FLOSSMOOR, Ill. – July 31, 2023 – Bryan Baumgarten (Chicago, Ill.), and Dylan Meyer (Evansville, Ind.) are tied for the lead at the 74th Illinois Open after round one at Flossmoor Golf Club. Baumgarten and Meyer, who were teammates at the University of Illinois for three years, carded 5-under-par 67s and lead the field by two strokes.
Baumgarten started the Championship on the back nine. After a routine start through his first three holes, Baumgarten found his stride on the remaining six holes of the front nine. The birdies started to fall on the par-3 13th hole, which only played 103 yards to a front right hole location and was ranked as the second easiest hole of the round. Back-to-back birdies on holes 15 and 16 got Baumgarten to 3-under-par as he was chasing the early leaders. He then took advantage of the par-5 18th hole, making a birdie and turning to the front nine as the solo leader of the 74th Illinois Open Championship.
The birdies continued to fall for Baumgarten who extended his lead to two strokes with another birdie on the par-5 first hole. After stumbling through holes two and three with back-to-back bogeys, Baumgarten birdied the short par-4 fourth hole to get back to 4-under-par. Baumgarten closed out his round with a birdie on the par-3 seventh hole to finish round one at 5-under-par 67. He led the field with eight birdies in round one and was the solo leader in the clubhouse – momentarily.
“I thought I managed the course well today,” said Baumgarten. “It’s a tough course, if you play good proper golf, you can figure your way around the golf course. That’s what I did today, and it worked out for me. I made a couple of putts today, and when I hit a good shot, I was able to capitalize. Hopefully, I can keep it going the rest of the way. I know there is a lot of golf left, and I have some teammates out there trying to track me down.”
Baumgarten was right about that. Meyer, who was just a few holes behind Baumgarten, got off to a great start, birdieing three of his first four holes. One of only two bogeys for his round came at the par-4 16th hole, but he responded well with a birdie on the 18th hole and made the turn at 3-under-par. Meyer got it to 4-under-par on the par-3 second hole, making him the only person in the field to birdie three of the four par 3s at Flossmoor Golf Club in round one. After getting into a share for the lead on the par-4 fifth hole, Meyer fell back to 4-under-par with his second bogey of the round coming at the difficult par-4 sixth hole. Trailing by one heading into the final hole, Meyer cashed in on the par-5 ninth hole to tie Baumgarten at 5-under-par 67.
“I started off pretty solid. I was 3 under-par through four holes,” said Meyer. “I had it going early on, and the putter was starting to get hot. I’ve been hitting it well the last couple of weeks, and it was just a matter of time before the putter started catching up with my ball striking. Overall, I’m just really happy with my round. It was a great round, shooting 5-under-par is great, but we all start at zero tomorrow. I have to go out and play another good round tomorrow.”
Meyer, a native of Indiana was eligible for the Illinois Open due to a policy change that went into effect in 2022. The new policy states that a graduate of high school or postsecondary school within the boundaries of the state of Illinois may play in the Illinois Open.
“This is my first Illinois Open,” said Meyer. “I think it is a well-run event. I think it’s great that they allow people that played college golf in Illinois to play in the State Open. I was very happy when I found out about that.”
Four players trail our leaders by two strokes, including Mike Small (Champaign, Ill.) who coached both Baumgarten and Meyer while they competed for the Illini.
“I’ve got four or five former players playing this week,” said Small. “I try to keep in touch with them when I can, but they all know that I’m here if they need anything. Dylan (Meyer) has the game to play this sport for a living. He sees some of his teammates out there at the next level and I think that motivates him. Bryan (Baumgarten) hasn’t had the career that some of the other guys had but he’s still a great player. He’s playing hard and working hard and I’m happy for him.”
Small, a four-time champion of the Illinois Open, carded a 3-under-par 69 in round one. He started his day birdieing two of his first three holes and quickly found himself in contention, but bogeyed the seventh and ninth holes to fall back to even par. He then went bogey-free on the back nine with a birdie on the par-4 16th hole. Small was one of only 10 players in the field to birdie the 16th hole in the round. Sitting at 1-under-par and four back of the lead, Small stepped to the par-5 18th hole. A great second shot left Small with an eagle putt to close out his round. He capitalized on the opportunity, making the second eagle of the day on the 18th hole, and finished his round at 3-under-par.
“The course was softer than I’ve ever seen it,” said Small. “I played here in the Senior Open qualifier, and it was fast and hard. It was really soft today, but it was very fair. The course was still in great condition. When it gets firm out here, it’s a lot of fun.”
Jimmy Morton (Sugar Grove, Ill.), Danny Fisher (a) (Lake Forest, Ill.), and Quinn Clifford (a) (Chicago, Ill.) round out the top five at 3-under-par alongside Small.
Morton led the Illinois Open early on, as he did in 2022. He began the day with an eagle on the par-5 first hole and did well to string together a handful of pars before carding his first bogey of the tournament on the par-4 sixth hole. A birdie on the par-5 ninth hole got Morton back to 2-under-par as he made the turn. Back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13 got Morton within one stroke off the lead, but he would bogey the par-5 18th hole to finish with a 3-under-par 69.
Fisher (a), who qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Beverly Country Club earlier this month, got things going on his back nine. After an even-par 36 on the front nine, Fisher birdied three of his first four holes on the back nine including back-to-back birdies on holes 10 and 11. Trailing by two strokes, Fisher fell victim to the hardest hole on the course, the par-4 17th hole, and fell back to 2-under-par. Like many other players, Fisher closed his round out with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to card a 3-under-par 69.
Clifford’s (a) round was jump-started by a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th hole. The 13th hole was playing 103 yards to a front right hole location that was seven paces on the green and two paces from the right edge. Clifford used his 56-degree wedge, and his shot one-hopped through the fringe into the cup. He followed up his ace with a birdie on the par-4 14th hole and found himself two strokes off the leaders. Capping off a bogey-free back nine, Clifford made a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to finish the day at 3-under-par 69.
Vince India (Chicago, Ill), Curtis Malm (Aurora, Ill.), Anthony Albano, Jr. (Park Ridge, Ill.), and Nikko Ganas (a) (Schaumburg, Ill.) round out the top 10 heading into round two. All four players carded a 2-under-par 70.
India and Malm are both past Champions of this event. Malm, the PGA General Manager of White Eagle Golf Club won this event as an amateur back in 2000, and India won the 2018 Illinois Open Championship. This year marks the first appearance at the Illinois Open for India since his victory.
“We have an event in Utah this week on the Korn Ferry Tour,” said India. “I have not had a whole lot of confidence in the past couple of months. So, I figured I needed to keep playing and try to build off of something good this week. I wanted to come out here and play a good golf course near home and hopefully start something for the last couple of events on the Korn Ferry Tour.”
Albano, Jr. is looking to continue a nice run at the Illinois Open. He has finished inside the top 10 in back-to-back years and appears to be on pace to make it a third consecutive year.
In other highlights, Lester Low (Evanston, Ill.), who is the youngest player in this year’s field at age 13, carded the only eagle on the par-5 ninth hole in round one. The ninth hole played 635 yards today, Low holed out from 150 yards out for an eagle three.
Round two of the 74th Illinois Open will begin tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. Following the conclusion of round two, the field will be cut to the low 50 players and ties.
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Illinois PGA Communications