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Len Ziehm On Golf

Burge, Cooke beat the rain, advance at U.S. Amateur

Alex Burge and David Cooke both won big tournaments this summer, and now they’re poised to win something much bigger.

Though it’s not official yet, Burge and Cooke most likely survived the 36-hole stroke play portion of the 115th U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club and will be among the 64 qualifiers for the match play portion of the event that begins Wednesday.

Burge, who captured the Chicago District Amateur, and Cooke, the Illinois Open champion, were able to finish their stroke play rounds on Tuesday and both were at 1-over-par 141. With overnight rains delaying the start of play by 90 minutes on Tuesday, 54 of the 312 starters could not complete their rounds. They’ll have to finish on Wednesday morning before the matches can begin.

Both Burge, a University of Illinois golfer from Bloomington, and Cooke, a Bolingbrook resident who plays collegiately at North Carolina State, were looking for a strong showing before joining their college teams.

“Once you get to match play it’s anyone’s game,’’ said Burge, a redshirt senior for the Illini. He has already graduated and is using the year to work on a Master’s degree while completing his athletic eligibility.

“Sitting out last year wasn’t the most fun thing to do,’’ said Burge, “but hopefully it’ll pay off in the future.’’

Regardless of how he does in this week’s matches, Burge Fields next month for the Fighting Illini Invitational, one of the top college tournaments every season. Illinois coach Mike Small is an Olympia member, so Burge benefitted from his knowledge of the course.

“It helps, just be to familiar with the scenery, but it’s playing completely different than it does for our (college) tournament,’’ said Burge.

Cooke had to rally to keep his match play aspirations alive after going 2-over-par on the fourth hole of Olympia’s North Course. He got the birdie he needed with a nine-foot putt at No. 16 and then wrapped up a solid par-70 round with a sand save at No. 18.

“Winning the Illinois Open was a good confidence boost,’’ said Cooke. “It made me feel I’m definitely supposed to be here, but down the stretch there was a completely different feel. I had complete control of my game in the Illinois Open. Here is was a grind.’’

Both the North, site of the 2003 U.S. Open and many other major events, and the South were used in stroke play. All matches will be on the North with the 36-hole championship match on tap for Sunday.