Illinois Amateur: Tee-K Kelly wins it

Tee-K Kelly, 2013 Illinois State Amateur champion

ROCKFORD, Ill. (July 18, 2013) -- After quietly lurking in the background for nearly three and a half rounds, when opportunity presented itself, Tee-K Kelly of Wheaton pounced, carding four birdies in the final 10 holes to win the 83rd Illinois State Amateur Championship. Kelly carded a 2-under par 70 in the third round Thursday and backed it up with a 3-under 69 in the afternoon’s final round at Aldeen Golf Club. Kelly finished the 72-hole event with a 7-under par 281.

“I had a ton of birdie looks early in the day,” Kelly said after the final round. “Before that last stretch, nothing was falling. I was striking it well all day and just waiting for my time.”

Kelly entered the 36-hole final day tied for third position, just two strokes off the lead, and had fallen four strokes back at the end of the third round. In the final round, Kelly sat five strokes back of leader Jake Erickson with 12 holes to play. Kelly would birdie the eighth hole to move to 4-under on the event, and when the next group came through, the leader Erickson would put his tee shot in the water, leading to a double bogey. That, coupled with a birdie by John Watson, IV on the ninth hole would put Watson in the lead heading into the final nine holes of the week.

In the final nine, Kelly would birdie the par-4 11th to move within two strokes of Watson, then made his move on the 13th, knocking his tee shot on the par 3 to 8 feet and converting the birdie. Meanwhile Watson, his playing partner, hit his tee shot into the water, resulting in a triple bogey, causing a four-stroke swing, turning Kelly’s two-stroke deficit into a two-stroke lead.

“After 13, it was really down to the wire,” Kelly added. “The entire day, it was like a pressure cooker with the heat and humidity out there, I just tried to power through and not let myself get down because I knew others would (get down) and I could capitalize.”

Down the stretch, Kelly and Watson would each birdie the 16th hole and on 18, with Kelly already in the fairway, Watson put his tee shot in the water, taking the pressure off of Kelly, who would bring home a par for the victory.

“It means a lot to win here with such a good field,” Kelly, entering his sophomore season at Ohio State University, added following the victory.

Watson and Erickson would finish in a tie for second, three strokes back of Kelly.

“It’s a little disappointing not to pull it off, but I had a good week, I was in a position to win,” Erickson, a Springfield native, said following the event.

With the State Am making its first foray into July, the 137-player field was met with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s all week and heat indexes topping 100 on Thursday afternoon for the 42 players who made the cut.

“The clouds really helped in the afternoon,” Watson, heading into his junior season at the University of Wisconsin, noted. “The course was in great condition all week and the field for the State Am in Illinois, I feel like it’s one of the best fields in the country with the college players and the older guys, there are lots of good players here.”

Joe Willis, a Lake Forest native playing collegiate golf at Yale University, finished fourth, while a pair of mid-amateurs, two-time State Am champ and Bloomington native Todd Mitchell and East Peoria’s Tim Sheppard, shared fifth place honors. The defending champion, Quinn Prchal, finished tied for seventh.

A total of 21 players (the low 20 and ties) earned exemptions into the 84th Illinois State Amateur Championship, taking place next July at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton.

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