On the surface, Devin Hartman's first trip to the Class 1A state golf tournament appeared to be a good one.
After all, the Eastland senior finished in a two-way tie for 15th in a field of 110 golfers. Dig a little deeper, however, and one can see why it was a less-than-satisfying experience.
He fired a first-round 77 at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Normal this past Oct. 12, perhaps out of range to catch the leaders who stood at 70 and 71, but within striking distance of everyone else on the leaderboard.
The next day, however, inclement weather settled in. Hartman opened his second round with a par and a bogey, and had a 6-inch putt for par on his third hole. That's when the horn blew, signaling players to come in.
They waited 2 hours, then play was called. First-round scores would stand as final, and North Shore Country Day senior Nick McCall, who Hartman had beat 78-79 at the Elgin Sectional, was declared the state champ with his 70.
"Once they called it, I really couldn't believe it because the girls were an hour south [in Decatur] and had worse stuff coming towards them, and they were still going," Hartman said. "It stung, but 15th is pretty good for my first year down there."
Hartman hopes that's merely a prelude to a big senior season, and a summer of constantly being around the game has put him in that position. Three days a week, he worked at Lake Carroll Golf Course as a self-described jack-of-all-trades, performing a myriad of duties for course pro Jason Hill, who is entering his eighth season as the Eastland boys golf course.
When not working at Lake Carroll, Hartman was playing there, or at PrairieView Golf Course in Byron. Putting in that kind of time is now starting to pay dividends.
"I don't know how many up-and-downs I had at sectional and state, but definitely my wedges and my putter were saving my butt the whole time," Hartman said. "This summer, I've been hitting my long irons a lot better. That's going to help me out tremendously."
Hartman is entering his fourth season as a varsity starter. He averaged about 47 as a freshman, 44 as a sophomore and 41.5 as a junior. The average is dropping as his skills improve, and as he gets used to the courses he sees year after year.
"Freshman year going to some of these courses, it was just, 'OK, let's throw it over here and see what happens,'" Hartman said. "I've been able to shoot lower at some courses, just because I know them a lot better. That helps out a lot."
"He thinks his way around the golf course now," Hill said. "Hopefully this year we can control his emotions a little bit better, and I guess you can say that about a lot of young players. He did a better job toward the end of last year, and you saw the results at sectional, and then at state."
Hartman plans to attend St. Ambrose University or Carroll College next fall, study physical therapy and be a member of the golf team. Before that, however, he has some unfinished business when it comes to high school golf.
"Jason and I had a game plan going to state last year to just have fun," Hartman said. "This year, if I can get back, I'll go for the state title."
High school: Eastland
FYI: 4-year starter for the Cougars. ... Finished tied for 15th at Class 1A state tournament as a junior. ... Also plays basketball and baseball at Eastland