From the Chicago District Golf Association
WHEATON, Ill. (July 18, 2014) -- Two weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Raymond Knoll is making July a month to remember.
It started by qualifying for his maiden PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic last week. He then earned an alternate spot for the U.S. Amateur Championship on Monday and capped it Thursday with a dramatic playoff victory at the 84th Illinois State Amateur Championship. The Naperville native defeated Nick Hardy on the fourth playoff hole to take the title following 72 holes of play. Both golfers finished the week with 8-under par 280 totals.
“It was great to come here this week to Cantigny and win,” Knoll said. “It’s where I grew up, it’s what I know and where I practice and I felt really comfortable.”
Knoll opened the week with a 75 on Tuesday but gained confidence with a string of five straight back nine birdies on Wednesday, which led to a second round 67. Thursday morning, Knoll tallied eight birdies en route to a 67 to take the lead after the third round, then came home with a 71 in the final round.
“It was a crazy hectic week (after the John Deere Classic and U.S. Amateur qualifying) and Tuesday I started pretty slow, but I was able to regroup and finish really well today,” Knoll added.
In the three-hole aggregate playoff, Knoll squandered a golden opportunity on the first playoff hole, missing a 5-foot birdie putt. Then at the third hole, after leaving his approach short, he pushed a 50-foot birdie putt past the hole. After rolling in his 10-foot par putt, he watched as Hardy narrowly missed an 8-foot birdie to win the championship.
“When I rolled that putt (the 50-footer) by, I thought it was over,” the University of Iowa sophomore added. “Nick (Hardy) is one of the greatest putters I’ve seen. Luckily he missed his putt so we got to go to the next hole.”
At the fourth playoff hole—the first hole of sudden death overtime—Hardy’s drive sliced into a lateral hazard and he was forced to take a drop. Meanwhile, Knoll’s drive landed in the rough, short of the hazard. After punching an 8-iron under a small tree 150 yards, his ball rolled to the front edge of the green. He was able to convert a par to seal the victory.
Hardy resided near the top of the leaderboard in his second State Am appearance, with an opening round 70 putting him in a tie for second. After struggling to a 75 on Wednesday, the Northbrook native charged to the top on Thursday with a morning 66 and afternoon 69.
“I battled today what I battled all week, my slice so I’m not surprised that was my miss,” Hardy said. “I played well today, but I based that off my goal of 135 for the day.” Hardy’s 36-hole total for the day was 135.
Auburn University senior Dan Stringfellow took home third place with a 6-under 282 on the week, equaling his career-best from 2011 and extending his streak of top-20 finishes in the State Amateur to seven straight years, dating back to his debut here at Cantigny in 2008.
“It was a good week, I played pretty smart,” Stringfellow said. “There was one hole in the second round that I made a triple (bogey) that killed me. I was really gunning for this, I played my first State Am here six years ago and thought it was the coolest thing with the leaderboards and playing with the older guys. It’s great to make the cut and play well, but I was looking for the ‘W’.”
Chadd Slutzky, who led the championship after each of the first two rounds, carded rounds of 71 and 75 on Thursday and slipped to fourth place. Defending champion Tee-K Kelly finished tied for 13th, while 2014 CDGA Amateur champion Jordan Fahel finished in a tie for 16th.
For the champion Knoll, his active month of golf continues next week with the Illinois Open Championship and a week later with the Western Amateur Championship.
The low 20 finishers and ties—22 golfers in all—earned exemptions into the 2015 Illinois State Amateur Championship, to be held July 14-16 at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield.
View results for Illinois State Amateur Golf Championship