Kelly's late surge wins Illinois State Amateur

Tee-k Kelly during his win in the 2013 Illinois State Amateur.

Tee-k Kelly during his win in the 2013 Illinois State Amateur.

Tee-k Kelly of Wheaton, Ill., moved from T-17 to first place after posting 70-69 during the final two rounds of the Illinois State Amateur Championship. His 281 total put him 3 shots ahead of his closest rivals, Jake Erickson and John Watson, who both finished the tournament with a 284 total.

After lurking in the background and trying to stay cool in near-record heat, Kelly took the opportunity to pounce by recording four birdies during his final 10 holes to win at Albeen Golf Club.

“I had a ton of birdie looks early in the day,” Kelly said after the final round. “Before that last stretch, nothing was falling. I was striking it well all day and just waiting for my time.”

Kelly birdied the 11th hole, a 424-yard par 4, to move within two strokes of leader John Watson. On the 182-yard, par-3 13th, Kelly knocked his tee shot to 8 feet and sank the birdie putt – while Watson found the water off the tee and ended up with a triple bogey and a four-shot swing.

“After No. 13 it was really down to the wire,” Kelly said. “The entire day, it was like a pressure cooker with the heat and humidity out there. I just tried to power through and not let myself get down, because I knew others would (get down) and I could capitalize.”

After Kelly and Watson both birdied the 16th, Kelly hit a perfect tee shot at the 18th as Watson again found the water. With the pressure off, Kelly closed with par to bring home the Louis L. Emmerson Trophy.

Watson and first-round leader Jake Erickson finished T-2, three strokes behind Kelly.

While talking to the media after his round, Kelly, who is entering his sophomore year at Ohio State University said, “It means a lot to win here with such a good field.”

This marks the first time the state am has been contested in July. The 137-player field was met with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index surpassing 100.

After his final round, Watson, who is heading into his junior season at the University of Wisconsin said, “The clouds really helped in the afternoon.” He went on the say, “The course was in great condition all week and the field is one of the best in the country with the college players and the older guys - there are lots of really good players.”

Yale golfer Joe Willis finished alone in fourth, while Todd Mitchell, a two-time State Amateur champion, shared fifth-place honors with Tim Sheppard.

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