|Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - |
WHEATON, Ill. - In what is a packed leaderboard following the first day of the 89th Illinois State Amateur Championship Tuesday at Cantigny Golf, a pair of young guns and a pesky veteran stand at the top following opening-round 4-under 68s.
David Perkins (East Peoria / Quail Meadows GC) and Orion Yamat (Niles / The Preserve at Oak Meadows) each played golf consistently throughout the spring due to their collegiate seasons at Illinois State University and Loyola University, respectively. John Wright (Aurora / Oak Brook GC), however, at age 51 has his college years behind him and looks to compete with a field that features 51 players at age 20 or younger.
“Any time I can compete against the top young guys in college, it’s awesome,” said Wright following his opening round 4-under 68.
Wright began his day on the Lakeside Course, which acted as the back nine for the event, and played the first four holes at a 1-over par clip. After those first holes, something seemed to click for Wright as he strung together four straight birdies on Hole Nos. 14 through 17 to position himself in a tie with the morning leaders before even making the turn.
A pair of birdies and a lone bogey on his back nine placed Wright in a tie for the lead with two of those top young players he referred to.
“Everything worked well,” mentioned Wright. “I was able to get it in the fairway, which had been a problem in my last few competitive rounds. My irons were solid and I just hit a lot of really good putts.”
Perkins, the first of the two collegiate golfers to finish, took advantage of the low wind and pristine shape of the course following some afternoon rain to post his leading score.
“I didn’t really miss many shots; hit a lot of greens and a lot of fairways,” stated the rising senior at Illinois State University. “With how the day was with no wind, I knew anything around par or under par was going to put me in a good spot.”
With a birdie on his very first hole of the day, the 2018 CDGA Amateur champion found himself under par instantly and never looked back. A second birdie on his opening nine at the par-5 14th hole and a clean scorecard elsewhere turned Perkins at 2-under.
Another pair of birdies on his second nine brought Perkins to the scorer’s table with a bogey-free round atop the remainder of the field.
Yamat, who was the youngest competitor in the field when the State Am was last played at Cantigny in 2014, made birdie on his second- to-last hole to threaten for the lowest round of the day before conceding the stroke on his 18th hole to also finish with a 4-under-par round.
“My game has changed tremendously,” the recent graduate of Loyola University said when asked how his game compared to when he played in the 2014 rendition of the event. “I remember when I played here before, I would be coming in with much longer clubs and had to hit driver all over the place.”
“It’s definitely great to come back here. It’s a nice full-circle type of thing.”
Eighteen golfers fired opening round scores at under par including Charlie Nikitas (Glenview / Glenview Park GC), Rob Wuethrich (Bloomington / Crestwicke CC), Logan Stauffer (Bloomington / Ironwood GC) and Ethan Farnam (Crystal Lake / Crystal Lake CC), who are all in a tie for fourth place at 3-under.
Tim Sheppard (East Peoria / Pekin Park District), current owner of all three CDGA-administered senior championships, came in under par with a first round 71. Quinlan Prchal (Glenview / The Glen Club), the lone past champion in the field, completed his first round with a 2-over 74.
The event continues on Wednesday with another 18-hole round. The low 35 and ties following the second round will advance to Thursday’s 36-hole finale.
QUOTES OF NOTE
Charlie Nikitas, 69 (-3), on what he learned by leading after day one last year…
“Being under the gun last year was great. You just have to rack up those experiences down the stretch and having a chance to win. This is my favorite tournament of the summer. It’s one that I’ve had buddies win, so I would like to follow in those guys’ footsteps and hold the trophy in the end.”
Rob Wuethrich, 69 (-3), on what the atmosphere was like in his grouping with Nikitas and Sheppard…
“It’s great watching good shot after good shot. There were a lot of holes today that we were hitting three drives in the fairway and three shots onto the green for three looks at birdie.”
Logan Stauffer, 69 (-3), on how to maneuver through a 72-hole tournament…
“We have a lot of golf left to play so just trying to take it day-by-day and shot-by-shot and see what happens at the end of the four rounds. If I play my game, I can compete with these guys and, after winning the [Illinois State] Mid-Am, I proved that to myself.”
John Wright, 68 (-4), on how his experience with Cantigny helped in his opening round…
“I love this course. I’ve played here a bunch. I know the greens well and I know the lines to take off the tee.”
The last mid-amateur player (age 25 and up) to win the Illinois State Amateur Championship was Todd Mitchell in 2003. John Wright, 51, sits tied for first following an opening-round 68.
David Perkins, the 2018 CDGA Amateur champion, is tied for the lead following Tuesday’s opening-round 68. Only nine individuals have won both the Illinois State Amateur Championship and CDGA Amateur, the most-recent being Illinois Golf Hall of Famer Joel Hirsch (State Am in 1988 and 1989, CDGA Am in 1988 and 1998).
Orion Yamat, making his third Illinois State Amateur Championship appearance, is tied for the lead after an opening-round 68. His lowest round tallied in a previous State Am was 74 as a 17-year-old at Cantigny in 2014.
A total of 18 golfers carded a red number in the opening round. Only three players finished last year’s State Amateur at Bloomington Country Club under par.
State Am competitors tallied three eagles on the first day of competition. Ricky Leffingwell and Michael Fowler carded 2s on the par-4 10th, while Paul Dagys notched a 3 on the par-5 14th.
The par-5 14th statistically played as the easiest hole in the opening round, with players averaging 4.762 while totaling 46 birdies and one eagle. The most difficult scoring hole was the water-lined par-4 18th. The field averaged a 4.563 and could muster only 11 birdies all day.
The last time the State Am was held at Cantigny was in 2014, when Chadd Slutzky carded a 6-under 66 to grab the opening-round lead. No other competitor shot better than 70 that day.