It used to be a tradition, almost a right of the tradition-laden Homestead boys golf team to make it to the WIAA State Tournament.

Now it’s just downright hard work against some of the most difficult competition in the state.

The Highlanders, who cruised to their second North Shore Conference title in three years last week, missed out on a state berth last season by one shot at sectionals as team qualifiers Marquette and Arrowhead went on to eventually finish first and fifth, respectively, in the WIAA finale.

This year’s WIAA sectional, slated for Tuesday, May 30 at the River Club of Mequon, is loaded again with Marquette and Arrowhead back in it, and surging squads from Pewaukee, Menomonee Falls, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay also threats.

Only the top two teams and first three individuals not on those teams will advance from sectional to the WIAA state meet at University Ridge in Madison, June 5-6.

Homestead learned exactly how difficult it will be to be one of those top two teams after it finished a surprising third in the regional held at Hartford today (May 23).

There the Highlanders turned in an otherwise solid 18-hole score of 313 but that still trailed Arrowhead (an imposing 286 mark) and Falls (309). Pewaukee earned the other sectional team berth with a 317 mark.

Still, veteran coach Steve O’Brien is not going to panic. He knew what he and his team were in for well before the WIAA series of meets commenced. He will have returning state sixth place individual medalist and Wisconsin recruit Rob Morway on his side as well as several other solid competitors.

“The conference meet last week was at about our season average,” he said, “but we know we have to play a little better in order to compete here. Rob (Morway) has been as solid as he’s been all year and Max (Pasher) is also playing much better.

“We’ve been doing some shuffling at our five spot but they too have been consistent all season. The key for us will be to maintain our momentum. I really like our competitiveness. These kids are mature in handling tough situations and have a real willingness to compete.

“They really support each other too, which is very refreshing to see.”

Ben Elchert and Joe Lappin will also be counted on heavily by the Highlanders.

One advantage the Highlanders will have is the River Club course itself. They are very familiar with it, said O’ Brien.

“We won regionals there last year and two years ago we upset Marquette  (in sectionals) to get to state,” she said.

“We’re excited about what’s coming up. We’re going at 100 miles an hour.”