News-Gazette copy editor JOE VOZZELLI JR. caught up with Derek Meinhart before the Mattoon native tries to win his third straight UI Open — and fourth overall — when the annual tournament tees off today at the University of Illinois course in Savoy:
How cool is it to be called a three-time UI Open champion after last year's victory?
I think it's something I look forward to every year is playing in this tournament. It's always been a special tournament in Champaign. You know, I've won it the past two years and three times overall now. But to win this thing three times in a row would mean a little bit more to me and just be a little bit sweeter just from the standpoint of it never gets old winning.
What do you remember most about last year's event?
Every one of my wins has come down to the wire. Last year was no different. There's a lot of great players that play in the event every year. The last few holes (at the University of Illinois course) create some excitement as far as the ability to make birdies or make bogeys. I've lost this tournament two times on the 18th green. Last year to get the W was sweet because it's always great to come out on top.
What kind of competition are you expecting for the win on Sunday?
(Five-time UI Open winner) Tim Hoss Jr. is in the field. He's a guy I always enjoy competing against in the UI Open. We've definitely had some battles over the years. (2016 UI Open winner) David Keenan is a great player. I played with him and Tim Hoss last year in the final round on Sunday. This is my 15th UI Open. It's something we all look forward to doing here in central Illinois.
What do you enjoy to do outside of golf?
My hobbies are my family and my business (Innovative Staff Solutions). My son, Parker, is 7. My daughter, Presley, is 2. My son just got through the regional for the Drive, Chip and Putt down in Effingham last week. My son loves to go out on the golf course and play. I am not really a parent who pushes that too much, but it's definitely exciting to see his passion towards the game. I'd like to think he gets some of that from me.