CHAMPAIGN — David Keenan internally preached patience during Sunday’s second and third rounds of the Twin City golf tournament at Lincolnshire Fields Country Club.
The 28-year-old Salt Fork and Parkland College graduate knew that element would be key to his chances of rallying past playing partner Kyle Scholes, whose first-round 69 on Saturday at the University of Illinois Orange Course gave him a 2-stroke edge over Keenan entering Day 2.
But Keenan also possessed a tangible option to pair with his patience.
The ability to hit his 3-wood and 5-wood clubs straight and long.
“It helps when you can hit a 3-wood almost 290 (yards),” Keenan said. “There were a few times Kyle was laughing, because I’d hit my 5-wood past his driver. ... Length was certainly an advantage. I just needed to keep it in play.”
Keenan did just that and kept his scores low in the process. He shot a 2-under 70 in the second round to jump ahead on the leaderboard, then used an even-par 72 in the third round to collect his first-ever Twin City victory.
“It means a lot. I think it’s a premier stroke-play event here,” said Keenan, a two-time UI Open champion. “All the best players in town show up for it. I always thought I was among that group, and obviously this is kind of a step toward cementing that. “
With a three-round total of 3-under 213, Keenan paced an interesting sweep of the leaderboard’s top three spots.
He, runner-up Daniel Patkunas (even-par 216) and third-place finisher Michael Peters (1-over 217) all work for the Ware Group General Agencies insurance company, which sponsored the tournament.
“I had a lot of great friends out there watching, a lot of support during the round,” Keenan said. “Probably 20, 25 members were watching our group. Just a really fun day.”
Keenan was pleased with the way he struck the ball in Saturday’s opening round, but his lack of birdies kept him from pacing the field.
Even so, he realized approaching the second and third rounds in the same fashion could allow him to outlast Scholes (3-over 219) and fellow playing partner Jay Scott (1-over 217), as well as any other contenders.
“When we were playing (in the second round), none of them were really making a move, and I just kept staying steady,” Keenan said. “I really felt like if I stayed steady and hit the middle of greens and got pars … it might be enough.”
Birdies certainly can’t hurt a winning cause, though.
At even-par through 14 holes in the second round, Keenan got birdie putts to drop on the 15th and 17th holes and nearly dipped his round into the 60s, if not for a close putt miss on 18.
“I felt pretty good going back out for the last 18,” Keenan said, “... especially with them moving the tees back to the black tees.”
To offer up a different playing experience between the second and third rounds, tournament officials had players tee off from farther back in the boxes for the final 18 holes. Keenan said that took the course yardage from about 6,500 to approximately 6,900.
And Keenan was more than happy to cover additional ground with his booming 3-wood and 5-wood shots.
Keenan said he turned to those clubs over his driver, because hitting it out of bounds — something that’s more likely to occur with the driver — to start any hole would be catastrophic.
“It was just important to hit the ball in the right place on the course and hit something I knew I could hit straight,” Keenan said, “as opposed to just blasting it down there as far as possible.”
Keenan used superior positioning brought on by those straight-but-still-long tee shots to make the greens in far better shape than Scholes and Scott.
“The fifth hole really opened it up,” Keenan said. “I ended up making birdie, and they both bogeyed. I think I only had a gap wedge going (to the green), and they both had to hit 4- or 5-irons onto that green. That was kind of a key hole that really stretched it out.”
From that moment on, Keenan said he focused on keeping things simple in order to take home top honors in the tournament’s 93rd version.
“The tension would be something I more or less bring on myself,” Keenan said, “... if I started to look at what things would look like if I were to win.”
Keenan already is looking to the Twin City’s future, as well, after the 2020 version was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not so much with visions of repeating as tournament champion, but more so attempting to increase the field from the 49 participants who played this time around.
Keenan, who is a Twin City committee member, said the board would like to bring the event “into the 21st century” and will explore improvements such as the creation of Internet-available live scoring.
“Just to get out there get it back and get the word out again (was great),” Keenan said. “We’ve got some big plans for the event going forward.”