|Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - |
LEMONT, Ill. - For the first time in more than seven decades, the state’s biggest amateur golf championship visits St. Charles, when the 86th Illinois State Amateur Championship returns to St. Charles Country Club July 19-21. The Tom Bendelow-designed facility will host 136 of the state’s best in a three-day, 72-hole championship. The full field will compete on Tuesday and Wednesday, with only the low 35 and ties advancing to the 36-hole finale on Thursday.
Players to Watch
Nick Hardy (Northbrook) finished runner-up in the 2014 State Am after falling to Raymond Knoll in a playoff, then finished third, one shot out of the playoff, in 2015. A rising junior at the University of Illinois, Hardy has qualified for the U.S. Open Championship in each of the past two years, making the cut in 2014.
Tee-K Kelly (Wheaton) added a second Illinois State Amateur Championship to his trophy case last year, defeating Conor Dore in a three-hole aggregate playoff. It was the second State Am Kelly had earned with a back-nine comeback, closing a two-shot gap in the final five holes, as he had done in 2013. Kelly closed out his collegiate career at Ohio State University with a victory in the NCAA Kohler Regional, capping a season that contained two victories and seven top-25 finishes.
Raymond Knoll (Naperville) is the 2014 Illinois State Amateur champ, having taken the victory in a four-hole playoff at Cantigny. A rising senior at the University of Iowa, Knoll posted six top-20 finishes this past season, including a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Knoll finished T6 in 2015 after a course-record 63 in the final round at Panther Creek.
Todd Mitchell (Bloomington) won the Illinois State Amateur Championship in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003. Since, Mitchell has amassed an impressive resume in the State Am, with 10 top-10 finishes in 11 appearances. A four-time Illinois State Mid-Amateur winner, Mitchell was the runner-up at the 2016 CDGA Amateur Championship.
Kyle Nathan (Glenview) won the CDGA Mid-Amateur Championship earlier this year and advanced to the quarterfinals at the CDGA Amateur. In the State Amateur, Nathan has three top-15 finishes in four appearances. Nathan won the 2012 Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship.
Kyle Slattery (Rockford) advanced to U.S. Open Sectional and was a semifinalist at the CDGA Amateur Championship earlier this year. Slattery, a rising sophomore at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, completed all 29 rounds for the Cougars last year, including three top-10 finishes. Slattery made the cut and finished T26 in his first State Am appearance last year.
Others to Watch
Conor Dore (Chicago) nearly won in his debut at the 2015 Illinois State Amateur, falling in a three-hole aggregate playoff. A rising sophomore at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Dore was one of only three golfers to compete in every competitive round of the Cougars season.
Jake Erickson (Springfield) has finished in the top-20 in four of the last five State Amateurs, including a runner-up finish in 2013 and T6 in 2015. The 25-year old SIU graduate is a former winner of the Southern Illinois Golf Association Championship, as well as multiple Springfield City Amateurs.
Jonathan Hudson (Western Springs) is a rising sophomore at Iowa State University, where he competed in nine events last season. Hudson advanced to match play at the CDGA Amateur Championship earlier this summer.
Derek Meinhart (Mattoon) has finished in the top 15 at four of the past five State Ams, including a runner-up in 2012 at Kokopelli. Meinhart has finished in the top five in each of the last three Illinois State Mid-Amateurs.
Paul Schlimm, Jr. (Shorewood) is a rising sophomore at the University of St. Francis and led the Fighting Saints in scoring average while competing in 18 of 19 rounds during his first season. Schlimm advanced to the quarterfinals at the CDGA Amateur Championship.
Chadd Slutzky (Deer Park) won the Illinois State Mid-Amateur in 2015. Slutzky was the 36-hole leader in his last State Am appearance (2014), ultimately finishing fourth at Cantigny.
The Course: St. Charles Country Club
Hosting its second Illinois State Amateur is St. Charles Country Club, a 1924 Tom Bendelow layout that will present a classic test of golf to the state’s best ams. While the seven holes north of Country Club Road were renovated by David Gill in 1986, vintage Bendelow design elements still permeate the course as a whole.
“Pretty narrow fairways, lot of trees,” St. Charles Country Club Golf Professional Jim Sutherland said. “Greens are small, especially on the south side.”
The Championship will be played at par 72 from 6,926 yards, a distance that Sutherland noted could seem shorter due to a dry summer resulting in firm and fast fairways. However, Sutherland believes that St. Charles’ tricky greens will counteract the relatively modest length.
“There are a lot of subtle breaks on the greens here.”
The par-5 18th will provide finishing drama. A pond running down the right side of the fairway requires an accurate drive to begin the 527-yard hole. Then, it’s decision time, as the green is reachable in two, but guarded by more water on the short right.
“It is a good finishing hole, because it’s got a lot of risk-reward to it,” Sutherland explained. “If you hit a pretty good drive, you can go for the green in two, but there’s lots of water, so there’s some trouble out there for players going for it in two.”
Last Time Here…
The 15th Illinois State Amateur Championship was contested June 14-17, 1945 at St. Charles Country Club. Long-hitting Harold Foreman, Jr., who had finished runner-up in 1943 before taking the title in 1944, headlined one of the event’s most-competitive fields up to that point in history, according to the Chicago Tribune. Past champs such as Jim Frisina (who had won in 1942 and would go on to win four more), two-time champ George Dawson and past winner Gus Mareland were in the field. However, against the backdrop of battle recently concluding in Europe and war continuing in the Pacific, it was Army Sergeant Walter Burkemo from Evanston who advanced to the final match against Foreman (the event was contested at match play until 1963). While Foreman, a 31-year old trucking executive, recorded 11 one-putts in 34 holes of play, the twice wounded WWII-vet Burkemo battled his putter all day, with multiple three putts and missed a pair of four-footers late with the match in the balance.
In the stroke play era of the Championship (1963-present), only two golfers, Robert Zender and D.A. Points, have ever won the Championship three times. This year, a record three golfers will attempt to join Zender and Points in the event’s annals as three-time crown bearers. Defending champion Tee-K Kelly, the recent Ohio State University graduate, will look to replicate his success from last year at Panther Creek and in 2013 at Aldeen. Perennial contender Todd Mitchell is the last to win back-to-back titles, taking the trophy in 2002 and 2003. Jay Davis, the winner in 1991 and 1992, also is in the field, holding one of the few lifetime exemptions to the Championship (winners prior to 1992 earned this right).
Kelly is coming off a senior season with the Buckeyes which saw him win the NCAA Kohler Regional and advance as an individual to the NCAA Championship. Mitchell advanced to the championship match at this year’s CDGA Amateur Championship in June at Calumet, while Davis regained his amateur status in March after trying his hand at professional golf.
Joining that trio are 2014 champion Raymond Knoll and 2012 winner Quinlan Prchal. Knoll is entering his senior season with the University of Iowa and recently qualified for the 2016 U.S. Amateur, while Prchal earned Division I PING All-Northeast honors in his junior season at Princeton University.
For the second consecutive year, the Mounce twins, Branden and Michael, have qualified for the Illinois State Amateur. The El Paso natives, who recently finished their freshman seasons at Illinois State University, both qualified through at Sanctuary Golf Course, with each carding a 71 to tie for sixth.
In addition to seeing double on the course with the twins, spectators may be doing a double take when looking at the scoreboard, as there are two golfers with the name Ryan Wolfe in the field (one from Springfield, the other from Addison), the Hudson brothers (Jonathan and Daniel) from Western Springs, a trio of Johnsons (Andy, Benjamin and Blake), trio of Smiths (Billy, Callaway and Trent), and a pair of Henrys (Cory and Mike).
Return of the Mid-Amateur?
The Illinois State Amateur has not been won by a mid-amateur since Todd Mitchell completed his back-to-back in 2003. However, a strong group of 58 mid-amateurs, headlined by Mitchell, have the potential to buck that trend.
Mitchell advanced all the way to the championship match of the CDGA Amateur Championship at Calumet Country Club last month before falling to fellow mid-am Andrew Price. Mitchell was one of three mid-ams to advance to the semifinals and nine that made it to match play.
Kyle Nathan won the CDGA Mid-Amateur Championship in May and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the CDGA Am. Reigning Illinois State Mid-Amateur champion Chadd Slutzky also made match play, as did Derek Meinhart, who led the State Am after 36 holes last year at Panther Creek Country Club.
By the numbers
+4.9: Lowest USGA Handicap Index® in the field, Raymond Knoll of Naperville
+0.65: Average USGA Handicap Index® of the field
4: Number of players each from Mistwood Golf Club, Olympia Fields Country Club and Winnetka Golf Club, the most represented clubs in the field.
5: Number of golfers each from Bloomington, Glen Ellyn, Glenview and Springfield, tied for the most per city other than Chicago.
6.2: Highest USGA Handicap Index® in the field, Jim Pavela of St. Charles
7: Number of golfers hailing from Chicago
16: Age of youngest players in the field (five golfers)
26.54: Average age of the field
63: Age of oldest player in the field, Tom Miler of Kewanee. Miler is 5 years older than the next oldest competitor.
78: Number of golfers aged 25 and under in the field.