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Len Ziehm On Golf

Mitchell, 37, is last Illinois golfer eliminated in U.S. Amateur

It didn’t take long to realize that Thursday wouldn’t be a good day for the Illinois players still competing in the 115th U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club.

University of Illinois golfer Alex Burge was in the first match of the day in the Round of 32. He lost 2-up when his opponent, Kyle Mueller of Watkinsville, Ga., closed him out by holing a 60-foot putt with a six-foot break on the last hole.

Thomas Detry, Burge’s Illini teammate, was in the second match and Japan’s Kenta Konishi eliminated him in a battle that went 19 holes. David Cooke, the Illinois Open champion from Bolingbrook, also was locked in a tense match with David Oraee of Greeley, Colo, but Greeley came away with a 2-up victory.

That left Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell as the only Illinois hope. Once a shortstop in the New York Yankees minor league system, Mitchell survived the Round of 32 easily by beating 19-year old Australian Ryan Ruffels 3 and 2.

Mitchell’s magic ended there. He went down 4 and 3 to Baylor sophomore Matthew Perrine, of Austin, Tex., in the afternoon Round of 16 matches.

Mitchell, the last player to win the Illinois State Amateur in back-to-back years (2002-03) and the runner-up in the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur, was one of five mid-amateurs to qualify for match play and – at 37 — the oldest player to reach the Round of 16. He did it in his seventh U.S. Amateur appearance. This was the third time he qualified for match play; he was a first-round loser the first two times.

“The only reason I tried to qualify this year was because the tournament was at Olympia Fields,’’ said Mitchell. “Making the Sweet 16 here is the perfect place for this to happen.’’

That was some consolation for Mitchell, despite going out with a onesided loss.

“I played so poorly. I’m disappointed that I was unable to bring anything to the table,’’ said Mitchell. “I’m pretty beat up physically and mentally, but I’m grateful that I lasted this long.’’

The field will be cut from eight to four in Friday’s quarter-final matches. Semifinals are Saturday and the championship match, to be played over 36 holes, is on Sunday.