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Ott, a former professional baseball player, wins Illinois Senior
Jeff Ott (CDGA photo)
Jeff Ott (CDGA photo)

The Illinois State Senior crown went to a former competitive baseball player on Wednesday. Jeff Ott, formerly a member of the University of Iowa baseball team before ascending to the Double-A level of the New York Yankees system, fired a closing 3-over 75 at Westmoreland CC in Wilmette, Ill., to pull away from Andrew Gabelman and win the title by four shots.

Ott, 57, finished the 54-hole event at even par. After competing at the highest level of baseball, Ott also spent several years playing competitive travel slow-pitch softball until, at 48 years old, he decided to switch sports. He competed in the 2017 Illinois State Senior and finished in the top 20. He made the cut in 2018 but had to withdraw because of a death in the family.

This win could turn over a new leaf.

“I've got great support – good friends here that were rooting for me,” said an emotional Ott, fighting back tears following his victory. “I just wanted to come out and I felt like, even if I didn't win, if I played well, I would have been very happy with what happened today.

“As fate would have it, here I am,” Ott added. “I'm just trying to soak it in.”

Pulling away from Gabelman in the final round was not particularly easy. Gabelman led by one after the opening 18 holes but the two were tied entering the final day. Ott also bogeyed his first three holes of the final round and added a fourth bogey at No. 7. He birdied No. 8 then played the back nine in even par, which included birdies at Nos. 11 and 16.

“The last four or five holes, I felt like I rolled it pretty good, but didn't get anything out of it,” Ott said. “I tried to just trust that if I kept putting good rolls on it, one would drop. I was fortunate for that one to go in.”

David Feder finished third at 6 over, while defending champion Tim Sheppard, who calls Ott a close friend, placed fourth at 7 over.

“He's a great player,” Ott said of Sheppard. “I've always looked up to him and he's the bar, he sets it.”

Quotes and information from the Chicago District Golf Association

ABOUT THE Illinois Senior Amateur

Open to senior amateurs who are residents of the state of Illinois. A 54-hole event with the entire field playing 36 holes over the course of two days and the low 30 and ties play the final 18 on the third day.

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