Boyle tours Glen Club in 65 for Illinois Open lead

Writing from Glenview, Illinois

Monday, August 5, 2019 

It’s no surprise that big hitters abound all over golf these days, be it the top of the PGA Tour or at the local muni.

But hitting it long is one thing and making something of the distance gained is another.

Chris Boyle, a 23-year-old assistant at Balmoral Woods in Crete, made plenty of his ability to pound the ball on Monday at The Glen Club. His 7-under-par 65, a scorecard painted with eight birdies and marred by a solitary bogey, carried him to the lead of the 70th Illinois Open by two strokes over 2015 champion David Cooke.

Tim “Tee-k” Kelly, Justin Regier and Dave Pecorella are tied for third at 3-under 69.

Boyle played high school golf at Jacobs and his college golf at Methodist University in North Carolina. He’s played in but a few tournaments as a professional, but if Monday is an indication, he’ll be in contention early and often.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of training, a lot of reps, a lot of bad rounds,” Boyle said. “But hard work pays off eventually. This is just step one of a three-day tournament.”

It was all in the head, Boyle explained.

“I was prepared mentally, prepared to win,” Boyle said. “I’m playing solid, so I’m looking forward to Wednesday afternoon. I really feel I should be holding the trophy at the end of this. I see it. I just want to go do it now.”

First comes Tuesday at Ridgemoor Golf Club, where the other half of the field commenced hostilities. That’s where Cooke opened with a 5-under-par 67 in the morning, taking the lead for some five hours.

“I’m going for all the par 5s in two, stay aggressive all day long,” Boyle said of his Ridgemoor manifesto.

He was in the third from last group in the afternoon, but made noise immediately with four birdies in the first five holes, then three more beginning at the par-4 13th hole. His only bogey was on the 16th, but he made up for that with a birdie at the last, achieved via a drive 20 yards past the cart path crossover, an approach from the left rough that ended up on the back collar of the 589-yard finishing hole, a putt to about five feet, and an uphill conversion for the eighth birdie of the day.

“That was a good up-and-down for birdie,” Boyle said. “I had a mental lapse on 16 but wanted to brush that back, and I finished up in style.”

Since winning the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2015, Cooke has graduated from North Carolina State, turned pro, and gained partial status on the European Tour.

“I’ve played twice in Australia and once in Kenya,” said Cooke.

Neither country is in Europe, which suggests the tour should consider a name change, but Cooke, a native of Bolingbrook, was right at home at Ridgemoor Country Club on Monday.

“Kind of frustrating, but I’m definitely not upset with it,” Cooke said of his eight-birdie, three-bogey round. “I think 67’s pretty good at this course. It’s a little different style than The Glen Club. You’ve got to hit a lot of the trickier golf shots here, but the greens are awesome and I made quite a few putts.”

Cooke opened on the back nine as if he’d obliterate the course record of 62, set by Ben Hogan in 1942 and subsequently matched by then-member Bob Zender. He birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12, and after a bogey on the par-3 13th, birdied the next two holes and the par-3 18th to go out in 5-under 31. But an even-par inward half brought him back to earth.

“I made a few really good putts where you’re just trying to cozy them up there and they fell in,” Cooke said. “I made one on No. 9, a 15-20-footer I had to play up the slope and back down.”

He made it to save par. Cooke, like most of the field, had never seen Ridgemoor until a practice round. That was an eye-opener.

“You’ve got to make sure you pick the right spots,” Cooke said. “There’s definitely worse sides of the holes to be on than others. There are slopes on the greens you definitely don’t want to mess yourself up on.”

If Cooke keeps up the good work, he could collect the $20,000 first prize from the purse of $120,000. Both are records. In his case, the money would pay for the honeymoon, as Cooke is getting married on Saturday, and the check here will go farther than the $2,165 he’s earned on the European circuit in his few starts.

Nineteen of the 265 players finished under par, with 33 at par or better.

Reiger’s presence at 3-under was as unexpected as Boyle’s. A 34-year-old assistant at the East Bank Club, Reiger’s played on every continent but Antarctica, plus won the 2014 Bermuda Open. He counted the 75-foot par-saving putt on his fourth hole of the day “a round-saver."

“Any time you can get those and keep going with momentum, it’s a big deal,” Reiger said.

Immediately behind Regier, Kelly and Pecorella are a sevensome including amateurs Tommy Kuhl, Jack Mortell and Jack Vercautren and pros Frank Hohenadel, Brandon Holtz, Michael Schachner and Josh Bousman.

Kuhl, whose 70 came at Ridgemoor, was coming off an appearance in the Western Amateur at Point O’Woods near Benton Harbor, Mich., and saw similarities in the two courses that helped his game.

“Some of the tee shots are very similar to the Point,” Kuhl said. “I’d say the Point is a little tighter. These greens are a little better. But they’re similar, which is a nice transition coming from that tournament to here.”

Another similarity was the set-up. While Kuhl didn’t make match play and the Sweet Sixteen, there are few easy cup placements at Point O’Woods. The same was true of the setup at Ridgemoor.

“The pins were really, really hard today,” Kuhl said. “I wasn’t expecting that coming in. They were tucked. I just tried to play smart all day.”

He did so, avoiding bogey until his last hole, the par-4 ninth, a 422-yard quiz.

“That was kind of unfortunate, but I played really solid golf, birdied (three of the four) the par-5s,” Cooke said of his day, best termed defensive golf. “I’d say so. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself and start firing at pins. There’s no reason. You know everyone’s going to be struggling to get the ball close, so par’s a good score.”

Of the others, Holtz, from downstate Bloomington, is the biggest threat based on the last two years. He finished second last year and tied for second, and was the low professional, in 2017. Not bad for a full-time football helmet salesman.

The better-known players in the field played Ridgemoor on Monday and will tackle The Glen Club on Tuesday, with survivors – the top 50 and ties – advancing to Wednesday’s payday. Monday’s Glen Clubbers will play Ridgemoor on the morrow.

“It’s out there,” said 2017 winner Patrick Flavin of scoring on the George O’Neil-William Langford layout. Flavin opened at 1-over 73 and felt as if he was in reverse playing with Cooke.

Around the Open

Surprise score of the day: Dakun Chang’s 10-over 82 at Ridgemoor, which included a trio of double bogeys by the current Illinois PGA Section champion. … Amateur Dominic Leli posted the day’s high score, an 18-over 90 at The Glen Club which featured a 12 on the par-5 18th. … Amateur Benny Mulhearn was the low member of that family, firing a 77 at The Glen Club. Brother Zach and pop Danny matched 83s at Ridgemoor.

Tim Cronin


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