UI Open: Meinhart's the man

UI Open: Meinhart's the man

SAVOY — When Derek Meinhart sank his final putt on the 18th hole Sunday at the University of Illinois Orange Course, he let out a large sigh of relief.

Meinhart had just secured his second UI Open championship.

This outing marked the 10th time that he had participated in the tournament, and by the end of it, he had come out on top for the first time in six years. Meinhart now stands along many other well-known area golfers who have won the event multiple times, such as Joe Thompson, Tim Hoss Jr. and Jay Scott.

"It's always an honor to win this event and to compete here," Meinhart said after he shot a 3-over par 75 on Sunday to finish the two-day tournament with a 1-over par total of 145.

Winning the tournament on Father's Day also added another layer of meaning to Meinhart's title.

"I just had a little one arrive about two weeks ago," Meinhart said. "It's always exciting to win this event, especially on Father's Day, with my little ones at home."

Meinhart held off Jay Scott, the former Illini who won the UI Open in 1994 and 2002, after Scott also shot a 75 on Sunday, but ended up at 146.

On a windy day, no player in the championship flight shot even par or posted a score under par.

"It just makes it really hard to leave the ball in the right places," Scott said. "You can get put in positions in which you can't make par from."

Meinhart faced a number of obstacles en route to his second UI Open championship — and first since his 2011 title — but said he used the wind to his own benefit.

"I feel like I'm a pretty good wind player," Meinhart said. "I can control the trajectory of my ball, and I felt that I did a good job of that (Sunday)."

He also did a good job of not getting down after some struggles on the back nine.

"He played well early for a solid stretch," Scott said. "And then he kind of started to struggle coming in on the last four holes, but in the end, he ended up doing just enough to win."

Eric Gilpin, a Winthrop commit from Bloomington who placed second last year, posted the best round on Sunday with a 69. His efforts left him tied for third with Chris Tate after Tate, a former St. Thomas More product who just wrapped up his sophomore season at Parkland, carded a 73 to leave both golfers at 147 for the tournament.

David Keenan, the 2016 champion, finished tied for fourth with Tyler Woods at 148, while Bruce Kelso (146) won the senior division and Everett Krueger (154) claimed the super senior division.

But in the end, no posted a score better than Meinhart, who managed to deal with the elements and take advantage of a solid first round to walk away with the UI Open title again.

"I was just hanging in there," Meinhart said. "I was playing really well and didn't really capitalize on any of my opportunities. I just tried to stay patient and plod along, one shot at a time."

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