Michael O’Keefe had a wildly successful fall season for the Mt. Carmel golf team.

But, in the season’s dual and the invitational meets, the sophomore struggled at times with his putting, but he kept working at it, trying to find the consistency he needed.

His practice paid dividends at the state tournament as his putter delivered.

Shooting a 3-over par 74 in his first state round, O’Keefe had a two-day score of 158 to finish in a four-way tie for 61st place at the Class 2A state meet Oct. 8-9 at the Weibring Golf Club in Normal.

“I did really well putting, and that’s what I feel most accomplished about,” O’Keefe said. “It was a big struggle this year, just putting in general, but I hit 8 one-putts on Friday in the first round. I felt very confident. When you’re putting with confidence, that impacts all aspects of your game.”

O’Keefe (Beverly, St. Barnabas) made his first state appearance.

He is the first Caravan golfer to reach the state meet since 2018 when Abdel Raoul, now a junior at Prairie View A&M, advanced to the state meet.

After a solid varsity debut as a freshman in Mt. Carmel’s lineup a year ago, qualifying for state fulfilled O’Keefe’s season-long goal.

“It was special getting there. My main goals were to have a great season and really enjoy it and to make it to state,” O’Keefe said. “I was able to achieve both of my goals.”

In his first round, O’Keefe birdied No. 6, his only one of the day, with an approach shot that landed 30 feet from the hole.

He sunk the putt on the 547-yard par-5. He totaled 13 pars in the round.

The impressive opening round came after he recovered from a cold in the days leading up to the meet.

“I did really well Friday. Before the rounds, I felt awful the days before. I felt sick, sore throat, headache, sinus stuff,” O’Keefe said. “Then going into Friday and Saturday, I felt so much better. I was really happy with how I did.”

As for his first-day putting, O’Keefe said he stayed in rhythm throughout the round.

“It’s exactly like a basketball player getting hot,” O’Keefe said. “You take a shot, or a putt, and you can feel it. You’ve got that good line, good speed. You make your read, but it’s a matter of if you can stay on that line and execute.”

O’Keefe struggled a bit after making the cut for Day 2, finishing with 6 pars, 2 birdies and 10 bogeys in his second round.

Despite those struggles, O’Keefe said he is focused on the positive: his hard work over the last year paid off in a big way.

“I spent those hours and days on the golf course starting in late winter and early spring,” O’Keefe said. “I felt like I’d greatly improved. This year at state, I understood what needed to be done. I made sure I was steady breathing and not getting too antsy. I stayed calm and stayed cool.”

Mt. Carmel Coach Anthony Massino said O’Keefe frequently worked on his skills to improve all facets of his all-around game.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t hit the range or practice his short game,” Massino said. “He has definitely become more consistent in his game, and it’s all because of his work ethic. Michael took the initiative, and it paid off this year.”

O’Keefe was part of a strong sophomore class this season that will be counted on to lead the Caravan next fall.

“Anytime a player makes state is huge for the program,” Massino said. “It provides a goal for next season and a model for what you need to do in order to compete. The current freshmen and sophomores have already started focusing on offseason training to make sure we can make it down to state as a team next season.”