University of Iowa golfers have won three of the last five Illinois State Amateur golf titles. Now another Hawkeye is poised to claim the Illinois Open crown.
Brian Bullington, a Frankfort resident who will be a senior at Iowa in the fall, coped with windy conditions at The Glen Club in Glenview on Tuesday to claim the 36-hole lead. His second-round 67 gave Bullington a 7-under-par 137 total for the first two rounds. He’s one stroke ahead of Medinah teaching pro Travis Johns.
Johns and Illinois men’s coach Mike Small shot 66s, the low round of the day, but Small – seeking a record-tying fifth Illinois Open title – is six strokes off the pace entering Wednesday’s final round.
Both Bullington and Johns made eagle on the downwind 578-yard par-5 18th hole to get their spots atop the leaderboard. Bullington used a 7-iron for his second shot, then holed a tricky eight-foot downhill putt. Johns connected from 20 feet, his third putt from that distance in his last six holes.
“Every day I set a number and hit it,’’ said Bullington. “The number for tomorrow? Just one that’s good enough.’’
Bullington, who got his round going with a 35-footer at No. 11, is in the final round of the Illinois Open for the third time in as many tries. He finished back in the pack the first two times, but Bullington could find that three’s a charm.
He’s had a decent summer, having qualified for the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and reaching the match play portion of the Chicago District Amateur. Getting the big win, however, has eluded him.
His Iowa teammate, incoming freshman Ray Knoll of Naperville, has had better luck. He qualified for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic and won the Illinois State Amateur last week at Cantigny in Wheaton. Iowa golfers Vince India and Brad Hopfinger won that title in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Hopfinger and Knoll are also in the hunt in this Illinois Open, standing in a tie for third and a tie for ninth, respectively.
Johns could make a big climb in the Illinois PGA Player-of-the-Year race with a good showing on Wednesday. He was the runner-up in the section’s first major tourney of the year, the IPGA Match Play Championship, after losing the final to two-time player-of-the-year Curtis Malm, the head pro at White Eagle in Naperville.
Malm has led the standings throughout this season but had a disappointing Illinois Open, shooting 79-76 to miss the cut.