1996 Golf (2010)
The coronation did not come as a surprise, but it did come a little earlier than expected. Coach Ray DelFava, in his second year at the helm of LoyolaÕs golf fortunes, knew he had lightning in a bottle. Coming off a fourth place finish in the state meet the year before, he knew that a run at the state title was imminent, and he knew the Big Three would lead the way. Three talented juniors Ð Mike Murlas, Bill Zanoni, and J. D. Goering Ð had gained big-meet experience the year before and were hungry for a higher finish. With most of the team intact from that state meet team, a title run was not a pipedream. However, standing in LoyolaÕs way two miles down the road was the odds on favorite to win it all, New Trier. The Trevians were loaded. Many predicted they would prove to be the greatest golf team in IHSA history. Maybe Loyola was a year away. Coach DelFava called his three juniors 1A, 1B, and 1C, nothing that any one of them was quite capable of beating the other. Mike Murlas was LoyolaÕs best player, leading the team throughout the regular season and into the postseason. Bill Zanoni was a steady, consistent certainty round after round. J.D. Goering was Òstreaky dangerousÓ according to DelFava. Four seniors supplied critical depth: Nick Brown, Kevin Murphy, Mike Nowak, and Jack Hammond. The 1996 Golf Team proved the doubters wrong as it stormed though the regular season with twelve straight dual wins and three major invitational titles. Victories against New Trier in the last two meets of the regular season laid to rest the myth of the TrevianÕs invincibility. The final dual meet of the season was its most dramatic, the showdown that became ÒThe War on the Shore.Ó LoyolaÕs victory there proved its readiness for the post-season. The post-season meets loomed, and victory mattered at only two of them Ð league and state. The Ramblers claimed the Catholic League crown in convincing fashion, with season MVP Mike Murlas capturing the individual title. At regional and sectional, the goal was simple Ð qualify to the next round. Though suffering their only two losses, both to rival New Trier, the Ramblers were ready for state. A cold, windy day greeted the golfers at Crestwicke Country Club in Bloomington. DelFava knew it would be a day of survival, a day in which you couldnÕt win the tournament, but you could lose it. Because of poor scoring conditions, he set a goal of 320 Ð four rounds of 80. Make pars and bogies and avoid the big numbers. Loyola took a three-shot lead with a dead-on score of 320. The next day, the sun shone and the Ramblers took care of business and then some. Let by the Òstreaky dangerousÓ J.D. Goering and his out-of-nowhere 69, Loyola simply blew away the field with Goering, Murlas, and Zanoni thumping New Trier by a whopping thirteen strokes. Goering took the individual title with a 149 (80-69) followed by MurlasÕ 155 (79-76) and ZanoniÕs 156 (81-75). Nick BrownÕs 162 closed out LoyolaÕs official scoring, with Kevin MurphyÕs 166 (83-83) and Mike NovakÕs 171 (86-85) in support. With three players in the top five Ð Goering 1st, Murlas 3rd, and Zanoni 5th Ð the Ramblers had put together a truly dominant performance and carved their story in the annals of Loyola athletic history.