Hinsdale's McClear puts last year's setback behind him, wins Illinois State Amateur
A year ago a costly bogey on the 17th hole at Mistwood in Romeoville prevented Hinsdale's Mac McClear from winning the Illinois State Amateur title. He wound up in a three-man playoff for the crown, with Crystal Lake's Ethan Farnam repeating as the tourney's champion.
That setback didn't hold back the University of Iowa junior this time. He was in control most of the way en route to a 3-stroke victory over Tommy Kuhl, a fifth-year senior at Illinois from downstate Morton. They were the only players under par for the 72-hole test at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette on Thursday.
"It was a long time coming, but this really feels good," McClear said. "Last year didn't stay in my head. I played well, but Mistwood wasn't my favorite course. I liked this one better. I didn't like Mistwood's water. This was definitely my kind of course."
Windy weather over the past two days hampered the scoring when the tourney was played on a North Shore course for the first time in its rich history.
McClear shot 68-77 in Thursday's 36-hole climax to the 91st annual championship while Kuhl went 68-75. McClear posted 5-under-par 283 for the four rounds.
McClear, who won the Big Ten individual title last year, owned a 5-stroke lead after Thursday's morning round, but that advantage was gone after he hit the back nine in the afternoon.
Only Kuhl presented a challenge. He pulled even with McClear, but then made 3 bogeys early on the final nine when his rival got hot.
"From 10 to 15 I really played well,' McClear said. "I almost birdied five of those six holes."
He was up six shots with three holes to play but then threatened to give that lead away, too.
A triple bogey seven at No. 16 brought Kuhl within 2 shots, but McClear also made a bogey at the 17th. Playing one group behind Kuhl, McClear watched his rival make double bogey on the 18th and nursed his way through the final hole to secure the victory.
The loss left Kuhl nearly in tears.
"I wanted this tournament, he said. "It was one of my goals. I just got beat by a better man."
They'll meet two more times before returning to their college teams. McClear and Kuhl both qualified for the Western Amateur, coming up Aug. 1-6 at Exmoor, in Highland Park. Then the U.S. Amateur will conclude their summer seasons.
Women's Western Am:
Caroline Smith of Inverness and Grace Curran of New Lenox won two matches Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of 122nd annual championship staged by the Western Golf Association at Sunset Ridge in Northfield.
Match play started with 32 players who survived 36 holes of stroke play qualifying. Two more days of matches remain with the championship to be decided Saturday.
Defending champion Marissa Wenzler of Dayton, Ohio, defeated Abby Glynn of Topeka, Kansas, in the second round and advances to Friday's quarterfinals against Rianne Mikhaela Malixi of the Philippines. Last year's runner-up Maddison Hinson-Tolchard of Australia finished her match Friday morning and lost to Taglao Jeeravivitaporn. Curran will play Jeeravivitaporn in the quarterfinals.
In the other quarterfinals, Smith meets Brooke Biermann of Wildwood, Mo., and Annabelle Pancake of Zionsville, Ind., meets Chloe Schiavone of Jacksonville, Fla.
• Illinois Golf Hall of Famer Len Ziehm is on the "Golfers on Golf " radio show from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday on WNDZ (AM-750). He co-hosts the "Ziehm & Spears Golf Podcast Series" on social media. Past columns are at lenziehmongolf.com.