CHARLESTON — The goal for the Charleston High School boys golf team shouldn’t be too hard to figure out this season.
Last year the Trojans won the Class 2A state title. Not only did they win the state title, they set the record for the lowest score in the 2A state championship with a 599.
Not only does Charleston have two All-State golfers back this season with seniors Robert Rardin and Ben Lanman, all six golfers from last year’s championship team — Lanman, Rardin, Preston Smith (senior), Keegan Gowin (senior), Blake Wolfe (junior) and Zach Will (junior) — return.
So the goal for the first boys team to ever win a state title at Charleston — the Charleston girls golf team won the state title two years ago — is to repeat.
Charleston coach Randy Harpster is taking two approaches to the season. Of course, the first one is to have the team repeat as the 2A state champion.
“Our goal is to win it again and we are going into this season after working hard all summer,” Harpster said. “They are tournament-tested and played against some of the best in Illinois, in the U.S. and, in a couple of cases, the world. All four of our seniors played in an AJGA event.”
Granted, it’s to repeat as the champions. So Harpster said he doesn’t want the team to put too much pressure on itself.
“The one thing I told them, no matter what happens this year, you are going to walk away with a state title,” Harpster said. “You don’t need to put pressure on yourself, just be who you are. We are going to go out and play the way we play. It’s the only boys team in the history of Charleston to win a state title. We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
Harpster is in his fifth year as the head coach of the program. During those fifth seasons, Charleston has gone 67-9 in duals, triangulars and quadrangulars. The four seniors have gone 57-3 in the past four seasons and in the last two years, Charleston hasn’t lost a meet, going 38-0.
Last year the team won six tournaments and won its second straight Apollo Conference championship. The Trojans won the 2A sectional in Salem.
Even with all of the accolades and wins over the past few years, the team does have one record it still wants to break — the low score for a nine-hole dual, which is 144. Charleston has come within one stroke of that twice.
“We only have four regular-season home matches this year and that’s the one record they want,” Harpster said. “They have a lot of goals and one of them is to go undefeated again. They are hungry. They are not satisfied and they feel they have something to prove yet.”
Over the summer, Lanman finished in the top five at an AJGA event at Arizona State University. He qualified for the Illinois State Junior Amateur, placed 15th at the AJGA DA Points tournament and then finished in the top 30 in the Junior U.S. Open.
Smith placed third at the Hurricane Tour event at Sea Island in Georgia and he finished in third place at the Hurricane Tour event in Louisville. Rardin won the Effingham/Mattoon Illinois prep tour event and shot a 151 in the two-day event at Lincolnshire in Champaign. He shot a 75 at a U.S. Junior qualifier.
“They are tireless workers,” Harpster said. “You have to basically kick them out of practice. They love to play the game.”
All Bulldogs back
Last year, Effingham St. Anthony made it back to state for the first time since 2014 and finished ninth. Every one of the Bulldogs’ top six — seniors Luke Ludwig, Ben Strullmyer, Nathan Schultz, Zach Wortman and Dylan Ferguson, and junior Jayden Rios — is back.
“It’ll take a good showing to get back there again, but we have lots of experience, and they got even more this summer,” said St. Anthony coach Phil Zaccari, who has taken the Bulldogs to state 15 times. “Our hopes are high. We’re excited.”