BLOOMINGTON — By the time University High School reached the last couple holes at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course, the Pioneers were aware they wouldn't be taking home a trophy in Saturday's Class 3A Boys State Golf Tournament.
Yet that would have been difficult to tell watching the Pioneers finish.
U High seniors Cody Surma and Ethan Huynh closed their careers with birdies on No. 18. Sophomore Jackson Yoder sank a 60-yard pitch shot for birdie on the par-3 17th. The Pioneers grinded to the end and fired a 310 total to tie for seventh place.
After being moved up from Class 2A this year by the Illinois High School Association's success factor for non-boundaried schools, U High showed it could hold its own with the state's elite programs.
"The way we finished makes me feel good about our day," said U High coach Darrin York. "In all honesty, the way they fought all day and weekend and the regional and the sectional, they gave it all they had the postseason and the entire year."
Hinsdale Central tied U High's record of seven straight state titles (set from 2003-09), firing 297 and edging Lincolnshire Stevenson by a stroke. Lockport took third at 299.
Sophomore Ben Sluzas of Lockport shot a 4-under-par 68 to earn medalist honors. Another sophomore, Sean Curran of Lincoln-Way Central, was second with 69.
Surma might have made All-State, given out to the top 10 individuals, if Friday's round wouldn't have been cancelled because of snow. He was even-par through 14 holes when play was suspended and ultimately wiped out, forcing an 18-hole shootout on Saturday.
A superb approach on No. 18 led to a 3-foot birdie putt as Surma paced the Pioneers with 75, tied for 18th individually.
"I went in with the same mindset. I didn't think about what happened yesterday," he said. "Like I said after the round, I was a little upset but our team was back in it. I went into today thinking it was as a brand new day. I was going to have to play well both days anyway."
Sophomore Reece Tennison added 76 for the Pioneers, while other counting scores were by Huynh (78) and junior Brevin Knight (81). The rest of the U High lineup included Yoder (82) and senior Parker Penn (84).
Surma just missed making U High's lineup last year as the Pioneers took third in the Class 2A State Tournament after winning in 2016.
"He just golfed his ball like no one else this weekend," said York. "Every time I came up he was walking down the middle of the fairway or walking to the green. I'm really proud of Cody. He put in so much time this summer and early this year, and the results definitely show."
York knew the Pioneers would have to play their absolute best to have a chance to be among the top three teams.
While that didn't happen, there were no regrets.
"The last four holes we had a lot of quality golf shots," said York. "That lays a good foundation of what it takes in a tough situation in the state tournament when you're coming down the stretch. For us to finish that way says a lot about our mental toughness."