Golf Notes: Wind makes play ‘pretty tough’ at Illinois Open

Aurora native and University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small watches his tee shot during the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in  2011. |  Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Aurora native and University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small watches his tee shot during the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. | Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Play enough golf and you soon learn, sometimes the course wins, especially when it gets a helping hand from Mother Nature.

“It was a difficult golf course today. It was playing pretty tough, but it was fair,” University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small said Wednesday after gusting wind out of the north sent scores climbing on the final day of competition at the 65th Illinois Open Championship at The Glen Club in Glenview.

Small, the Aurora native who has won this event four times and has enjoyed great success in his career in Illinois PGA competitions, completed an up-and-down tourney, closing with an 8-over par 80 in the final round.

He sandwiched a 6-under 66 in between an opening 77 to finish the event at 7-over 223 to tie for 23rd.

“The wind today was totally different from yesterday,” Small said. “It’s only my third event since November but I shouldn’t be shooting what I’m shooting.”

The 48-year-old Small wasn’t alone in his struggles.

Of the 57 players who made the cut for the final round, only three broke par (72).

On the first day, 18 of those same players had broken par and on the second day, 14 of them did.

Perhaps even more telling? Through the first two days, only one player among those 57 shot a round of 80. On Wednesday, 15 of them were at 80, or higher.

An ill wind where?

While such wind might give many a “muni” golfer fits with his club selection in the fairway, it seemed to bother the seasoned players more on the greens.

“It was survival of the fittest out there,” said Dan Scardina of Bartlett, who owns and operates Green Valley Golf Range three miles east of Medinah Country Club on Route 20 in Hanover Park.

“You’d see a putt one way but on greens this fast, a gust of wind can take it another, but the course was in great shape.”

The 52-year-old Scardina matched his age, tying for 52nd after his 81 Wednesday left him at 13-over 229.

“Needless to say, I did not putt well,” said Scardina, whose best finish at the Open was a tie for 11th in 1990.

Top 10 for O’Bryan

Waubonsie Valley graduate and University of Wisconsin junior Thomas O’Bryan was in the hunt but also had trouble putting Wednesday. Even so, he shot 1-over 73 and finished at 1-over 217, which was good for a 10th place finish.

“This was my fourth time,” he said. “The first year I was 45th, I was 24th my second year and last year I was 44th. Finishing in the top 20, though, I’m exempt (from qualifying) for next year.”

He wondered, though, what might have been.

“I had a couple of three-foot (putts) where I thought the ball was gonna move, so I hovered my putter instead of putting it all the way down on the ground in case the ball rolled I wouldn’t get a penalty stroke, and as a result, I kind of lost feel a little bit on the greens,” he said.

“I kept hitting them a little too hard. I missed three three-footers. Make those and you’re right there.”

O’Bryan said reconnecting with Cantigny pro Connie DeMattia this summer has helped him.

“He’s been my instructor for seven years,” said the former Illinois state high school champion. “I really just got back to practicing with him a lot more and things started to click with the swing, which made it easier.”

DeMattia also played in the event, shooting 221 (+5) to tie for 20th and also earn an exemption.

Good experience

Recent Burlington Central graduate Matthew Weber of St. Charles played in the open for the second time. After opening 75-73 he shot an 80 on the final day and settled for a tie for 43rd at 228 (+12).

“I was 17th here last year,” said the Indiana-bound Weber. “It’s a good experience. There’s a different feel from some of the amateur tournaments I’ve been playing getting to play here with a mix of amateurs and pros. It’s a whole different atmosphere, a lot more formal and definitely more intense. Some guys are playing for a paycheck.”

Western Am next for Knoll

Naperville’s Raymond Knoll (Iowa) continued an amazing month with a tie for 32nd (226, +10) at the Illinois Open and moves on to play next week in the 112th Western Amateur at Beverly Country Club on Chicago’s South Side.

Knoll started the month by tying for first in a Monday qualifier and getting into the field for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities.

Knoll missed the cut but won the 72-hole Illinois State Amateur the following week.

The Western Amateur’s 156-man field includes many of the top young players in the world with 40 international competitors from 14 different countries.

Joining Knoll will be Iowa teammate Brian Bullington of Frankfort and Ohio State’s Tee-K Kelly of Wheaton, among the 14 Illinois players in the field.

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