On a golf course that was soft, fast, and windy, both Illini lost tough matches this morning at the 2015 US Amateur. The putting surfaces were some of the fastest and toughest the players have seen all year. We got to talk with Alex Burge after falling 2 and 1 in his match against Michigan's Kyle Mueller. When asked about the greens and how tough it was to putt, he told us, "Putting was tough. [It was] tough to stop the ball around the hole with the greens as fast as they were."
That's a classic characteristic of any United States Golf Association event. Fast greens, small fairways, and thick rough. Add to that a gusting wind that reached speeds of 20mph in certain parts of the golf course, and you're looking at some tough playing conditions. That made it extremely difficult to hit shots close to the flags. "On 16 I was only 140 yards out, and hit a little 6[iron] in there," said Burge.
Normally from that distance, Burge and others would hit something that's around 2 to 3 clubs shorter in distance. Soft and fast greens made it very tough to stop the ball around the hole, and a few times in his round, Burge would fall victim to the slopes and hills of Olympia Fields' green complexes and found himself 20-30ft short of the hole. The turning point in his match was when he couldn't take advantage of Mueller's lost ball on the 9th hole. With the match remaining 2up in favor of Mueller, Kyle remained in control the rest of the way. Never really allowing Burge to come back into the match. On the 18th green, Mueller rolled in a 40 foot putt to close things out.
In the group behind them, Thomas Detry started fast opening up a 3 hole lead. However, his opponent Kenta Konishi of Japan closed quickly...and Detry's lead shrank to just one after 9 holes. Konishi would win the first 2 holes on the back 9 to establish a 1up lead. A lead that would last till the 18th hole, when Detry hit his approach shot inside of 7ft. The two would head to extra holes after Konishi wasn't able to make his putt, and both were able to hit their approach shots on the green. Detry missed his birdie putt, and Konishi rolled in his putt from about 6 feet to close out the match.
Overall, this was a GREAT tournament for all 4 Illini that competed. Playing on national television against players from many different states and countries only helps add experience and familiarity to pressure. With high expectations for next season in the NCAA Championships, match experience like today's will only help the team grow stronger with every swing.