If the Dragon Classic boys golf tournament was part of a meal, it would be an appetizer.
After Saturday’s 31st annual tournament at Lick Creek, the 24 teams in the field will start looking forward to the main course of their season: their conference tournament and state competition.
“The Dragon Classic is always competitive, but it’s also fun for the golfers because it’s the last 18-hole invitational before the big tournaments,” said Pekin coach Brett McGinnis.
Several top-notch teams and individuals will test Lick Creek on Saturday, playing in the Dragon Classic’s unusual format after teeing off in a shotgun start.
In the Dragon Classic, the best four of six scores on the front nine and back nine instead of 18-hole scores count toward a team’s score.
“I think teams like the format. I’ve never heard any negative comments about it,” McGinnis said.
Defending Dragon Classic champion Edwardsville, Normal U. High and Morton appear to be the teams to beat Saturday, McGinnis said, but his team may have something to say about that.
“We’re gunning for a top-3 finish,” he said.
The Dragons are led by seniors Mason Ghidina and Jack Halstead, who are having outstanding seasons.
“Mason and Jack have embraced their roles as team leaders,” McGinnis said.
Edwardsville (301) won the Dragon Classic team title last year among 24 teams, beating runner-up Normal U. High by scant two strokes. Galesburg (305) was third and Pekin and Morton tied for fourth (306), with Pekin winning the tie-breaker.
Morton’s Tommy Kuhl will be back to defend his Dragon Classic individual title. The Illinois commit shot 3-under-par 69 last year to earn medalist honors.
This year’s Dragon Classic field is the same as last year and includes five of the eight teams in the Mid-Illini Conference: Pekin, East Peoria, Metamora, Morton and Washington.
Belleville East, Belleville West, Bloomington, Bloomington Central Catholic, Champaign Central, Danville, Edwardsville, Galesburg, Geneseo, Moline, Normal Community, Normal U. High, Normal West, Peoria Notre Dame, Peoria Richwoods, Pontiac, Quincy, Rock Island and Springfield round out the field.
Individuals from Pekin, Peoria Heights and Quincy also will participate.
Pekin is 4-1 in Mid-Illini duals, in second place behind Morton (5-0) with two conference duals to play. Morton beat Pekin by 10 strokes in their conference dual. The conference tournament will be Sept. 28 at Mt. Hawley, hosted by Dunlap.
The Mid-Illini champion is determined by a combination of conference duals and tournament results, with slightly more weight on the tournament.
Also scoring for Tremont (13-2) were Colton Polhemus (46), Landon Pflederer (46) and Alec Gilmer (47). Nolen Leiva (48) and Torrin Lawson (49) also competed for the Turks.
Justin Post (42), Isaac Ramsey (46) and Charlie Hemmer (47) also scored for Peoria Christian.
Fourth in Livingston County: The Peoria Notre Dame boys golf team placed fourth in the Livingston County Invitational, while the Metamora girls team also earned a fourth-place finish.
On the boys side, ND had a 325 team total to finish four shots behind third-place finisher Fairbury Prairie Central at the par-72 Wolf Creek.
The Irish’s Mikey Wales shot a 79 to tie for seventh.
Normal U-High won the tournament with a 303 total, led by individual champion Ben Bazan’s 2-over 74.
On the girls side, Metamora shot a 358 to earn fourth, while Dunlap (383) earned fifth.
Haleigh Hassinger had an 84 to finish tied for sixth for the Redbirds.
Bloomington Central Catholic earned a first-place team finish, while Normal Community’s Allison Enchelmayer (77) was the individual champion.
Peoria Journal Star contributed to this report. Steve Stein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.