LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bloomington native and University of Illinois redshirt senior Alex Burge won the 96th CDGA Amateur Championship with a 1-up victory over Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly in Thursday’s 36-hole final match at Knollwood Club.
The victory capped an impressive week of golf for Burge, who began the event by shooting 6-under par 138 in Monday’s stroke play qualifying to earn the top seed in the 16-player match play bracket. With his victory, Burge became the first medalist to win the event since fellow Illini Joe Affrunti won in 2001, also at Knollwood Club.
After cruising to 6-and-5, 5-and-4 and 3-and-2 victories in his previous three matches, Burge’s championship tilt began precariously, as Kelly was 3 up through the first three holes and led by the same margin through 14. However, Burge closed out the morning 18 by winning three of the final four holes, including a sweeping 40-foot birdie on 18 that brought the match to all square at the halfway point.
“That first 18, I felt like I was getting beat pretty bad,” Burge admitted. “To be able to finish that all square and go into the afternoon even was a great feeling.”
On the second 18, Burge and Kelly traded 1-up leads until the decisive 15th and 16th holes. With the match all square, Burge dropped a 20-foot birdie putt to go 1-up through 15. On the par-5 16th, Kelly lost his tee shot in the woods right of the fairway, allowing Burge to win the hole with a par and go 2 up with two holes to play.
“It was my worst drive of the week at probably the worst time it could happen,” Kelly said.
Kelly would not go down without a fight, however, as he dropped a 20-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th. Still 1 down, Kelly’s tee shot on 18 found the left rough, giving Burge a plan of attack.
“I saw him hit left, so I knew fairway and green would get me in a good position,” Burge said.
Burge hit the green and two-putted for par, before Kelly had another 20-foot birdie opportunity to extend the match that slid just below the hole.
“It was a good fight out there and it’s unfortunate that it ended that way, but it was a good time,” Kelly said.
Prior to the championship match, Burge defeated Sean Graham, Charlie Netzel and Derek Meinhart. Kelly, who earned the No. 3 seed after shooting 2-under par 142, dispatched of Kevin Ackford (6 and 5), Brian Bullington (1 up) and defending Illinois State Amateur champion Raymond Knoll (1 up).
The next test for the state’s top amateurs will come at the 85th Illinois State Amateur Championship, July 14-16 at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield.
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