|Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - For full 2018 Illinois State Amateur event information, including tee times, high-resolution images, video and more, visit CDGA.org/ILStateAm. If you plan on covering the event in person, please notify Casey Richards at email@example.com with the day(s) you will be in attendance.|
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – In the time since last year’s Illinois State Amateur Championship, there was no forgetting who won the event for Charlie Nikitas. His Miami University teammate was there to remind him.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about [Patrick Flavin’s] win last year for the past few months,” Nikitas said with a chuckle.
This year, it’s Nikitas who is atop the leaderboard early, as the RedHawk rising sophomore opened the 88th State Am with a bogey-free 4-under 66 Tuesday at Bloomington Country Club. The Glenview native enters Wednesday’s second round with a one-shot lead over a trio of others.
“I just drove it in the fairway, gave myself a lot of chances and tried to get myself out of trouble when I found it,” Nikitas said of his round. “That’s how you keep a clean card and I did that.”
Starting off the 10th tee in the afternoon wave, Nikitas birdied three of his first four holes before getting to 4-under with another birdie on his 15th hole, the par-5 sixth. Despite not having seen the course before playing a Monday practice round, Nikitas feels that the narrow, par-70 6,624-yard track plays to his strengths of driving the ball consistently straight.
“It suits my game great,” Nikitas said.
One stroke behind Nikitas is the trio of 2017 State Am runner-up Jordan Hahn, Derek Meinhart and Bloomington native Rob Wuethrich, who all posted 3-under 67s. Hahn, a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin, finished one stroke shy of Flavin last year at Calumet, while the 40-year-old Meinhart has been in consistent State Am contention, notching top-15 finishes in three of the last four years. Wuethrich, on the other hand, is playing in just his second State Am, this time with the added significance of teeing it up in his home town.
“It’s good to show that Bloomington-Normal is a good golf town,” Wuetrhrich, a rising sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University and one of 13 Bloomington natives in the field, said. “It’s nice, going out there and proving yourself.”
Flavin’s title defense started with a 1-over 71. Two-time winner Todd Mitchell, also a Bloomington native, fired a 7-over 77, while 2012 victor Quinlan Prchal tallied a 2-over 72.
The Championship continues tomorrow with another 18-hole round. The low 35 and ties will advance to Thursdays 36-hole finale.
QUOTES OF NOTE
Patrick Flavin, 71 (+1), on coming in as the defending champion and his round…
“I’ve never really had to defend a title like this one before. Definitely a little bit of nerves starting off. Overall, my game was pretty close, I just didn’t put it all together. It was a little sloppy in spots, but I know I’m right in it. This golf course really suits my game, and you can make a lot of birdies, but if you short-side yourself or leave it above the holes, you’re going to have to work really hard for pars. I did a little bit too much of that today. Overall, I’m happy. I’m going to be ready to go for the next round.”
Jordan Hahn, 67 (-3), on his opening round after setting a tournament record last year with a 61 in the second round…
“I’m definitely pleased. Obviously, not a 61, but still a good first round. I’m definitely in contention.”
Derek Meinhart, 67 (-3), on Bloomington Country Club’s modest length, tight fairways and difficult greens suiting his game…
“It benefits my game, I can say that for sure. You have to strategically place your ball around the golf course and into the greens and stuff, so that favors me. The mid-ams are a little bit wiser it seems like, because we made some of those mistakes when we were younger. It benefits us now and I think it did today.”
Tommy Kuhl, 68 (-2), on carding four birdies on the back nine in his first Illinois State Amateur round, less than a month after winning the Illinois State Junior Amateur…
“I feel like I was getting really impatient on the front nine. I was kind of pushing and leaving myself in the wrong positions, so on the back nine, I just tried to put myself in the right positions and just stay patient, see if I could make some birdies, and I did coming in. It felt really good.”