|Thursday, July 22, 2021 - ROMEOVILLE, Ill. - Wire-to-wire. Back-to-back.
Crystal Lake’s Ethan Farnam (Crystal Lake) willed himself to victory Thursday at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, as the 22-year-old topped Jordan Less (Elmhurst) and Mac McClear Hinsdale) in a four-hole playoff to defend his title and win the second-consecutive playing of the Illinois State Amateur Championship.
The triumph puts Farnam in exclusive company, as just 15 other players have won the event multiple times, nine of which were in successive Championships.
“It’s awesome,” Farnam said of his triumph. “Everyone was congratulating me for the first one, and it’s been so long, and to just reaffirm that you’re still here and that you’re still one of the better players in the state and in the nation.”
Farnam, the Saint Mary’s (California) senior, held a two-shot lead heading into Thursday’s 36-hole finale over Oak Lawn native Jake Hennessy (Oak Lawn). A third-round 67 expanded Farnam’s lead to six over Tommy Kuhl (Morton) in what appeared to be a runaway finish.
After a quick break for lunch, Farnam was faced with adversity for seemingly the first time all week. His front-nine 39 to open the final round stirred thoughts of dejavu from Farnam’s come-from-behind win over David Perkins in 2019, as the field was closing in. The lone bogey on the closing nine at No. 16 caused the defending champion to dig deep as he was chasing a new leader in 2019 CDGA Amateur Champion, Less, and McClear, the 2021 individual champion.
Just when Farnam appeared to have lost his grasp on the Championship with a tee shot on the 72nd hole that cruised through the fairway and into the water, full trust in his game proved to be pivotal.
“I got way too greedy on the drive [on No. 18] and it just went straight through the fairway and into the water,” Farnam said. “At that moment it definitely crossed my mind that it was over, that I was going to have to do something unbelievable, and I did. I hit one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. I hit 6 iron to one foot on the last hole to get into the playoff.”
Farnam, joined by Less and McClear, trekked to the Championship’s 16th hole to play a three-hole aggregate playoff before altering to a sudden-death format, if necessary.
The trio shared pars on each of the first two holes before McClear’s 80-plus foot putt got away from him en route to a par, eliminating the rising junior at Iowa out of competition in what was his first major tournament playoff.
“I’ve never been in a playoff at a big tournament like this before, so it was definitely a learning experience,” McClear said. “I felt like I handled it really well, but just hit a mediocre shot into the par-5 there, and a bad putt, but I’ll definitely take away from that experience and hopefully be better next time.”
Playing the par-5 18th hole for the third time in the last five holes, Farnam and Less caught slight trouble off the tee, abolishing the opportunity for either to seek the flagstick with their second shots.
“Me and Jordan both hit really good drives,” Farnam said of the 76th hole. “I thought mine was really good, his was good, and we both ended up one-inch screwed.”
Farnam punched out of the bunker and proceeded to get up and down for birdie, rolling in a 10-foot putt with an emphatic fist pump. Less, meanwhile, found the left corner of the green, but three-putted to a flagstick located on the other end of the putting surface.
“I had to lay up and that was more-or-less a lay-up by him with a 70-foot putt,” Farnam. “Like I said, I hit a decent wedge and the putt was huge. I read it, kept my head down, end-over-end. It’s just the simple stuff in those moments and I trusted it.”
As familiar of a feeling as it was for Farnam to hoist the Louis L. Emmerson Trophy as Illinois’ top amateur golfer, this win felt different for the lefty.
“It was definitely a little different feeling,” Farnam said. “This one feels so much better; a lot more confidence gained from this and it was definitely a way harder challenge. Before it was kind of handed to me by David [Perkins]. He was a good player, and still is. This one is so much different. I had it and was just slowly letting it slip. There was a good three hours where it was just slowly draining away from me. To keep at it and pull it off, it’s so good.”
For the other runner-up in Less, it’s on to the professional ranks as the recent graduate of Northern Illinois University utilized one last State Am as a final tune-up before heading to Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School.
“Everything about the CDGA has been awesome,” Less said when asked why he chose to delay his professional career. “They’ve certainly helped me grow my game and I just wanted one last CDGA event.”
Continuing to wear all emotions on his sleeve, Farnam admitted another unfamiliar feeling following the victory.
“I’m proud of myself, I rarely am to be honest,” Farnam stated. “I’m always so hard on myself, but today I got mad and had emotions, but got over it and dealt with it super well today.”
Proud he should be as his wire-to-wire, back-to-back win at Mistwood Golf Club will forever be cemented in Illinois State Amateur golf glory.
Quotes of Note:
Ethan Farnam on how he pushed through to win the Championship...
“First thing is, it’s hard to win, man. It’s so hard to string four round together and I felt like I wasn’t even playing bad but the scorecard just wasn’t matching up.”
Mac McClear on his goal heading into the final day of action at Mistwood Golf Club...
“I started the day [four] back, so just to give myself a chance was really exciting. The goal was to make as many birdies as I could to see what the result was.”
Jordan Less on being on the losing end of a playoff after his 37-hole playoff victory in the 2019 CDGA Am…
“At the end of the day, I’m still gonna go home and shower.”
Nick Tenuta on how his win in the 2021 CDGA Amateur Championship springboarded his success this week…
“It was great because it gave me some confidence. For this tournament especially, I just knew that I could compete against players from Illinois. It was nice for this tournament, with so many great players out here, to have the confidence coming in.”
Brendan O’Reilly on his tournament-best 64 in the final round…
“Honestly, not a ton was different. I think in tournament golf sometimes one or two swings can mean the difference between a good day and a bad one and I think that’s all it was. I knew I had a good run going and wanted to finish off strong.”
Ricky Costello on how his home-field advantage helped lead to his top-10 finish…
“It’s nice, you know, kind of home-field advantage definitely helps. As far as reading greens, I think I had an advantage there because I’ve putted on these greens since I was 10- or 11-years-old, so I think that’s part of the reason why I putted so well this week.”
Mistwood Director of Golf Andy Mickelson on stepping in as a playing marker in the Tournament…
“It was awesome. I’ve probably played this course over 1,000 times, and to play it in these conditions with all we’ve done to try and get a State Am here, to be able to participate in any way that I could was so much fun.”
- The par-5 18th statistically played as the easiest scoring hole of the tournament, featuring a scoring average of 4.778. The hole also featured 12 eagles throughout the week.
- The par-4 11th and par-3 13th statistically played as the hardest scoring holes of the event, featuring a scoring average of 4.392 and 3.392, respectively.
- The field’s average score throughout the course of four rounds was 75.525. In comparison, the average score at Cantigny Golf in 2019 was 75.282.
- Only seven eagles were carded in total throughout the final day’s two rounds. The first two rounds featured a combined 21 eagles.
- This marked the first time the Illinois State Amateur Championship had finished in a playoff since Tee-K Kelly and Conor Dore battled to the end at Panther Creek Country Club in 2015. The 2021 iteration also featured the first three-man playoff since at least 2006.
- Ethan Farnam birdied the par-5 18th all six times he played it throughout the course of the Championship.
- Set to turn professional following this event, Jordan Less concludes his amateur career with one CDGA Amateur crown (2019), two Illinois State Amateur runner-up finishes (2019, 2021) and two low-am honors at the Illinois Open (2019, 2020).
- No bogeys were carded during the three-person playoff featuring Ethan Farnam, Jordan Less or Mac McClear. The trio combined to play the three-hole aggregate playoff and one sudden death hole at 3 under.
- Brendan O’Reilly (Hinsdale) shot an 8-under 64 in the final round, the lowest score posted by anybody in the championship. O’Reilly was +2 for the event prior to the final round, but finished at -6 overall and in a tie for sixth.
- Nick Tenuta (Mt. Prospect), who won the 101st CDGA Amateur Championship in June at Bull Valley Golf Club, recorded his second consecutive sixth-place State Am placing by finishing at -6.
- Tommy Dunsire (Naperville) notched two 69s on the final day. His aggregate of -6 on Thursday was second only to O’Reilly’s 9 under.
- The highest-finishing mid-amateur (25 and older) competitor was Larry Blatt (Chicago), who finished the event at -3 overall and in a tie for 12th.
The top-20 finishers, including ties, all earned exemptions into the 2022 Illinois State Amateur Championship. The event is slated to be conducted at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette.