Golf: Naperville’s Raymond Knoll takes toll on Illinois Amateur field in winning title
By Rick Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org July 17, 2014 9:40PM
Raymond Knoll, of Naperville, beat Northbrook's Nick Hardy on fourth playoff hole to win title in 72-hole 84th Illinois State Amateur. Presenting Knoll the trophy is Chicago District Golf Association President David R. Haverick. | Rick Armstrong/Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 17, 2014 10:30PM
Last week’s taste of PGA Tour competition in the Quad Cities was some kind of appetizer for Naperville’s Raymond Knoll.
The University of Iowa sophomore from Naperville made it into the John Deere Classic through Monday’s qualifier, but missed the cut. He returned to his roots this week at Cantigny Golf, found his comfort zone and Thursday won the 84th Illinois State Amateur.
Knoll and future Big Ten rival Nick Hardy of Northbrook, who will play for Mike Small at Illinois, tied at 8-under 270 through 72 holes of regulation. Knoll claimed the win on the fourth playoff hole by making par-4 after Hardy knocked his tee shot wide right and into a hazard, settling for double-bogey 6. Both had played the initial three-hole aggregate playoff in even-par 11 strokes.
“When I missed the (Deere) cut I was like, ‘I want to be back here so bad,’” Knoll said. “It was weird going back and playing in a normal tournament, but Cantigny is where I grew up. It’s what I know and where I practice. I felt really comfortable out there.”
He struggled to a 3-over 75 in the opening round, but rebounded with back-to-back 5-under 67s, then closed with a 1-under 71.
Knoll plays locally at Cress Creek Country Club these days, but still uses the Cantigny for practice and got his start on the facility’s Youth Links course.
Hardy had the lowest scores in each of Thursday’s rounds with a 66 and 69, but pointed to his second-round 75 as the backbreaker.
“I dug myself too big of a hole (Wednesday), finishing with five bogeys in the last seven holes,” Hardy said.
Knoll’s victory marks the 10th straight year a collegiate player has won.
Auburn senior Dan Stringfellow of Roselle took third at 6-under 283. Chadd Slutzky, 36, of Deer Park, who led after each of the first two rounds, settled for fourth at 3-under 285.
“I was fine in the morning round, but sitting down and having a big lunch didn’t help,” Slutzky said. “In the afternoon round, my mind was telling me to do something but my body wasn’t responding. I’m used to using a cart and playing once a week.”
Aurora’s Thomas O’Bryan, a Wisconsin junior, was one of three players who tied for fifth at 2-under 286.
“I actually played good,” said O’Bryan, who had a pair of 3-under 69s in the middle rounds before finishing with a 74. “’I just didn’t make any putts. It was nice to get in control, though, and give myself a chance to win.”
Tied for eighth at 1-under 287 were Matt Weber, of St. Charles, Gabe Aprati, of New Lenox and Andy Mickelson, of Lockport.
“I hit it really good all week, I just didn’t make a lot of putts,” said the 33-year-old Mickelson, who played in college at Bradley. “Basically, my goal was to get in the top 10. I don’t play a whole lot of tournament golf anymore.”
It was his third top 10 finish in the event since 2010, and anyone finishing in the top 20 gets an automatic exemption into next year’s tourney, which will be held at Panther Creek in Springfield.
Weber is a 2014 Burlington Central grad who will play at Indiana.
“I was playing petty well and had it at 3-under in the last round,” he said. “I had three par putts inside eight feet, though, and missed them all. I played good for 69 holes, but it was very frustrating to finish like that.”
Knoll’s win caps what he describes as “an unbelievable last two weeks.”
In the past 12 days he has played 257 holes in tournaments or practice. It included 39 in Sunday’s U.S. Amateur qualifier at Notre Dame that included three playoff holes.