Sebens, Keenan lead familiar faces at UI Open

SAVOY — For about a three-week stretch early this spring, Corbin Sebens didn’t swing a golf club. It was during that time, however, that the 2008 Monticello graduate says his game took a step in a positive direction.

Instead of fine-tuning his own swing, Sebens was serving as the caddy for his former Parkland teammate, Michael Davan, on the Web.com Tour, a gig that allowed him to view the game from a different perspective.

“Even though I didn’t touch a club for three weeks, I felt like mentally I was better at understanding the game and seeing how professionals handle themselves and approach the golf course,” Sebens said Saturday after firing an even-par 72 in the opening round of the University of Illinois Open on the Orange Course. “I got experience seeing different shots and how to approach the game from a professional point of view and being around some of the guys helps.”

Sebens, who played his last two years of college golf at Eastern Illinois in 2011 and 2012, enters today’s final round tied atop the leaderboard with Parkland’s David Keenan, who recently won the NJCAA Division II national championship.

Seth Trolia trails them by a stroke, and four-time champion Tim Hoss Jr. and 2011 champion Derek Meinhart are also in the mix after shooting 74s. Defending champion David Deschler shot 76.

On a day when the wind was constantly in the 15-20 mph range with gusts in the mid- to upper-20s, Sebens repeatedly referred back to the mental toughness he picked up during his stint on Davan’s bag on the Web.com Tour. He played in similar conditions last week at the Naughtin Open at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet. He didn’t handle it well, shooting 76 and 81 to finish outside the Top 20.

“I let it affect me, it got in my head and I shot a bad score,” Sebens said. “Today, I just tried to stay mentally tough and play one shot at a time. You just have to stay positive. It is tough. I have experience with playing college golf because we played in snow, rain, everything. It didn’t bother me. There’s gonna be high scores out here, so you just have to keep giving yourself chances and anything can happen.”

Sebens is positive entering today’s final round, aiming for his first championship in a tournament he’s been playing since his prep days at Monticello. His best finish was a fifth-place showing last year.

“It would be awesome to win it,” he said. “This is one of the biggest tournaments in the area and there’s been some great winners: Hoss and Clayton (Parkhill), Meinhart, some great players. This is a stacked field and I’m just going to go out tomorrow, try to put a good score up and see what happens.”

Sebens has already had a taste of life as a professional golfer — from a caddy’s perspective. “I’m honored Michael asked me to do it,” Sebens said. “We’ve been close friends for a long time.”

If his game continues to progress, someone might be carrying his bag in the near future.

“I’m going to evaluate at the end of the summer sand see what happens,” he said. “Professional is the next step. I might try it and see what happens.”

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