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|For Immediate Release||July 21, 2022|
|MCCLEAR FULFILLS LIFELONG JOURNEY, CAPTURES 91ST ILLINOIS STATE AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Thursday, July 21, 2022 - WILMETTE, Ill. - Mac McClear (Hinsdale) entered the 91st Illinois State Amateur Championship at Westmoreland Country Club with a mindset that had been years in the making.
The 21-year-old rising senior at the University of Iowa, who earlier in the week called the state`s preeminent amateur competition one he`s "wanted to win for a long time, since growing up," entered the 2022 iteration with battle scars. He missed the cut in his debut in 2017 as a 16-year-old and lost in a playoff in 2021 at Mistwood Golf Club.
Rather than let these trials and tribulations define his State Am legacy, McClear used them to become stronger mentally and physically. This transformation ultimately led to him hoisting the Louis L. Emmerson Trophy on Thursday.
"It`s certainly special," McClear said after finishing the 72-hole tournament -5 overall, three shots clear of runner up Tommy Kuhl (Morton). "It`s something I`ve wanted to do for a long time, so to finally get it done is a pretty good feeling."
Had it not been for the lessons gained from his self-proclaimed "long journey," McClear may have come up short again. His triumph was as tenuous as a wire-to-wire victory can be, with his enhanced fortitude required at multiple stages during Thursday`s 36-hole finale.
All was well following the first 18 holes, as McClear felt "in full control" following a third-round 68. The score matched Kuhl`s as the best in the morning and extended his four-shot second-round lead to five heading to the final 18.
Nine holes later, he was tied with Kuhl and only two shots ahead of Parker Wisdom (Bloomington) with nine holes remaining. McClear went out in 40, carding four bogeys on a stretch of holes that challenged him all week, while Kuhl turned in 35 to erase the deficit.
"Things got off the rails a little there," McClear admitted.
Where an inexperienced or less confident player may have wilted, McClear thrived. Buoyed by his tournament mantra of "focus on what`s in front of you," McClear responded with a stretch of holes he called "the best golf I played all tournament." Birdies on Nos. 11, 14 and 15, combined with Kuhl bogeys on Nos. 10, 12 and 13, extended McClear`s lead to six strokes heading to the 16th tee.
Of course, no lifelong dream is worth attaining if it`s easy. Back in the driver`s seat, a perfect storm befell McClear on the 418-yard par-4 16th. A thinned drive into one of Westmoreland`s vexing fairway bunkers. A second shot that hit the lip and came back to his feet. A pulled approach. A chunked wedge. When all was said and done, it was a triple-bogey seven for McClear on a hole that Kuhl birdied, trimming the seemingly insurmountable advantage to two with two holes to play.
Perhaps the 16-year-old or 2021 versions of McClear would have viewed yet another setback as a sign that this particular enduring quest wasn`t meant to be. Not the forged-by-failure model, though.
"I could`ve been really rattled by that triple," McClear admitted. "No. 17 is probably the toughest hole (it played as the third hardest for the week). That was definitely one where I needed to have my full attention and my full focus, which is what I was able to do."
An up-and-down for par on No. 17 kept the lead at two. From the 18th tee box, McClear saw Kuhl double bogey the finisher, making for a comfortable walk up the finisher.
"At that point I knew – as long as I didn`t make another triple or something – that I was probably going to get it done," McClear quipped. "No. 18 was a pretty nice walk there knowing that I had a little bit to work with."
"I hung in there at the end," said Kuhl, who ultimately finished three shots back of McClear at -2 overall. "I gave myself a chance at the last. Tried to get aggressive, but came up a little short. I did my best."
The second-place finish is a career best for the rising fifth-year senior at Illinois, who has now placed in the top 20 all four times he has played in the State Am.
"I wanted this tournament," said an emotional Kuhl. "It was one of my goals, but I got beat by the better player this week."
The top-20 and ties all earned exemptions into the 92nd Illinois State Amateur Championship, slated to be contested at Bloomington Country Club in 2023. Up next on the CDGA`s slate of championships is the 7th CDGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Aug. 8-10 at Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago.
Quotes of Note
Mac McClear on dueling Big Ten counterpart Tommy Kuhl…"Tommy is a great guy, good player too. Always enjoy playing against him or playing with him. I know how good he is, so to beat guys like that always means a lot."
Tommy Kuhl on his third-round 68, which tied McClear for the lowest 18 Thursday morning…"I played really good in the morning. Just really solid, hit a lot of good golf shots. Made some good putts. A lot of good putts to keep me in the round. Just played really solid. Happy to put myself in position going into the second round, but that`s all I can do."
Parker Wisdom on his takeaways from his T-3 finish…"A lot of positives, a lot of positives. I know I can hang with anyone, just have to keep the momentum going through the round because, just looking at the scores, I was 4-under after my first nine and the winner finished at 5, so, it was just that, I was so close. I`m a little disappointed by my finish. I hung in there, battled, but it was hard."
Timmy Crawford on what made Westmoreland challenging throughout the event…"The wind was making it hard to hit fairways, so, when you`re coming into the greens from the rough, it`s pretty difficult to control the ball on the green here because they`re small and have a lot of slope on them. Being from the fairway was extremely a big advantage and that gets tougher when it gets windy."
Ben Sluzas on what went right for him en route to a T-3 placing…"This week I was playing really good golf. I made a lot of birdies and had two eagles that were just crazy, but sadly I just had a lot more mistakes than I should have compared to the field and that let me finish where I was at. Honestly, it was a great week for me. I played great, the putter was good, I just, a couple more mistakes than I would`ve liked and I would`ve been a little closer to the top, but, overall, a great week."
William Marshall on preparing for his appearance in the upcoming U.S. Amateur…"Yeah, that`s kind of what I focused on. Every shot I was just kind of like, this is just prep for the U.S. Am and it just helped me in knowing that I was going to play with the top amateurs in the world. It zoned me in for this event."
Nick Tenuta on his mindset following his final amateur event…"The more competition you play in, the better, whether amateur or professional. That`s what fuels your desire to keep going, competition and that feeling you get. I just think I had a great week this week and I`m really excited to play in the Kentucky Open and the Illinois Open in the future."
Jake Erickson on his State Am consistency…"I think it shows, for me, I`m proud that my game travels and I feel like I can play most setups and be in the hunt. I`m slightly disappointed, I obviously wanted to come out and contend a little bit more, but didn`t get off to that hot of a start with the putter and then, you know, Mac played well and didn`t really give back much until later in the day, so he made it tough on everybody. Good showing overall. I finished with a 71 in the wind there in the afternoon, so overall I`m happy with it."
Jack Mortell on his dad (Mike) winning the State Am in 1990…"Leading up to this event he reminded me of it multiple times and just told me, `you gotta get your name on the trophy, you gotta get your name on the trophy.` So, yeah, obviously I really want to do that and I`m going to remain an amateur, so I`m going to try as much as I can for however long I can compete out here. I`d love to do it and have another Mortell on there."
|Chicago District Golf Association|
The Chicago District Golf Association (CDGA) is authorized by the United States Golf Association (USGA) as the governing body for amateur golf in our region. The CDGA is a membership organization consisting of nearly 90,000 individual golfers and 400 clubs in Illinois and parts of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Golfers receive member offers, a Handicap Index® from the USGA® and competitive playing opportunities, while clubs receive USGA rating and measuring services, turfgrass diagnostics and educational seminars. Midwest Golf House and the Bob Berry Sunshine Course are home to the CDGA Foundation, which annually serves more than 1,000 individuals with special needs and wounded veterans while also bringing playing opportunities to youth golfers. Founded on March 18, 1914, the CDGA is one of the largest and oldest golf associations in the United States.
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