|Thursday, July 21, 2016 - |
ST CHARLES, Ill. -- Northbrook native and University of Illinois junior Nick Hardy broke through, winning the 86th Illinois State Amateur Championship in epic fashion and rewriting the record books in the process Thursday at St. Charles Country Club.
Hardy, who finished second and third in the past two State Ams, left no doubt, firing an 8-under 64 in the third round Thursday to open up a four-shot lead, before walking to the finish line with a final-round 65.
Hardy’s four-round total of 260 bested the previous mark, 270, shot by Robert Zender in the 1971 event, by a whopping 10 strokes. Hardy’s 28-under-par was also the best score in relation to par, toppling the 13-under-par mark set by former PGA Tour member Jerry Haas in 1984. Hardy’s 10-stroke margin of victory was only shy of Rob Grube’s 11-shot victory in 2006
“Going into the final round, I didn’t care if I won by one or if I won by 10. I just wanted to win,” Hardy said. “I kept battling out there all day and it happened to be 10. It means a lot to me.”
Two-time and defending champion Tee-K Kelly of Wheaton came in second, finishing at 18-under par. Charlie Netzel of Western Springs and 36-hole leader Brian Ohr of Northbrook finished tied for third at 17-under.
“If someone would have told me on Monday night that I would shoot 18-under, I would have probably said I’d win again,” Kelly said following the Championship. “Sometimes, someone just brings their stuff and you can’t beat it.”
Despite the scores described by some as “video game low,” and Ohr matching the St. Charles Country Club course record in the opening round, only the final round saw the entire field average below par.
“I think it was a perfect storm, perfect scoring conditions. It’s hot, so the ball was going far and off the tee it was jumping,” Kelly added of the scoring. “There wasn’t much wind and the fairways were perfect, plus six or seven guys were out there playing their best golf.”
In hot and overcast conditions, Hardy began Thursday one shot behind Ohr, and it wasn’t until the 12th hole of the morning round where Hardy took the lead. He then birdied the par-3 13th as Ohr double bogeyed after his tee shot hit the cart path and went out of bounds, suddenly putting Hardy up four. From there, Hardy put on a clinic, carding birdies on the last three holes of the round to take a four-shot lead over Patrick Flavin entering the final 18.
“I never really let go from there,” Hardy said of the 13th hole. “I didn’t really make any mistakes after that. That was definitely the turning point.”
Hardy was flawless in the final round, carding seven birdies, including a tap-in on the 18th after his 30-foot eagle putt lipped out. For the week, Hardy birdied 32 of the 72 holes, with just four bogeys—none of which occurred in the final 31 holes.
“I had my best stuff, that’s for sure,” Hardy said.
Despite being another feather in the cap of an already decorated career for this 20-year old who has appeared in the past two U.S. Open Championships, the victory was significant to Hardy.
“It’s nice to finally get the monkey off my back, get it done and win this tournament,” Hardy said. “I’ve been really close the past couple years.”
Trent Wallace from Joliet rounded out the top-five finishers with a 16-under 272. Sixth-place finisher Patrick Flavin of Highwood at 15-under and Springfield’s Jake Erickson at 14-under in seventh place all eclipsed the previous Championship record for relationship to par. 2014 winner Raymond Knoll (Naperville), Kyle Slattery (Rockford) and Daniel Hudson (Western Springs) rounded out the top 10.
Other notables making the cut included 2012 champ Quinn Prchal (Glenview) finishing T11 along with two-time winner Todd Mitchell (Bloomington). Peoria’s Talon Supak, who carded his first career hole-in-one during the first round, finished 2-under par in a tie for 18th. The low 20 finishers at this year’s event earned exemptions from qualifying for the 87th Illinois State Amateur Championship next year at Calumet Country Club.
The CDGA championship schedule continues Aug. 1-4 with the inaugural CDGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Eagle Brook Country Club in Geneva.