NORMAL — One thing is certain for Sunday's Bloomington-Normal Two-Man Best Position championship flight final at Weibring Golf Club:
Neither team will believe they're out of it no matter how far they might be down on the back nine. Saturday's semifinals told twins Michael and Branden Mounce that, along with first-time partners Joe Rieger and Logan Stauffer.
The Mounces were 3-down with six left against Tom Kearfott and Mike Cushing before rallying to knock off the defending champions, 1-up. Rieger and Stauffer, who were 2-down at turn, got hot with nine straight birdies and clinched a 1-up win over Rob Wuethrich and Conner O'Neil when Stauffer sank a 25-foot putt on No. 18.
"We'll have our work cut out for us. They (the Mounces) both definitely can play," said Stauffer. "We'll have to come out here and stick with the same mindset and philosophy we had today and hopefully get on a roll like we did today."
The Mounces and Rieger-Stauffer tee off at 8 a.m. in the 18-hole finale.
When Cushing sank a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 12, he and Kearfott appeared headed toward their sixth final in the last seven years.
Yet the 21-year-old Mounces, who have played countless rounds with Kearfott, 57, and Cushing, 43, at El Paso Golf Club and Pontiac Elks Country Club, knew it wasn't over.
"I don't think we were ever out of it. It only takes one good run," said Branden Mounce. "They were making long putts all day, which is hard to keep up."
Michael Mounce also was confident standing on the tee of the 572-yard, par-5 13th.
"I knew they would have a really hard time getting there in two," he said. "I knew that's where we had the advantage of getting around the green in two as opposed to trying to get up and down from 130 (yards) as I thought they would."
And that's just what happened. Kearfott and Cushing had to lay up with their second shots in front of the pond, while the Mounces were just over the back of the green. Kearfott and Cushing missed a 15-foot birdie putt, while the Mounces chipped close to cut the deficit to 2-down.
Two holes later, Branden Mounce pulled off the shot of the day. His pitch from 30 yards trickled in for an eagle-2 on the 15th. When he sank a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 16, the match was all square.
The 178-yard 17th was playing into a stiff breeze. Kearfott barely cleared the water, while Cushing's shot hit the rocks and bounced in the pond. They chipped within 10 feet, but missed the par putt and the Mounces were ahead for the first time all day.
"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," said Branden Mounce.
The Mounces missed their long birdie putt on No. 18. That gave Kearfott and Cushing a chance for sudden death, but they couldn't convert a downhill 12-footer.
"We just didn't hit good putts the last six holes, that's all it was," said Cushing. "We came out making everything. You have to give it to them. They gave us an opening on 18 and we still couldn't get a birdie."
The Mounces, who also are playing in the Two-Man for the first time, went 10-under-par.
"At this point in their lives they're better than we are," said Cushing of the Mounces, who will be seniors on Bradley's golf team. "We had our chance to get them and didn't get it done. But it was a fun week."
Stauffer, 25, will be playing in his third Two-Man final. He was runner-up with Kyle Bragg in 2012 and Jordan Carpenter in 2016. This is new territory for Rieger, 34, who claims he's relaxed.
"There's not a lot of pressure when you have this guy behind you," said Rieger.
Stauffer finished seventh in the Illinois State Amateur Championship at Bloomington Country Club that ended Thursday, while Wuethrich took second. After watching Stauffer's heroics Saturday that helped he and Rieger go 13-under, Wuethrich was glad it didn't happen earlier in the week or he would have placed third at BCC.
"If Joe didn't make a putt Logan was right in the heart no matter how far he was, and he was picking them up on wedges," said Wuethrich, 19. "If you have confidence like that you have to ride it."
Wuethrich and O'Neil, who were teammates at Illinois Wesleyan this past school year, birdied the first three holes and were 2-up. Neither side won a hole again until Rieger stiffed an approach a foot away on No. 10 for his team's third straight birdie.
The birdies kept coming for both sides. However, Wuethrich and O'Neil made par on No. 13 as the match went all square. Rieger sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th before Wuethrich and O'Neil missed from 10 feet. That gave Stauffer and Rieger their first lead of the match.
Both teams parred No. 17. As Wuethrich and O'Neil were looking over a 20-footer on the 18th, Rieger barely missed from 30 feet before Stauffer sank the long putt to end the match.
"We picked a line on 18, and I just had to trust it," said Stauffer. "I saw his (Rieger) move and just wanted a little more pace. I went a little outside his and the last rotation got it to fall. I didn't want to leave it an inch short right in the heart."
Afterwards, O'Neil was shaking his head.
"We just ran into a wrecking ball on that back nine. They played light's out," said the Division III first-team All-American. "We didn't lose it. They won that match."
Todd Engle and Joe Blumenshine captured the senior division title with a 3 and 2 victory over Tim Kerfoot and Greg Powell.