SAVOY — In the first round he ever played at the UI Open, Tim Hoss Jr. shot a 112. The 14-year-old backed up that disappointing round with a matching score of 112.
What a difference 18 years makes.
After opening this year’s tournament with a disappointing-by-his-standards 74, the 32-year-old fired a final-round 5-under 67 on Sunday at the Orange Course to become the first five-time champion in the event’s 60-year history.
Not bad for a guy who claims he hasn’t been playing well this season.
“I’ve been shooting a lot of 73s and 74s. I get it to like 1-under in a casual round of golf and I bogey 16 and 17 and then I par 18,” Hoss said. “I haven’t been finishing rounds.”
He started strong and maintained momentum throughout the final round, making three consecutive birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 and not dropping a shot the rest of the way to defeat Corbin Sebens and Seth Trolia by 3 strokes.
As UI Course director of golf Mike Wallner was presenting him with the trophy, Hoss dedicated the victory to the late Jim Thompson, a former instructor at the course, who was at one time the area’s top player. Thompson died in December after a battle with cancer.
“He was always there. I looked up to that guy,” Hoss said. “He was probably one of the best putters I ever played with, one of the nicest guys I ever knew. I looked up to that guy from the time I knew who he was when I was 3 years old. He was kind of like a father figure to me.”
After the ceremony, Hoss and his dad, Tim Hoss Sr., posed for photos and told stories about Thompson.
“If you played golf around here, you knew Jim Thompson and you liked Jim Thompson,” said the older Hoss, who played in Saturday’s pairing with his son. “He was great, everyone loved him.”
It was the first time Hoss Jr. had played in the event since winning it in 2009. The former Champaign Central star took a break from the area scene while trying his hand at a pro career. It didn’t work out.
But with his amateur status reinstated, Hoss is back to resume his place among the area’s elite.
“I beat myself up for a couple years after doing that pro thing. I look back at it now and I’m glad I did it. It’s never easy to fail,” he said. “You get to compete, it’s always good to get the juices going and that’s always a good thing. This definitely does it.”
Playing in Sunday’s final grouping, Trolia and Sebens thought they might be headed for a playoff against one another after Sebens drained a birdie putt on 18 to shoot 72 for the second straight day.
“I came in and everyone said Hoss shot 67,” Sebens said.
Trolia, who will be a junior on the golf team at Bradley, was looking for his second straight victory. The Mahomet-Seymour graduate won the Naughtin Open last week.
“I wanted to win, but I’m going to a Pub Links qualifier next week with some confidence and I’ll try to qualify for the Illinois Open, which is the ultimate goal,” he said.
Tim Hoss Jr. became the first five-time winner of the UI Open. Golfers with multiple UI Open titles:
Tim Hoss Jr. 5
Jamie Fairbanks 4
Joe Thompson 4
Pat Keen 3
Clayton Parkhill 3
Will Clompton 2
Dick Essenpreis 2
Frank Keck 2
Ken Kellaney 2
Rick Lawrence 2
Jay Scott 2
Dick Thompson 2
Cy Vaughn 2