Elgin, Ill. – May 12, 2021 – Chris Nieto, who joined the Illinois PGA Section in November when he was hired as the Head PGA Professional at Exmoor Country Club, won the 2022 Illinois PGA Match Play Championship presented by Harris Golf Cars at Elgin Country Club. Nieto defeated Brian Carroll (The Hawk Country Club) in the Championship Match to win his first career Illinois PGA event and the first Illinois PGA Major Championship of the 2022 season.
“I'm a little tired, this was a long week. I can’t remember the last time I’ve played this many holes,” said Nieto. “It was a little windy all week, but I spent some time in New Mexico this spring and it’s always windy there, so I got some good practice out there. It was nice getting out here this week and meeting some people and building some camaraderie with the guys. My mindset throughout the week was to never give up. It’s match play, so you know anything can happen. You just have to keep fighting. I’ve been on the other side of some matches and you just have to know that you can always come back if you take it one shot at a time.”
Comebacks were the theme of the week for Nieto, who mounted strong comebacks in three of his six matches. The Championship Match did not follow that theme, as Nieto led throughout the entirety of the round. He made birdie on the par-5 first hole to take a 1-up lead and got to 2 up with a par on the third hole.
Nieto turned with a 2 up lead and got to 3 up with a par on the 10th. Things got a little tighter down the stretch as Carroll pulled within two on hole 13. Carroll stuck his approach shot close on the par-3 16th and sunk the putt to get within one. The tee was moved up on the par 17th and both players went for the green. Nieto chipped his second shot to about 10 feet and made a birdie. Carroll drove the ball to the left of the green and his chip shot hit the stick. He tapped in for birdie and Nieto remained 1 up. Nieto hit 3-wood off the tee on the par-4 18th hole, leaving himself 65 yards to the green. A very impressive second shot from the bottom of the hill left Nieto about three feet. The putt was conceded, and Nieto secured his first career Illinois PGA title.
Nieto began the week as the sixth seed after finishing T4 in the Stroke Play Qualifying round on Monday. Nieto defeated 54th seed Jamie Brighty (PGA Member) in round one of match play, 5 and 4. He then took Jamie Nieto (The Preserve at Oak Meadows) in round two. Chris carded an eagle and five birdies in that round to win the match 3 and 2.
Nieto showed tremendous fight in the round of 16. He found himself down big to 22nd seed Matt Slowinski (Hinsdale Country Club). Nieto was down four with seven holes to play but won four holes in a row to tie the match on the par-4 15th hole. He then took his first lead of the match on the par-4 17th hole and won the match 1 up.
Nieto made another comeback in the Quarterfinals against Frank Hohenadel (Mistwood Golf Club). Nieto was down two through four holes but fought back again and tied the match with a birdie on the par-4 11th hole. He would take the lead with another birdie on the very next hole to get to 1 up in the match. In the end, Nieto won four of the last six holes to win the match 3 and 2 and advance to his first-ever Illinois PGA Match Play Championship Finals.
Nieto drew 10th seed Tim Streng (Wildcat Golf Academy) in the Semifinals. Falling behind again, Nieto was 2 down through four holes, but fought back to win the next two holes and tie the match on the sixth hole. He took his first lead of the match on the par-5 eighth after hitting his approach shot to about three feet and made eagle. He would lose the next hole, however, and the match was tied after nine holes. Nieto quickly regained the lead, winning the 10th and 11th holes and going 2 up. He struggled to close out Streng who kept battling back and the match was tied after 14 holes. Nieto grabbed a 1 up lead again on the 15th hole and closed the match out on the 17th hole to advance to the finals.
The Illinois PGA Match Play Championship marked the first of four Major Championships on the 2022 schedule. The Illinois PGA would like to thank presenting sponsor and long-time Section Partner, Harris Golf Cars as well as Precise Yardage Books for sponsoring this event.
About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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