Tim Sheppard earned his second Illinois State Senior Amateur title in the last three years
34th Illinois State Senior Amateur Championship September 14-16 • Mt. Hawley Country Club (Peoria)
Day Three: Wednesday, Sept. 16
SHEPPARD SECURES “BITTERSWEET” TITLE ON EMOTIONAL DAY AT MT. HAWLEY
PEORIA, Ill. - Despite entering the final round of the 34th Illinois State Senior Amateur Championship with a three-stroke advantage on Wednesday, Tim Sheppard (East Peoria / Pekin CC) knew closing out the talented 55-and-over field to claim his second title in this event wouldn't be easy. What he didn't expect was that his biggest impediment to victory would come from circumstances away from the golf course.
Shortly before leaving for Mt. Hawley Country Club on Wednesday, Sheppard's dog passed away unexpectedly. A day that the two-time CDGA Senior Player of the Year had long anticipated, having a chance to claim the state's preeminent senior amateur event in his hometown, had quickly turned into a nightmare. Understandably shaken, Sheppard was 2-over through seven holes after back-to-back bogeys.
“I had a very hard time trying to focus this morning,” an emotional Sheppard admitted following his victory. “It was really hard to hit the short shots – the chipping and putting was very difficult."
SHEPPARD HOLDS THREE-SHOT LEAD HEADING INTO STATE SENIOR FINAL ROUND
PEORIA, Ill. - Prior to his second round of the 34th Illinois State Senior Amateur Championship on Tuesday at Mt. Hawley Country Club, Tim Sheppard (East Peoria / Pekin CC) was experiencing some wrist pain. In the first round, a plugged lie in a bunker forced the feeling.
Before teeing off, the two-time CDGA Senior Player of the Year (2018, 2019) took medication to help alleviate the pain.
“The two Aleve I took kicked in about 30 minutes into the round and stopped bothering me, where it was a nonfactor,” said the 59-year-old. “I was able to get after it pretty good.”
His “pretty good” round came in the form of a 1-under 71, which was enough to build his lead to three shots by day's end, ahead of David Feder (Lincolnshire / Conway Farms). The two were the only players to finish the tournament's first two rounds in red figures, as the field was cut to the low 35 and ties ahead of Wednesday's final round.
Looking at Sheppard's card, one could see the pain medication begin to work its magic in the form of a birdie on the par-4 12th, his third of the day after starting on No. 10. However, a bogey on No. 13 slowed the momentum, if just momentarily. A 9-iron off the tee caught the breeze, which pushed the ball to the rough on the right. Sheppard was unable to get up and down.
The 2018 Illinois State Senior Amateur champion rebounded, and then some, on No. 14. Following a “chunked 3-iron” approach that put him just 15 yards off the front of the green, Sheppard chipped in for eagle and was right back on track.
“It was kind of a bummer I didn't birdie the next hole,” said Sheppard, with a smirk.
After turning at 1 under, more red figures came on Nos. 2 and 5. Those shots were dropped, however, with back-to-back bogeys on 6 and 7 to finish at 71. Sheppard's distance off the tee has helped leave shorter approaches into the green this week. He hopes that, coupled with better fortune with the flatstick, will benefit him in Wednesday's final round.
“My game this summer has been pretty solid ball-striking and I can't get it in the hole. The driver is one of the better clubs in my bag so if I can hit the driver in the fairway, it leaves me with some nice sand wedge shots into the green and then just make some putts,” he said.
The aforementioned Feder will be chasing Sheppard following his second-consecutive round of 2-under 70. Following a bogey-free round yesterday, the 57-year-old, who started on the back nine as well, had his second round score to 4 under before bogeys on Nos. 7 and 9 to finish. Nonetheless, he's been proud of the way he's been able to putt on Mt. Hawley's greens, which he says are “rolling great.”
“Overall, I hit the ball really well,” said Feder of his second-round performance. “Everything was getable today. I've putted really well. I've had a couple of tough ones and I understand the speed of the greens really well and I understand the reads really well,” said Feder.
Feder says the final round pursuit of Sheppard will require a bit more strategy when navigating Mt. Hawley's tree-lined fairways. He pointed to consistency off the tee, and knowing when to play a bit more aggressive, as keys if he is to catch the leader.
“He's such a good player, I think we'll have to play our own games,” said Feder. “I will have to be aggressive at times. I'll have to be aggressive on the par 5s. You can't play conservative.”
Daniel Moore (Chicago / Chicago Park District) earned low super senior honors after he finished the first rounds at even par (71, 73). He will join Sheppard and Feder Wednesday morning. Tee times commence at 8 a.m., with the final group slated to get under way at 10:10 a.m.
Day One: Monday, Sept. 14
REIGNING CDGA SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR SHEPPARD GOES LOW ON DAY ONE
PEORIA, Ill. - Wet course conditions welcomed the state's top amateur golfers age 55 and up on Monday for the first round of the 34th Illinois State Senior Amatuer Championship at Mt. Hawley Country Club. Tim Sheppard (East Peoria / Pekin) was able to successfully traverse the challenging layout to the tune of a 6-under par 66 to hold the top spot by day's end.
According to Mt. Hawley superintendent Nate Jordan, the course saw more than five inches of rain over the course of the first 12 days of September. Although Sunday saw some drier weather conditions, the layout was made a bit more challenging due to thick rough.
The moist conditions did allow for some scoring on the receptive greens. Sheppard, the 2018 Illinois State Senior Amateur champion and CDGA Senior Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, jump-started his round with a birdie on the first. Following a bogey on the par-4 third, he rattled off a string of three-consecutive birdies on hole Nos. 6-8. More red figures came on No. 10, before another trio of birdies on Nos. 14-16. Even with a dropped shot on No. 17, Sheppard paired two 33s to finish with a four-shot advantage heading into Tuesday's second round.
David Feder (Lincolnshire / Conway Farms) sits in second following a 2-under 70 that featured a blemish-free card with two birdies. A three-way tie for third consisting of Mark Hannon (Bolingbrook / Bolingbrook GC ), Tom Fox (Palos Heights / Beverly CC) and Daniel Moore (Chicago / Chicago Park District) rounded out those who finished the first round in red figures.
All competitors will return to play another 18 holes to determine the low 35 and ties that will advance to the final round on Wednesday. Second round tee times begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
SPOTLIGHT SHIFTS TO PEORIA'S MT. HAWLEY FOR ILLINOIS STATE SENIOR
LEMONT, Ill. - The state's top amateur golfers age 55 and up will descend upon Peoria for the 34th Illinois State Senior Amateur Championship at Mt. Hawley Country Club, Sept. 14-16. The Earl R. Liff Trophy will be awarded to the victor of the event, which was first contested at Pine Meadow Golf Course in 1987. Low super senior honors (65 and older) will be awarded following second-round play on Tuesday.
The entire 81-golfer field will play 18 holes of stroke play on both Monday, Sept. 14 and Tuesday, Sept. 15. The low 35 and ties will then advance to the 18-hole finale on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
ABOUT THE FIELD
A total of 173 individuals registered for the event, which was open to Illinois residents age 55 and up with an official USGA Handicap Index® of 10.4 or below. The field for Mt. Hawley was determined through 24 exemptions and two qualifiers held across the state in August, from which 57 players advanced.
The Illinois State Senior Amateur Championship, conducted annually by the Chicago District Golf Association, was first held in 1987. The Championship is open to Illinois residents age 55 and older. It is a 54-hole event, with the entire field playing 36 holes over the course of two days and the low 35 and ties playing the final 18 on the third day. The winner of the Championship is the recipient of the Earl R. Liff Trophy, which was claimed by Jeff Ott in 2019 at Westmoreland Country Club. (2019 Recap / Event History)