HAWTHORN WOODS, IL. — Wilmette’s Philip Arouca hadn’t done much in professional golf — until he teed off in the 62nd Illinois Open at Hawthorn Woods Country Club. Then he couldn’t do much of anything wrong.
Arouca, 26, opened 65-67 in the 54-hole tournament, then held off a challenge by Libertyville’s Michael Schachner to take a three-stroke win and claim the $15,500 first prize. Arouca posted an 11-under-par 202 and became the second New Trier High School graduate in a row to win the championship. Eric Mierdierks missed the cut in his title defense..
Though he blew a six-stroke lead in the final round, Arouca never trailed in his fourth appearance in the tourney. He had missed the cut in his previous two tries at Hawthorn Woods and appeared to be folding when his tee shot at the 12th hole sailed out of bounds.
“That could have been a blessing in disguise,” said Arouca. “Something clicked in my swing after that.’
The OB shot created a three-shot swing and lifted Schachner into a tie for the lead, but Arouca reclaimed the top spot with a four-foot birdie on the next hole and led by himself the rest of the way.
Doug Ghim, 15, of Arlington Heights became the youngest player to ever compete in the championship. He finished at 7-over-par 220 and tied for 37th.
John Seehausen, 67, of Inverness was the oldest player among the 156 starters. He was medalist in a qualifying tournament at Inverness after shooting a 69 on his home course. He showed that was no fluke by also posting 69 in the first round at Hawthorn Woods before finishing 78-80.
Mike Small, the University of Illinois coach, was hoping to win the tournament for the fifth time and tie Gary Pinns for most Illinois Open titles. Small, who last won the Illinois Open in 2007, finished in a tie for 13th at 1-over 214.