Grant Mascal had an awfully good 2017 season for the Streator Bulldogs.
He carried a sub-40 nine-hole average this season, coming in just a tick under 39 strokes. He took medalist honors eight times, won the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament (both as a member of the team champion Bulldogs and as an individual), was Streator's team MVP and was The Times area's lone state qualifier, advancing to the IHSA Class 2A State Tournament, where he came in tied for 53rd amongst a field of 109 young men.
The Streator High School junior didn't get to be as good as he is — or a two-time Times Golfer of the Year — by being content just being awfully good.
"As a team, we did pretty well this year," said Mascal, who is a repeat winner of our Golfer of the Year in addition to making our all-area honor roll for the third consecutive year. "We won the conference, outright and the conference tournament. And as an individual, I did win the conference tournament and medaled at some matches.
"When we got to regionals, it was kind of disappointing. We had a team we thought could make it to state (after winning the school's first regional championship in 36 years the prior fall), but we struggled there a bit. I struggled there. I played poorly, but well enough to make it to sectionals, and then in the sectional I played a little better, well enough to make it to state."
There at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University, Mascal shot a 161 — two strokes better than he did in 2016, though he finished three spots lower on the leaderboard. He was happy with his start at state, but felt for the second year in a row he fell a little short of putting his best out there against the state's best.
"One thing I'm going to focus on (my senior season) is my concentration," he said. "My focus has to be 100 percent every shot. ... Every single shot can be a difference-maker.
"This coming year, obviously my goal is to win state. I just need to put two good runs together and see what happens."
The postseason run followed a regular season which saw Mascal start a bit slow. He warmed up in a hurry, though, and by the time the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament came around he was on his game, firing a 5-over-par 77 at Pontiac's Wolf Creek Golf Club to claim individual first-place honors while the Bulldogs as a team were 40 strokes better than runner-ups Coal City and Westmont.
As it did all season (and Streator was hoping it would do in the regional), Streator's team depth shone through. Teammates Cam Anderson-Pfalzgraf, Nick Yanello, Cole Holloway, Jared Strabala, Marie Jensen and Jacob Magana all put in solid scores for the Bulldogs. Almost all of them, Mascal included, will be back for 2018.
"Most of our team plays together over the summer," said Mascal. "We're going to be losing Jared and Nick, but I really think if we can get Cam and I and Holloway and Magana and everyone all shooting well, we have a good chance to do some really neat things next year."
As good as they — and a number of other worthy golfers in the area — were, though, Mascal again played at a higher level.
"Grant's been a staple in the golf program for three years," said Bulldogs golf coach Dustin Masley. "We consistently rely on him, and he consistently delivers.
"He's had a great run thus far with two state appearances, which itself is a great accomplishment, but knowing Grant he's hungry for more. He's not satisfied yet. He's already working on next year, and I know he's got some of our other guys working with him.
"I think the best is yet to come for Grant Mascal."