Knoll captures Illinois Amateur in playoff

Raymond Knoll, winner of the 2014 Illinois Amateur.

Raymond Knoll, a rising star for the Iowa men’s golf team, is building a July to remember. Just two weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Knoll capped the month with a victory in the 84th Illinois State Amateur Championship at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Ill.

Along the way he also qualified for his first PGA Tour event, the John Deere Classic, and earned an alternate spot for the U.S. Amateur Championship.

“It was great to come here this week to Cantigny and win,” Knoll said. “It’s where I grew up, it’s what I know and where I practice and I felt really comfortable.”

Knoll, a Napierville native, posted rounds of 75-67-67-71 to defeat Illinois-bound Nick Hardy on the fourth playoff hole. Both Hardy and Knoll finished 72-hole regulation play with 8-under-par 280 totals.

In the three-hole aggregate playoff that followed regulation, Knoll missed a golden opportunity on the first playoff hole, as a 5-foot birdie putt wouldn’t fall. Then at the third hole, after leaving his approach short, he pushed a 50-foot birdie putt past the hole.

“When I rolled that putt (the-50 footer) by, I thought it was over,” Knoll said. “Nick is one of the greatest putters I’ve seen. Luckily he missed his putt so we got to go on to the next hole.”

On the fourth playoff hole, the first of sudden death, Knoll and Hardy both missed the fairway with their tee shot. In the end it was Knoll who got up-and-down to seal the victory.

“I battled today what I battled all week, my slice, so I’m not surprised that was my miss (on the final hole),” Hardy said. I played well today, but I based that off my goal of 135 for the day.” Hardy’s 36-hole total on the final day was 135 after posting scores of 66-69 to go along with his first two rounds of 70-75.

After his victory, Knoll said it was a crazy hectic week after the John Deere Classic and the U.S. Amateur qualifying. “On Tuesday I started pretty slow,” he said. “But I was able to regroup and finish really well today.”

Knoll’s victory marks the 10th straight year a collegiate player has won the Championship and finishes what he describes as “an unbelievable last two weeks.”

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