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Golf: Naperville North grad Raymond Knoll nails down qualifying spot for PGA Tour event

Naperville North boys golf coach Ryan Hantak figured his former star, Raymond Knoll, would wind up playing in a PGA Tour event at some point in his career.

He just had no idea that, after only one year playing at the University of Iowa, Monday would be the day Knoll’s dream would come true.

“I didn’t think it would be this quick,” Hantak said. “I’m so happy for him. I’m shocked too. It’s one of his dreams. He’s such a good kid too. All the alumni are happy. It’s awesome. It will be a special weekend.”

Knoll gobbled up one of the four qualifying spots for this weekend’s John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, by tying for first place at the John Deere Classic Qualifier at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Illinois, and he did it in dramatic fashion.

On his final hole, he sank a 45-foot eagle putt to give him a 65 for the round, good enough to tie Armando Villarreal of Dallas for first place.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Knoll said. “It was pretty unbelievable. I told my mom I blacked out (after the eagle putt), gave a big fist pump and went and took a knee off the green and broke down and had tears in my eyes. Knowing the amount of time I’ve put myself through (through the years), it feels so good to make it.”

Coincidentally, on Sunday nigh, Knoll played the course that the John Deere Classic is held on, the TPC Deere Run, with his former Iowa teammate Steven Ihm, who is making his professional golf debut this week.

“We played the back nine last night,” Knoll said. “It’s cool to have a teammate there to help me through it. I got some really good tips in terms of trying to get into these kinds of tournaments. It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Knoll earned PING All-Region honors as a freshman for the Hawkeyes. That included a 66 at the Boilermaker Invitational, which tied for the fourth-lowest round in Iowa history.

He has taken that success into the summer. He won the Pine Hills Invitational in early June before his 65 Monday.

“I’ve gotten to a point where I feel comfortable and I am confident I can shot a low number every time I go out,” Knoll said. “I know it sounds cocky, but you have that inner confidence.”

Knoll vows to soak it all in, especially the walk up the 18th fairway Thursday with the grandstand filled. But the people he will be looking for will be his parents. Much as she was there for his tournaments, big and small, for years, he knows his mother will be there waiting when he walks off the green.

“It was always me and my mom going to tournaments,” Knoll said. “I was in tears (Monday) and when she saw me, she started crying. She said, ‘We’ve come so far. I’m so proud of you.’”

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