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Blatt rides new passion of the game to Illinois Mid-Amateur title
Larry Blatt outlasted David Keenan in a three-hole aggregate playoff to claim the 29th Illinois State Mid-Amateur title. (CDGA)
Larry Blatt outlasted David Keenan in a three-hole aggregate playoff to claim the 29th Illinois State Mid-Amateur title. (CDGA)

At first glance, Larry Blatt’s journey to winning the 29th Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship seems relatively routine.

Following a decorated high school career at Carl Sandburg and notable junior golf success, the Orland Park native played collegiately at both Ole Miss and Illinois. A natural progression for somebody with that skill level would be to eventually claim an elite amateur event, as Blatt did on Tuesday at Bloomington Country Club by outlasting David Keenan (Champaign) in a three-hole aggregate playoff.

However, the stages in Blatt’s life between his collegiate career and hoisting hardware in Bloomington were anything but traditional.

The 34-year-old “lost [his] passion for the game” during college and turned in his golf clubs and professional golf aspirations for derivatives and a career as a financial trader, seemingly giving up the game for good.

“I was not touching a golf club,” Blatt said.

That changed about three years ago, when he started to play more frequently with friends and realized “the game was still kind of there.” Progression was slow at first, but in late 2020, the success began to come. A victory in the 2020 Dixie Amateur in December, where he put together nine birdies, including five in a row in the middle of his round, to pull ahead of third-round leader Luke Wells (Springfield, Ohio) and finish off a two-shot victory at 5-under-par 283. He also advanced from U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Cog Hill in May the tied for 12th at the Illinois State Amateur in July, the best finish by a mid-am golfer.

Despite entering the State Mid-Am with recent success under his belt, it looked as if Blatt would fall just short of another triumph for most of Tuesday’s final round. Following scores of 68 and 71 on Monday, the first day of competition, Blatt trailed Ben Murphy (Algonquin) by three strokes. He still stood three shots off the lead, now held by Keenan, standing on the 16th tee in the final round.

“I didn’t even know at the time that I was three back,” Blatt admitted regarding his mindset on the 16th tee. “I was just kind of in my own process trying to shoot my own score and do my own thing.”

Despite being “discouraged” by missing a five-foot birdie putt on the 211-yard 16th, Blatt still gained a stroke on Keenan when the 2013 NJCAA Individual National Champion at Parkland College was unable to get up and down from short and right of the green. Blatt’s title hopes were still teetering on the 17th green, when a “skulled” chip left him with a 50-foot look to save par.

“I regained my composure and was like, let’s just visualize this going in,” Blatt said. “I gave it a good stroke, and [it went in] dead center.”

Keenan’s much shorter par effort to preserve a two-stroke lead never made it to the hole, with the bogey trimming Blatt’s deficit to one. Blatt drove it into the left greenside bunker on the 346-yard 18th and was able to get up and down for birdie. Keenan’s 8-foot effort for birdie to win flirted with the edge of the hole, but slid by, setting up a three-hole aggregate playoff.

“David had been playing solid all day, so I knew I had to shoot probably 1-under in the playoff to have a chance to win,” Blatt said.

His premonition proved true. Following two pars on No. 16, Keenan bogeyed No. 17 again to give Blatt a one shot cushion. On No. 18, Blatt found another greenside bunker off the tee, this time short of the putting surface. A deft out from the sand gave him a tap-in birdie putt for the title.

“I’ve practiced thousands of those, so I just let that skill take over and just did it,” Blatt said.

Following a whirlwind year of amateur success, Blatt has “fallen back in love with the game.” He recently left his financial position and will be turning professional following September’s U.S. Mid-Amateur.

“I love golf now more than I did back in high school and college,” Blatt said. “It’s crazy how that happens, but it’s the way I need to go and I need to do it.”

Blatt and Keenan were the only two competitors to finish regulation in red numbers at -1. Two-time State Mid-Am winner Chadd Slutzky (Deer Park) finished third at +1 overall. Eric Wessel (DeKalb) and Rick Stewart (Park Ridge) rounded out the top five at +3. Defending champion John Ramsey (Glenview) placed T22, shooting +10 in total.

View results for Illinois Mid-Amateur
ABOUT THE Illinois Mid-Amateur

Open to mid-amateurs age 25 and older who are resident of the state of Illinois. Qualifying is required for those who do not meet the exemption criteria. Format is 54-holes of stroke play with the low 35 and ties advancing to the final 18-holes.

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