Former Uni High standout, current Illini wins first Twin City title

Former Uni High standout, current Illini wins first Twin City title

CHAMPAIGN — Varun Chopra never got too high or too low Sunday at the Twin City golf tournament.

Perhaps the most emotion he showed during an unseasonably wet and chilly final two rounds at Lincolnshire Fields Country Club was during his second time through the par-3 16th. His lengthy birdie putt from the fringe traveled mere inches to the left of the cup.

The miss caused him to throw a hand up to his face, knowing a conversion likely would've secured the winner's trophy.

No problem, though, as Chopra saved par. Two holes later, he was hoisting the event's large, gold prize.

The University of Illinois golfer and former Uni High star overcame a damp first 27 holes Sunday, in addition to constant pressure from runner-up Ryan Murphy, to garner the Twin City title for the first time in his career.

"I definitely didn't do my best (Saturday), so I was motivated to come back (Sunday) and play a little better," said Chopra, whose three-round total of 6-under 209 gave him a three-stroke advantage over Murphy. "It was a long day there with a lot of rain. I'm grateful to have won."

Chopra carded an even-par 71 in Saturday's first 18 holes, which were contested at Champaign Country Club. That outcome left him just two strokes off the lead entering Sunday, but Chopra wasn't satisfied with the effort.

"I did some work (Saturday) night, just kind of worked on my iron game," Chopra said. "I kind of worked on hitting shots that are a little easier, not swinging everything 100 percent (and) kind of dialing it back a little bit, which helped me (Sunday)."

Both Chopra and Murphy zoomed past first-day victor David Deschler in the opening 18 holes at Lincolnshire, with Chopra piling up six birdies to command a two-shot edge over Murphy entering the last stanza.

Chopra followed with four more birdies down the stretch, the decisive blow coming on the par-4 12th. Chopra carded a 3, while Murphy recorded a bogey.

"It was a solid tournament for me. I just couldn't keep up with Varun," said Murphy, a St. Thomas More graduate who has placed second in the Twin City three consecutive years. "There was ample opportunity to make the birdies I needed to. I just kind of ran out of holes."

Chopra and Murphy were the only two competitors to salvage an under-par total at this two-course contest, and the pair played together Sunday from 7:57 a.m. through the end of the showcase, past 6 p.m.

"It felt like pretty much the entire round he was one or two (shots) behind me," Chopra said of Murphy. "Every time he would make a putt, I would try to make one also just to make sure I was a little ahead, just to keep that in his mind."

This triumph came at an important time for Chopra, who is gearing up not only for his sophomore campaign with Mike Small's Illini, but also readying for the U.S. Amateur Championship next month at Pebble Beach.

As with everything that went down in this tournament, Chopra wasn't overly exuberant about the victory's impact on his immediate future.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for Chopra came in his ability to avoid complacency and maintain focus throughout a high-stress venture.

"I never really felt like I was 100 percent going to win," Chopra said. "I had to play out and play well down the stretch to close it out."

Championship flight results

POS., GOLFER    TOTAL    TO PAR

1. Varun Chopra    209    -6

2. Ryan Murphy    212    -3

3. Jay Scott    217    +2

4. Josh Anderson    218    +3

5. David Deschler    219    +4

6. David Keenan    220    +5

7. Clayton Parkhill    221    +6

T-8. Michael Peters    223    +8

T-8. Ian Tate    223    +8

10. Tim Hoss Jr.    226    +11

11. Conor Butts    228    +13

12. Patrick Wampler    232    +17

13. Matt Becker    233    +18