SAVOY — When Dan Patkunas’ birdie putt fell on the 17th hole, it clicked that he was just one hole away from winning his first UI Open championship.
“I hit a good shot and actually hit the green in two, so I just tried to back up a putt from there and had a nice tap-in for birdie,” Patkunas said. “Coming up to the 18th (hole), I felt like I had a couple-shot lead. So I was comfortable.”
Patkunas overcame a one-stroke deficit entering the day with a 4-under 68 during Sunday’s final round of the two-day event at the University of Illinois Orange Course.
He finished the tournament at 7-under 137 and notched a four-stroke win over Zack Thorson, Jay Scott and David Keenan.
Birdies on the first and fourth holes set the tone for Patkunas’ final round, while birdies on the 10th and 11th holes kept momentum high as the former Parkland College athlete rounded the bend for the back nine.
Temperatures in the mid-80s and near cloudless skies led to the course becoming faster as the weekend progressed.
The nagging winds that plagued golfers on Saturday were a non-factor in the second round, which aided Patkunas as he made his final run.
“It seemed like the ball was rolling out a little bit more. The rough was pretty firm,” Patkunas said. “I was hitting the ball so well off the tee that I felt like the course was a little bit easier.”
Thorson was tied with Patkunas entering Sunday’s round but held steady at even-par throughout.
“It’s always fun playing in the last couple of groups, being here on Sunday trying to compete for the win,” Thorson said. “I made a little push on him (birdieing holes 13 and 15). … It makes you think a little different when you’re playing against the best.”
Punn Pinkayan topped the field during Saturday’s first round by carding a 68, but couldn’t sustain that momentum in the final round with a 77. His 1-over final score placed sixth among the 12 golfers in the championship flight.
Five-time champion Tim Hoss Jr. was 3-over for the weekend after carding a 2-over final round.
“I birdied three of the last five holes,” Hoss said. “I was hitting some good shots and getting some bad breaks. It’s just golf. I didn’t putt great.”
Among other tournament flight winners were Champaign Central product Justin McCoy, a three-time News-Gazette All-Area boys’ Golfer of the Year. CG Facer, Lucas Wilson and Bumsoo Lee captured victories in the other five flights of the men’s division.
Tim Wheeler claimed the senior division championship at 5-over, while the second flight was paced by Hung Sik Yim.
Bruce Kelso claimed top honors in the super-senior class with a 1-under showing. Jim Rayburn won the division’s second flight.