FLOSSMOOR, Ill. – August 1, 2023 – After 36-holes of play at the 74th Illinois Open Championship, three players are tied for the lead. Vince India (Chicago, Ill.), Luke Gannon (Mahomet, Ill.), and Dylan Meyer (Evansville, Ind.) are all tied at the top of the leaderboard at 6-under-par with 18 holes left to play.
India is chasing his second Illinois Open Championship victory and looking to become just the 15th multi-winner in the event’s 74-year history. Gannon has been close at this event the last two years. In 2021, he was in the final pairing, and he found himself in the penultimate group in 2022. Nonetheless, he is still chasing his first victory. Meyer is also chasing his first victory at this event and would become the first out-of-state resident to win the Illinois Open Championship with a victory tomorrow.
India started the day tied for sixth place at 2-under-par. Despite fighting his swing a little, India was able to string together an impressive round, carding the second-lowest round of the day at 4-under-par 68. He managed to put together an impressive conclusion to his round with birdies on the 15th, 16th, and 18th holes. He drained two lengthy putts on 15 and 16, and once again took advantage of the par-5 18th, hitting his second shot just short of the green and getting up and down to become the leader in the clubhouse.
“I didn’t feel great the way I was hitting the golf ball today,” said India. “I was a little under it all day I started hitting some hooks and blocks. I just tried to grind something out, especially in the middle of the round. I got some birdie looks towards the end of the round and fortunately, I was able to convert all of those putts.”
Gannon jumped up 10 spots today after carding a 5-under-par 67, the lowest round of the day. Gannon started the day bogey-free on the front with three birdies. His only bogey of the day came on the par-3 11th hole when he left his tee shot short of the green and was unable to get up down from a tough uphill lie. Gannon pulled it together quickly carding birdies on 14 and 18 to join India, one of his playing partners for the first two rounds, at 6-under-par.
“I played a lot better today mostly because I drove the ball much better today,” said Gannon. “That left me with better opportunities into the greens. I made a few longer putts to help keep the round going but all in all I just hit a lot of greens.”
Meyer, who began the day tied for the lead, looked as if he was going to build a big lead early on in his second round. He eagled the opening hole and moved to 7-under-par but bogeyed the next two holes to fall back into a tie for the lead. After birdieing the par-5 10th hole, Meyer held the solo lead for most of the afternoon. Like many others in the field this week, Meyer fell victim to the difficult par-4 17th hole that was playing 475 yards today, and fell out of the lead momentarily, as India and Gannon had finished their rounds up ahead of him. A second birdie of the week on the par-5 18th hole got Meyer back in a share for the lead as he closed his round out at 1-under-par 71, 6-under-par for the tournament.
“I made a nice little eagle on one and put myself ahead of the pace there,” said Meyer. “I made a couple of dumb bogeys early on in the round that kind of stunted what I was doing and the momentum I had going on. I really couldn’t get it going today, but I grinded it out and made a nice birdie on 18 to get tied for the lead. My plan is to hunt tomorrow. I’m going to hunt everything I can tomorrow. I want to go out and put pressure on the golf course and the field. Today I got off of what I do best and that’s picking apart a golf course. Today was another realization that shooting one under is okay, but I need to be better. I’m just going to trust my instincts out there tomorrow.”
There are four players one stroke of our leaders. Mike Small (Champaign, Ill.), Quinn Clifford (a) (Chicago, Ill.), Kyle English (Bloomington, Ill.), and Anthony Albano, Jr. (Park Ridge, Ill.) are tied for fourth place at 5-under-par.
Small is looking to join Gary Pinns as the winningest player of this event with a victory tomorrow. Clifford would become the first amateur to win this event since Patrick Flavin won in 2017. English would join a short list of Illinois PGA Professionals to win this event and would become the first Illinois PGA Professional to win this event since Small did it in 2007. Albano, Jr. is another player that has been close in this event a handful of times and will be in the penultimate group for the second straight year tomorrow.
Small struggled early on in his second round. He made a double bogey on the 11th hole and followed that up with a bogey on the par-3 12th hole. Down but not out, Small rallied back making birdies on the 13th, 15th, and 16th holes. He closed out the front nine at even-par for the day making four birdies. Small found his form on his back nine. He carded three birdies with one bogey to finish 2-under-par for the day. At the time, Small was the leader in the clubhouse at 5-under-par.
“I just tried to slow down out there after the bad start and then I made the birdie on 13,” said Small. “I’m hitting it better than I have in a long time. That makes me feel a little better with where I’m at because I’ve been struggling with my ball striking for a while.”
After an impressive back nine in round one, Clifford doubled down on the back nine going bogey-free for the second time. He added birdies on holes 10 and 11, and closed out his front nine with birdies on holes 16 and 18. Clifford’s birdie on 16 put him into the lead for the first time in the tournament. Clifford struggled on the front nine, his back nine, after bogeying the fourth hole and ninth hole. He entered the ninth hole leading the tournament, but made the decision to attack the pin on the ninth hole and missed the green to make his second bogey of the round and fall back to 5-under-par for the tournament. He carded a 2-under-par 70 in the second round.
“I feel like my caddie and I game-planned around the course today,” said Clifford. “I think I had one of my better ball-striking days and still had a lot of 20-footers, which speaks to how this course played. But I was proud of myself for hanging in there and making a lot of pars.”
English moved up seven spots on the leaderboard after a 4-under-par 68, tying with India for the second-lowest round of the day. English also started his second round on the back nine, and also went bogey-free. Birdies on the 10th, 13th, and 16th holes put English one stroke behind the leaders at the time. On the other side of the property, English joined the leaders a 5-under-par for a moment before falling back to 4-under-par with a bogey on the sixth hole. As the leaders were finishing up with their birdies on the 18th hole, English birdied the eighth hole to get back to 5-under-par and one stroke off the lead.
“I would believe that it’s been a while since a club professional has won this thing,” said English. “I think I got one practice round in this last week. We had a member guest last week, junior stuff going on, and a Monday outing. I had low expectations coming into this week. I’ve had two very different days out here. Yesterday I hit it well and couldn’t make a thing. Today, I think I made 200 feet of putts. It’s a stacked leaderboard right now. I’m just going to go out and play my game and after 18 holes we will see what happens.”
Albano, Jr.’s round was fueled by some great putting. After turning at even par for the day, Albano, Jr. trailed the leaders by three strokes. His putter got hot on the back nine as he one putted each of the last seven holes, highlighted by long birdie putts on the 12th hole and 16th hole. He also made impressive par saves on the 14th and 17th holes from above the hole. Albano, Jr. finished the day with a 3-under-par 69 after making his fifth birdie of the day on the par-5 18th hole to join the group of players tied for fourth.
“I didn’t hit it as well as yesterday, but I made a lot of putts, especially on the back nine,” said Albano, Jr. “I started making everything on that back nine. The putter erased a lot of shots today. “I’ve been in the last couple of groups the last two years. This is right where I want to be and kind of where I expect to be out here. You have to play it shot by shot out here.”
Charlie Nikitas (Glenview, Ill.), Jimmy Morton (Sugar Grove, Ill.), and Bryan Baumgarten (Chicago, Ill.) round out the top 10 following 36-holes. Nikitas is in solo 8th place after carding a 3-under-par 69 in round two. He is currently 4-under-par for the championship and looking to best his 2021 T9 finish at the Illinois Open Championship.
Morton and Baumgarten, who were both toward the top of the leaderboard after round one, are tied for ninth. Baumgarten held a share for the lead entering today’s round but carded a 2-over-par 74 in round two. Morton was tied for third and two strokes off the lead after 18 holes. He carded an even-par 72 in round two. Both players are 3-under-par for the tournament.
The final round of the 74th Illinois Open Championship will be played tomorrow at Flossmoor Golf Club. The final round will begin at 8:30 a.m. with all players teeing off on the first hole, and the leaders teeing off at 11:54 a.m.
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