The 115th Western Amateur was hardly a rousing success for the seven Chicago players among the 156 invitees to the prestigious event at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe.
Only Nick Hardy, the senior-to-be at Illinois from Northbrook, advanced to the Sweet 16 during Thursday’s 36-hole day that concluded stroke play qualifying. Hardy shot 67-69 in the third and fourth rounds to complete the 72-hole portion of the tournament at 11-under-par 273. He tied for third in the stroke play portion of the championship, won in the past by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Curtis Strange and Tiger Woods
Hardy made it to the match play portion of the tournament for the third time and will win the title if he can win four matches in the final two days of the tournament.
His Illini teammate, fellow senior Dylan Meyer, won’t defend the title he won last year at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. He didn’t survive the first cut, when the field was cut from the starting 156 to the low 44 and ties after Wednesday’s first 36 holes were completed.
Meyer was two shots short of qualifying for Thursday’s rain-plagued 36-hole day. Highland Park’s Patrick Flavin, a late invitee after he won the Illinois State Amateur title last week, was five shots behind Meyer and NCAA champion Braden Thronberry of Mississippi was another shot back.
Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback who was given a sponsor’s exemption by the Western Golf Association, was 20-over-par for his 36 holes, while it took a 1-under score to qualify for the third and fourth rounds.
Hardy had two other local players join him in the two-round day. Neither Doug Ghim, a University of Texas senior from Arlington Heights, nor Andrew Price, the 35-year-old 2016 Chicago District Amateur champion from Lake Bluff, came close to making the Sweet 16.
In addition to Flavin, the Illinois players bowing out after two rounds were Todd Mitchell, 38, of Bloomington; Chicago’s Charles Waddell, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur later this month in California; and Skokie member Robert Bice. Mitchell is a two-time Illinois State Amateur champion; last year’s Illinois State Mid Amateur titlist and a four=time Chicago District Golf Association Player of the Year.
The tourney medalist was Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, Calif. He shot 66-65 on Thursday to finish the 72 holes of stroke play at 14-under-par 270. Xiong was one stroke ahead of Okohoama junior Brad Dalke, whose 72 in the final 18 killed his chances for medalist honors and the No. 1 seed for the match play portion of the tournament.
Xiong was in a tie for 29th place at the start of the day but took advantage of a last-hole collapse by Australian Ruben Sondjaja, who hit two balls out of bounds on the last hole, took a quadruple bogey eight and wound up in the tie for third with Hardy. He was one stroke ahead of Xiong going to the last hole.
“My goal was just to get into the Sweet 16,’’ said Xiong. “I knew if I just played my game I could get there pretty solidly. Things got hot with my putter at the beginning of both rounds and things went my way.’’
Xiong and Dalke were the last finishers, at 8:15 p.m.. Two rain delays hampered play and prevented a four-man playoff for the final two Sweet 16 spots from being held. It’ll be contested on Friday morning before the matches begin. Among those in the playoff is Dawson Armstrong, who won the 2015 Western Amateur at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, spectacular fashion, holing a bunker shot to claim the title in a sudden death playoff.