PEKIN — The future looks pretty good for the University of Illinois men’s and women’s golf teams.
A pair of players who will be freshmen at Illinois next season claimed the boys and girls titles of the inaugural D.A. Points Junior Open at Pekin Country Club on Thursday.
Luke Armbrust of Wheaton used a couple of birdies on the back nine to shoot 2-under 70 and win the boys division with a 54-hole total of 212, one stroke better than runner-up Ben Tyrrell of Edwardsville.
Kornkamol Sukaree of Thailand was the runaway winner in the girls division, finishing with a 207 total to win by 11 strokes over Brianna Bolden of Mokena. It was her second straight American Junior Golf Association win and seventh overall.
It was the first AJGA title for Armbrust, who was under par all three rounds of the event.
"I really didn’t focus on the score too much going into today," he said. "I was really just trying to play my own game and almost play against myself. Don’t play the field, and don’t play the course."
Armbrust, the 2017 Class 2A state champ, and William Marshall of Elburn both were 4-under after six holes in the final round, but both had a bogey on No. 7.
Armbrust had another bogey on the 11th, but had birdies on Nos. 13 and 16 to get to 4-under.
"The birdie on 16 really helped," he said. "I thought I was in the lead at that point, but I guess Tyrrell was 3-under, too. So I needed to make that birdie."
Armbrust had bogeyed the par-3 17th the first two rounds, but finally managed a par in Round 3.
"I’m happy I conquered 17," he said. "It gave me a lot of confidence. But my first putt on 18 really sealed the deal."
Armbrust hit his approach shot on No. 18 on the green, and, needing to two-putt for the title, putted to within a couple of inches of the hole.
Tyrrell made three birdies on the back nine to finish the day with a 3-under 69.
First-round leader Tommy Kuhl, who also is headed to Illinois, had a final round of 72 and finished tied for sixth place at 216.
"I had a very slow start with a bogey on 1, which didn’t help," the 2018 Class 2A champion from Morotn said. "I really didn’t get anything going. I had some opportunities to make some putts, but they just didn’t fall on the back nine.
"I missed probably three 5-footers on the back nine, which killed me. All week I hit my driver just terrible, which is what got me in trouble. It’s kind of unfortunate, but it’s just one tournament. You’ve got to move on."
Sukaree, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., made five birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey in her closing round for a 2-under 70, and was never threatened for the lead.
"I didn’t make that many mistakes, so it was not that hard for me to get a par," she said. "The course was actually pretty tough, but I played pretty well.
"My putting was OK, but my approach shots were better."
Weston Walker of Peoria, at 14 the youngest competitor in the boys division, finished tied for 11th with a 221.
Points, a Pekin native, made it back to his hometown in time for the awards ceremony with the top finishers after shooting a 2-under 69 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic in Silvis earlier in the day.
"This is really cool, because I never imagined that this would happen, and the fact that it's gone so well, I'm super grateful," Points said. "Hopefully we can do it again for years to come."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.