|Midwest Golf House
|Contact: Casey Richards
|11855 Archer Avenue
|Lemont, IL 60439
|Contact: Tim Merrick
|Contact: Jacob Bomeli
|For Immediate Release
|July 18, 2023
|STEWART STAKES CLAIM TO TOP OF 92ND ILLINOIS STATE AM LEADERBOARD FOLLOWING FIRST ROUND
|Tuesday, July 18, 2023 - BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - When asked about prior knowledge of Bloomington Country Club's short (by modern standards), but demanding layout following his first round of the 92nd Illinois State Amateur Championship Tuesday, Will Stewart (Lake in the Hills) wasn't afraid to put his answer bluntly.
Despite the admitted inexperience, the 20-year-old utilized a scintillating flat stick and momentum on the back nine to card a 6-under 64 in the opening round. He holds a one-shot lead over Josh Anderson (Saint Joseph) and is two ahead of Justin Schwab (Beach Park), with a formidable field close behind.
"I played in the [High School] State Championship at Weibring [Golf Club, in nearby Normal] twice, but other than that, I haven't been down here to play golf," stated Stewart, a rising junior at Western Kentucky University. "I like it. I typically like playing on tree-lined courses."
Competing in his first State Am, Stewart began his round like most newcomers - with a bit of nerves. Fighting a bit of waywardness off the tee early, he picked up his first red figure in the form of a birdie on par-4 second. The good mojo was counterbalanced just two holes later with a bogey on the par-4 fourth. Welcome to the Illinois State Amateur.
Stewart righted the ship, however, with a birdie on the uphill par-3 eighth, one of 12 to be carded on the hole by day's end. He turned at 1-under, still firmly amongst the obscurity of a packed leaderboard early on in a premier tournament. By the end of his back nine, though, that field was put on notice.
"Then I just started rolling some putts in," said Stewart. "I putted really well today. I love the greens. I was hitting good putts all day. I was just trying to keep it around the cup."
That strategy paid dividends, and then some. The slender Stewart fired birdies on Nos. 11 and 12. Then came the big move - an eagle on the 481-yard par-5 14th. With the help of "three really solid golf shots," Stewart carded one of just six eagles on the hole on Tuesday. He maintained that momentum gained, with two more birdies on Nos. 15 and 16. Despite a bogey on the last, he entered the clubhouse with an early lead that withstood the afternoon wave.
"I just started hitting it closer," said Stewart of his back-nine charge. "I started to play a little bit better. No. 14 was probably a highlight...just tried to keep it going. Keep the nerves out of it and just play."
Sitting just one back of Stewart, the aforementioned Anderson's start in the afternoon was fast and furious, as his approach shot on the 389-yard par-4 second jarred the cup for an eagle, leaving some cleanup in its wake. The 39-year-old St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame inductee had just one hiccup on his way in, a bogey on No. 14, to position himself within reach to chase Stewart.
"I did not look at a leaderboard all day long - just keep hitting greens, you're putting really well and you're going to score well," said Anderson of his thought process. "Go one shot at a time is what I try to do and I'll see where we end up at the end of the day."
Following the completion of the first round, 17 players sit in red figures, including defending champion Mac McClear (Hinsdale), who carded a 1-under 69. The entire field will return to Bloomington for Wednesday's second round. A cut will then be made to the low 35 and ties, with those players returning for Thursday's 36-hole finale. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Mac McClear (Hinsdale) on his opening round 69.."It wasn't my best stuff today. I made a couple of unnecessary bogeys out there, but for the most part I hit it pretty good, rolled in a couple putts. It could have been worse, so I'll take it."Justin Schwab (Beach Park) on his stretch of seven-consecutive birdies..."Honestly, I hit a really bad tee shot on No. 9 and then put it to, like, six feet and made the birdie and that kind of jump started the round for the back. I knew there was a ton of birdies on the back that I could get after, so if I just kept staying mentally positive and just rolling it, giving myself putts, who knows what would've happened? I had no idea I was going to have seven in a row, but the more opportunities I could give myself, the putter is bound to get hot eventually."
Thomas Baker (Rockford) on his final-hole birdie to cement a 2-under 68..."That was great. I was walking up and telling my dad, 'It would be great to end on a good note.' I had just made a couple bogeys coming in and it felt good to roll in a putt on the last."
Dylan Drogemuller (Frankfort) on his ace on the 170-yard par-3 eighth..."It was the eighth hole and it was uphill, probably three or four yards, into the wind a little. I just took a little cut-7-iron and it just one-hopped in...The ballmark was right in front of the hole and I went up there and it was in. It was my first one, too, so it was awesome."
Mason Minkel (Pekin) on carrying on his father's (Curtis Minkel, 2002 Illinois State Mid-Amateur winner) legacy.."It's amazing, honestly. He was actually here today watching, he's just kind of a little bit jealous that he wasn't playing, but he enjoys it too."
T.J. Barger (Bloomington) on playing on his home course..."It's great that I know my way around the course and it was also great having a lot of my friends come out to support me. I know everybody at this club, so the support out here is pretty nice."
Mike Milligan (Bloomington) on his 79 at 70 years old, 49 years after winning the State Am in 1974..."They moved No. 9 up to a par 4 and I needed a par, I haven't parred that all year from those tees. I needed that to shoot my 79, which was beyond a dream goal for me from these tees, with these kids, you know, after my cancer when I didn't even know if I would play again, and I was able to get out here. I've been working all year to try to gain some length. I'm 100 yards behind these kids, but it was a treat to play with these youngsters and for me to shoot 79, which I needed that five-footer on the last hole, was just...I just think of myself in that chemo bed, and to come to here was so rewarding and I'm just so blessed."
Marcus Smith (Rockford) on his mindset heading into Round 2..."I'll take that there's going to be opportunities out there, just stay below the hole because if you even hit an uphill putt too hard and have a downhill slider, it's lowkey scary, so just have to stay below the hole as much as I can."
|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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Chicago District Golf Association
11855 Archer Avenue
Lemont, IL 60439