Affrunti must forget critical 4-putt before teeing off in JDC

Good things may still be ahead for Joe Affrunti, who gets back on the PGA Tour at the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities in two weeks, but the Crystal Lake golfer will have a hard time forgetting what happened to him in his last tournament.

Affrunti, who missed half of his rookie season on the PGA Tour because of shoulder surgery in June of 2011, looked like he was finally getting a good break while leading the United Leasing Championship on the PGA’s Tour on Sunday.

Bouncing between the PGA and circuits the last two months after returning to action, Affrunti was tied for the lead with Billy Hurley III through 16 holes at Victoria National – a spectacular layout in Newburgh, Ind. — on Sunday.

Hurley then put his second shot at No. 17 in a hazard and took a double bogey. Affrunti, on the green in two, needed a two-putt par to take a two-stroke lead to the final hole.

So what happened? Affrunti four-putted and wound up in a four-way tie for the lead through the regulation 72 holes. With darkness setting in, the four co-leaders (all at 11-under-par 277) had to return for a sudden death playoff on Monday, and Affrunti was eliminated when he made bogey on the first extra hole. After putting his drive in the rough he missed an eight-foot par putt.

Ben Martin took the title with a two-putt par, leaving the four-putt of the day before another career derailer for Affrunti. He missed from five feet and then from three on that nightmarish 71st hole of regulation. Both putts hit the hole but didn’t fall.

“The ball’s in twice, and still lips out. It is what it is,’’ said Affrunti, the 2004 Illinois Open champion. He still earned $44,800 for his tie for second (Martin pocketed $108,000), and much more money will be available at the $4.6 million JDC, which begins is 72-hole at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL., on July 11.

Affrunti will be one of five former University of Illinois golfers in the field, joining Steve Stricker, Luke Guthrie, D.A. Points and Scott Langley. They’ll all be trying to dethrone defending champion Zach Johnson in the final PGA Tour event before the British Open.

Small’s in PGA again

Illinois coach Mike Small finished in a tie for fourth at the PGA Professionals National Championship in Oregon last week, and that earned him his ninth berth in next month’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.

Small, who also qualified for three U.S. Opens, made the cut at the PGA in 2005, 2007 and 2011. He was voted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame last month.

Did you know?

Bryce Emory, a recent Northern Illinois University graduate from Aurora, defeated Blake Johnson of Winnetka 2 and 1 in the final of the 94th Chicago District Golf Assn. Amateur at Edgewood Valley in LaGrange.

Dennis and Tim Troy will be the honorees when the Illinois PGA conducts its Senior Masters tourney on July 29 at Onwentsia in Lake Forest.

The 22nd Illinois State Amateur Public Links Championship will be held Monday and Tuesday (JULY 8-9) at Bowes Creek in Elgin. Qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur is next Wednesday (JULY 10) at Biltmore in North Barrington.

The Chicago Lighthouse will honor former Bears’ coach Mike Ditka at its July 15 fundraiser outing at North Shore in Glenview. Proceeds benefit programs for the blind or visually impaired.