Nikitas goes bogey free for early Illinois Am lead
Charlie Nikitas (Illinois Golf Association photo)
Charlie Nikitas (Illinois Golf Association photo)

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (July 17, 2018) – In the time since last year’s Illinois State Amateur Championship, there was no forgetting who won the event for Charlie Nikitas. His Miami University teammate was there to remind him.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about [Patrick Flavin’s] win last year for the past few months,” Nikitas said with a chuckle.

This year, it’s Nikitas who is atop the leaderboard early, as the RedHawk rising sophomore opened the 88th State Am with a bogey-free 4-under 66 Tuesday at Bloomington Country Club. The Glenview native enters Wednesday’s second round with a one-shot lead over a trio of others.

“I just drove it in the fairway, gave myself a lot of chances and tried to get myself out of trouble when I found it,” Nikitas said of his round. “That’s how you keep a clean card and I did that.”

Starting off the 10th tee in the afternoon wave, Nikitas birdied three of his first four holes before getting to 4-under with another birdie on his 15th hole, the par-5 sixth. Despite not having seen the course before playing a Monday practice round, Nikitas feels that the narrow, par-70 6,624-yard track plays to his strengths of driving the ball consistently straight.

“It suits my game great,” Nikitas said.

One stroke behind Nikitas is the trio of 2017 state amateur runner-up Jordan Hahn, Derek Meinhart and Bloomington native Rob Wuethrich, who all posted 3-under 67s. Hahn, a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin, finished one stroke shy of Flavin last year at Calumet, while the 40-year-old Meinhart has been in consistent State Am contention, notching top-15 finishes in three of the last four years. Wuethrich, on the other hand, is playing in just his second State Am, this time with the added significance of teeing it up in his home town.

“It’s good to show that Bloomington-Normal is a good golf town,” Wuetrhrich, a rising sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University and one of 13 Bloomington natives in the field, said. “It’s nice, going out there and proving yourself.”

Flavin’s title defense started with a 1-over 71. Two-time winner Todd Mitchell, also a Bloomington native, fired a 7-over 77, while 2012 victor Quinlan Prchal tallied a 2-over 72.

The Championship continues tomorrow with another 18-hole round. The low 35 and ties will advance to Thursday’s 36-hole finale.

ABOUT THE Illinois State Amateur

Must be a resident of the state of Illinois and advance through an 18-hole qualifier prior to the event. Format is 72-holes of stroke play over three days. The low 35 after round 2 will advance to the 36-hole final day.

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