Two players that share much more than a first name will fittingly end their prep careers on their sport's biggest stage this weekend as Hillsboro's Alex Eickhoff and Alex White advanced to the IHSA Class 1A State Finals golf tournament for the fourth straight time.
The Alexes, as they are often known as, both made it through the proverbial "Sectional of Death" in West Frankfort on Monday, Oct. 14, finishing in the top ten amongst players not on an advancing team.
Not only did they finish in the top ten though, they finished one and two amongst the best of the rest and fifth and sixth overall at the tournament that featured seven teams that shot 330 or better.
Eickhoff would be fifth overall with a 1-over-par 73 at the Jackson County Country Club, while White would be two strokes behind his teammate in a tie for sixth with a 75. Alex Sweeney of Waterloo Gibault and Jarrett James of Chester would also shoot 75s and advance as individuals as well.
The only four golfers to beat the Alexes came from the three teams that advanced to state. Sectional champion Carmi-White County boasted two of those players, medalist Oakley Gee with a 66 and Ty Barbre with a 72. As a team, the Bulldogs shot a 301 to win by three strokes over Belleville Althoff Catholic.
Althoff would shoot a 304 behind a 68 from Avery Irwin, who finished second overall after being the regional medalist in Alton the week before. Breese Mater Dei would take third with a 309, led by Grant Goebel's 1-under 71.
But the "Sectional of Death" is usually dubbed that for a reason and on Monday, it was at the expense of the Hiltoppers, who had made the state tournament as a team each of the last three years, with a third place trophy last year and a second place trophy from 2017.
The team didn't shoot poorly, far from it in fact, as they were just one stroke behind Breese Mater Dei with a 310. All six players would shoot within a dozen strokes of par, the only team at the regional to do so.
Owen Malloy missed a state berth of his own by one stroke, shooting a 7-over 79 at the sectional, one shot behind Tyson Elko of West Frankfort and Chase Laack of Vandalia.
Dane Huber would not be far behind as he finished off a stellar career with an 83, just five strokes from an individual spot, while Wilson Hamby and Gunnar Micnheimer shot a pair of 84s to be six away from state.
Coming so close to another trip to state is a bitter pill for the group of six seniors who have been arguably the most successful in the program's history. Yet, it takes nothing away from their accomplishments, which include four state titles, four regional titles and a sectional crown in addition to the two state tourneys.
Now, Eickhoff and White will look to add some more individual honors to what the team has already accomplished, something they have done four times before at state.
After finishing seventh as a freshman and eighth as a sophomore, Eickhoff finished sixth in a snow-shortened finals to become the first Hillsboro player to earn three medals at state. If he can improve on that performance, he has a good shot at becoming the first to collect four, and maybe even surpass his father, Hillsboro golf coach Jeff Eickhoff, for the best boys individual finish ever (the elder Eickhoff finished fourth in 1994).
White has the same skill level and opportunity to chase that mark, having finished tenth overall in his sophomore season. Last year's weather issues kept him from a shot at a second medal, but if he is on his game, he could join Nic Baker, John Major and Eickhoff as the only Hillsboro boys with multiple state medals.
The journey for the Alexes begins just after 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington, with White teeing off at 10:18 a.m. and Eickhoff teeing off at 10:27 a.m. in the next group.
White will be playing with Jarret James of Chester, Jeremy Ott of Brimfield and Zachary Rogers of Bement, while Eickhoff tees off with Drew Hall of Rockridge, Alex Sweeney of Waterloo Gibault and reigning state champion Marcus Smith of Winnebago.
They will need to be on their game as the IHSA has determined that after the first day of competition at state, the field will be reduced to the top eight teams and the top 24 individuals not on one of the top eight teams, meaning that 40 players will be heading home.
October 14 at West Frankfort
Class 1A Boys Golf
Jackson County C.C. - Par 72
Boys Team Results: 1. Carmi-White County 301; 2. Belleville Althoff 304; 3. Breese Mater Dei 309; 4. Hillsboro 310; 5. Waterloo Gibault 322; 6. Effingham St. Anthony 325; 7. Campbell Hill-Trico 328; 8. Chester 334; 9. Nashville 334; 10. Anna-Jonesboro 342; 11. Marissa 353; 12. Oblong 360.
Medalist: Oakley Gee (Carmi-White County) 66.
Hillsboro (310) - Alex Eickhoff 73, Alex White 75, Owen Malloy 79, Dane Huber 83, Wilson Hamby 84, Gunnar Micnheimer 84.
Team State Qualifiers
Carmi-White County (301) - Oakley Gee 66, Ty Barbre 72, Kaden Carter 80, KaCee Fulkerson 83, Alex O'Daniel 91, Jace Burzynski 94.
Belleville Althoff Catholic (304) - Avery Irwin 68, Jack Bruening 76, Max Bruening 77, Connor Wilson 83, George Orlet 83, Carlo Armorado 87.
Breese Mater Dei (309) - Grant Goebel 71, Carter Goebel 76, Nathan Rivera 80, Ian Berndsen 82, Tanner Gerdes 84, Blake Kloeckner 87.
Individual State Qualifiers: Alex Eickhoff (Hillsboro) 73; Alex White (Hillsboro) 75; Alex Sweeney (Gibault) 75; Jarrett James (Chester) 75; Maverick Conrad (Fairfield) 76; Jayden Rios (St. Anthony) 76; Antonio Ybarra (Metro-East Lutheran) 77; Peter Hauser (Anna-Jonesboro) 77; Tyson Elko (West Frankfort) 78; Chase Laack (Vandalia) 78.