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CHICAGO DISTRICT GOLF ASSOCIATION

For Everyone Who Plays the Game

Midwest Golf House Contact: Casey Richards
11855 Archer Avenue (630) 685-2324
Lemont, IL 60439 crichards@cdga.org
Contact: Tim Merrick
(630) 685-2302
tmerrick@cdga.org
Contact: Jacob Bomeli
(630) 685-2345
jbomeli@cdga.org
 
For Immediate ReleaseJuly 20, 2023
 
RETURN OF THE MAC: MCCLEAR REPEATS IN STATE AM AT BLOOMINGTON 
 
Thursday, July 20, 2023 - BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - Roller coasters aren't for everyone. Count Mac McClear (Hinsdale) among those who aren't big fans.

That's what made his second-straight Illinois State Amateur Championship so enjoyable.

The University of Iowa rising senior surged to the lead with a blistering start to his fourth round Thursday afternoon at Bloomington Country Club and went on cruise control from there, turning a one-shot deficit into a five-stroke win in the 92nd iteration of the state's preeminent amateur event. McClear carded a bogey-free 7-under 63, the low round of the tournament, to finish five shots clear of home club hopeful T.J. Barger (Bloomington) at 11-under overall.

This was in stark contrast to McClear's triumph last year at Westmoreland Country Club in which he nearly lost a five-shot final-round lead thanks to a 77.

"This one was much less stressful," McClear said with a chuckle. "Last year was a total roller coaster, which was fun but also not fun at the same time.

"This year, I felt really comfortable throughout the whole day and cruised there through the end."

McClear entered the tournament saddled with the expectation that comes with the status of defending champion, which admittedly made the event's early stages uncomfortable. McClear's play was steady, but unspectacular, as he opened with rounds of 69 and 68 in comparison to his competitors' 64s and 65s.

He entered Thursday's 36-hole finale four strokes behind leader (and former high school teammate at Hinsdale Central) Joshua Kirkham. Halfway into Thursday's marathon, the deficit had been trimmed to one, except McClear was now chasing Barger following his blistering 64.

McClear remained in second for all of two holes of the final round, as he carded birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 to leapfrog Barger. Finally grasping the consistency with his driver and approach shots that had been eluding him for three rounds, McClear blitzed Bloomington's front nine, notching five birdies and noting that it "could have been eight," maligning three near misses on the greens.

"I went in with the same gameplan that I had the rest of the rounds, but I was finally able to execute the shots," McClear said.

"It could've been a really special start, but I was still happy with the 5-under through eight, and then I just cruised in."

Barger couldn't recapture the magic of his third-round 64, turning at 1-under for the round and three shots back of McClear.

"Mac played pretty well," Barger said. "I was following the leaderboard going to the back nine, so I knew I had to make birdies, but nothing was falling."

As Barger shot an even-par 35 coming in, McClear managed the course, and his lead, to perfection. He simultaneously played smart and aggressively, attacking the sub-400-yard 17th and 18th holes en route to punctuating birdies on both.

"No matter what you're doing, you have to stick to your gameplan," McClear said. "If you're playing the first round, your strategy should be the same as the last hole, no matter if you're winning by one, two or three."

Set to embark on his final season at Iowa this fall, it's a strong possibility that the two-time Big Ten champ turns professional rather than going for the first three-peat in event history. If this is the case, Thursday marks a triumphant conclusion to a State Am career that began in 2017 when McClear was just 16.

"When I was younger, I always aspired to win this tournament," McClear said. "All the good players of Illinois have won this tournament. Back then, I knew my game wasn't good enough to win then, but I knew if I put in the work and kept doing what I was doing, I would be able to do it in the future."

McClear's future continues to be one that looks to go nowhere but up. A steady climb. No sudden dips. Just how McClear prefers it.

McClear and Barger were two of just five players to finish in red numbers for the Championship. Tyler Isenhart (Geneva) came in solo third at 3-under, while Mason Minkel (Pekin) and Marcus Smith (Rockford) tied for fourth at 1 under.

The top 20 and ties all earned exemptions into the 93rd Illinois State Amateur Championship, slated to be contested at Urbana's Atkins Golf Club at the University of Illinois in 2024. Up next on the CDGA's slate of championships is the 8th CDGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Aug. 7-9 at Glen Flora Country Club in Waukegan.

Quotes of Note

T.J. Barger (Bloomington) on his mindset down the stretch..."I saw [Mac] was up four, so I knew I had to play a little more aggressive going into the back nine. But, you have to stay below the hole on this course, or else you're going to leave yourself with a possible three putt. I didn't give myself many birdies opportunities inside 20 feet. I was just lagging the ball really well, making my pars."

Tyler Isenhart (Geneva) on Bloomington playing more difficult in the afternoon as the wind picked up..."It played much tougher. No. 9 for example...the tees were pushed back and it was into the wind. I'd say at least a couple shots harder this afternoon."

Mason Minkel (Pekin) on what keyed his T-4 finish..."Positioning off the tee and getting it to the right part of the green. I didn't make many putts this week, but I can't complain with how I hit it.

Marcus Smith (Rockford) on his T-4 finish in his first State Am appearance..."I feel like I gave it all I got, so I am pleased with that. My little brother came to caddie for the 36-hole day, so I really appreciate that. Overall, it was good. It's a really nice course, the greens were really nice."

Mike Henry (Bloomington), 55 on the final day playing in his home town and finishing T7..."I was pretty patient all day. My swing was a little tired, to be honest with you. I scrambled pretty well. I kind of got it back together. My caddie pumped me up a little bit.

It was great to play in front of the hometown fans. They're all very cordial. The club has always been tremendous to me, even though I'm not a member. It's nice to play well in front of them just like I did in 2018. I didn't quite get the T-4 finish [as in 2014], but a top-10 nonetheless is pretty solid."

Timmy Crawford (Arlington Heights) on his final-round 66, which moved him up to a tie for 11th after making the cut on the number..."It seems like I've been playing good golf recently when I'm frustrated, and I played poorly again this morning. I was trying to turn in a good score and finish the golf tournament. I felt pretty good going into this morning, and I didn't execute well, so this afternoon, I put a lot of pressure on myself to play good golf."

Parker Wisdom (Bloomington) on playing in the State Am at his home club..."I'm so grateful and overwhelmed with joy with all of the people that came out, supported and gave away their time to come watch us play. The CDGA does a great job setting it up here and the course was in great shape. It's cool walking down the fairways, just growing up here and playing in this event, it's all coming around."

Notables
  • Mac McClear (Hinsdale) becomes the 11th player in State Am history to win back-to-back titles. The most-recent to do so was Ethan Farnam, whose victories in 2019 and 2021 sandwiched a cancelation in 2020.
  • The scoring average for the tournament was 74.65. The most difficult 18 was Wednesday's second round, when the field averaged 75.10. The easiest round came Thursday morning, when the field averaged 73.17.
  • The most difficult hole of the Championship was the 415-yard par-4 13th, which averaged 4.52. The field notched only 23 birdies all week on this hole, compared to 159 pars and 150 bogeys or worse.
  • The easiest hole of the Championship was the par-5 14th, which played at 481 yards. The field compiled 17 eagles, 148 birdies and an albatross from Justin Schwab (Beach Park).
  • Mac McClear (Hinsdale) and Tyler Isenhart (Geneva) were the only two players to not record an over-par round throughout the tournament.
  • Mac McClear (Hinsdale) is the fourth University of Iowa golfer to win the Illinois State Amateur Championship in the last 12 iterations. He joins Raymond Knoll (2014), Brad Hopfinger (2011) and Vince India (2010) as recent Hawkeyes to hoist the Louis L. Emmerson Trophy.
  • Mac McClear's (Hinsdale) five-stroke margin of victory is the largest in the Illinois State Amateur since 2016, when current PGA Tour player Nick Hardy won by 10 shots at a record-breaking -28 at St. Charles Country Club.
  • Mac McClear (Hinsdale) won the Illinois State Junior Amateur Championship in 2019. Four other players have won both the State Junior and State Amateur Championships. The others to achieve the feat are:
    • Ethan Farnam - 2015 State Junior, 2019 and 2021 State Amateur
    • Raymond Knoll - 2012 State Junior, 2014 State Amateur
    • Brad Marek - 2002 State Junior, 2005 State Amateur
    • Erik Ciotti - 1993 State Junior, 1997 State Amateur
  • Jake Erickson (Chatham) finished 21st at +8 overall. The 32-year-old has finished in the top 21 in 10 of his 13 all-time appearances dating back to 2010.
 
Chicago District Golf Association
The Chicago District Golf Association (CDGA) is authorized by the United States Golf Association (USGA) as the governing body for amateur golf in our region. The CDGA is a membership organization consisting of more than 106,000 individual golfers and 400 clubs in Illinois and parts of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Golfers receive member offers, a Handicap Index® from the USGA® and competitive playing opportunities, while clubs receive Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™ measuring services, turfgrass diagnostics and educational seminars. The CDGA also creates opportunities for everyone to experience the benefits of the game through therapeutic and recreational Outreach Programs, with an emphasis on serving individuals with special needs, youth and veterans.
 
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