ILLINOIS AMATEUR: Prchal ends title run by college players

MARION, IL. – The college players’ domination of the Illinois State Amateur golf tournament is over.

Collegians had won eight straight times until Glenview’s Quinn Prchal came through with rounds of 66-69 on Thursday at The Links at Kokopelli to notch a two-stroke victory over Derek Meinhart of Mattoon. Prchal went through the three-day 72-hole test in 8-under-par 272.

A recent Glenbrook South graduate, Prchal hasn’t played a college event yet, but it won’t be long. He’ll play in his last junior event next week in Greensboro, N.C., then is off to Princeton University for the start of his freshman year.

Prchal, 18, didn’t qualify for either the Illinois Open or U.S. Amateur and hadn’t won a tournament since a December junior event in Florida. He wasn’t completely surprised by his breakthrough in his first appearance in the 82nd annual State Am, however.

“I just followed my routine and hit a lot of fairways and greens and made a number of short putts,’’ said Prchal, who tied for fourth in the Class 3A high school tourney in the fall.

The last non-collegian to win the Illinois Am was Bloomgton’s Todd Mitchell, who took back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. He tied for third Thursday after leading the tournament through 36 holes and starting fast on Thursday. He made three birdies in his first five holes.

“Then it vanished,’’ said Mitchell, “but I’ve got to hand it to (Prchal). He was 5-under today, and that’s playing very, very well.’’

Prchal, who plans to study engineering at Princeton, isn’t committing to a career in golf despite the promise he showed at Kokopelli, the southern-most location ever for the championship.

“I plan to play all four years in college and should be able to gauge my play then,’’ said Prchal, who plays most of his golf at the Glenview Park District course and The Glen Club in Glenview and has worked with veteran teaching pro Ed Oldfield Sr. for the last seven years at the nearby Willowhill nine-holer.

Not even the closest pursuer to Prchal was a collegian. Runner-up Meinhart, 34, completed his sixth State Am. The vice president of Innovative Staff Solutions, he qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Mitchell has also focused on the Mid-Am, which brings its 2012 finals to Conway Farms in Lake Forest next month.

Mitchell shared third with Frankfort’s Brian Bullington, who was trying to become the third straight Illinois Amateur winner off the University of Iowa golf team.