from one sand trap into another on the par-5 No. 9 hole  at Spencer T. Olin, he didn't falter.

Irwin parlayed that supreme confidence into a round of 3-under-par 69 to win the medalist title of the Class 1A Alton Marquette Regional boys golf tournament. 

"I've always had confidence in Avery," Althoff coach Dan Polites said. "What's funny about him is that every time he hits a shot, I always look for the flag, he's just that good. He had a good demeanor from the start. I'm really proud of him and I look for him to contend at sectionals and state. He's that good."

Irwin won the Class 2A Columbia Regional medalist crown last season before Althoff dropped into Class 1A.

He was the only golfer who shot under par, defeating Hillsboro's Alex White (72) and Alex Eickhoff (73). 

"To beat Alex Eickhoff and Alex White is saying something," Polites said. "They're (NCAA Division I) players."

Irwin helped Althoff finish second as a team with a score of 317, as Hillsboro captured its fourth consecutive regional team championship with a score of 310. 

Both teams advanced to the Class 1A Zeigler Sectional at West Frankfort on Oct. 14 along with Gibault (347), which edged out Marquette (349) for the third and final team spot.

"It feels great. I think today was a challenge for sure," Hillsboro coach Jeff Eickhoff said. "With the pace of the green and the undulations, it really showed the depth of our No. 3, 4 and 5 guys and how important they are."

Irwin's confidence came from everything working on the course. His drives always found the fairways. His iron shots always seemed to find the green and the putts just kept falling.

Irwin said being in a group with Hillsboro's Alex Eickhoff, Gibault's Ryan Kruse and Alton Marquette's William Roderfeld helped hone his focus. Roderfeld was an individual sectional qualifier.

"Getting to compete with good players and trying to beat them is fun," Irwin said.

While he was excited to be headed off to sectional as an individual champion, he was thrilled that he'll get to go back to sectionals with his team.

"Just knowing that everyone is going with me is awesome," Irwin said. 

Irwin wasn't the only Althoff golfer who got ambushed by the ninth hole.

Senior Jack Bruening, who shot a 2-over 74, lost his ball and was forced to take a penalty. He still parred the imposing par-5 hole.

"This year has been a struggle for me," Bruening said. "I was just trying to stay positive as much as I could. I was just trying to get it back and keep grinding."

After running away with last year's regional team championship, Jeff Eickhoff was pleased to emerge from a stacked regional team race.

Hillsboro finished third in last season's Class 1A state tournament.

"We played in Edwardsville's tournament and saw Althoff, Mater Dei and some of the tougher teams in the class," Eickhoff said. "We knew it was going to be very apparent that our sectional will probably have a state champion come out of it."

Polites was proud of his team's performance and is looking forward to taking another shot at Hillsboro next week.

Althoff is shooting for a third consecutive team trip to the state tournament and its fifth in six seasons.

"Hillsboro is probably a 290-300 team and we feel that we're a 300 team," Polites said "We feel it's going to be a shootout in sectionals. We competed in two regular-season events and closed the gap today. We hope to do it again and maybe we'll get another try at them at state."

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