Five springs ago, Kyle Nathan was like every other graduate who played top-level college golf. He was ready to conquer the world. Or, at least, work his way up to the PGA Tour.
Nathan had game at Maryland, and after. However, so did a lot of others. He’d win money here and there – a $1,000 paycheck in the Carolinas, for instance – but the mini-tour life was tough.
“There’s a lot of good players out there, and it’s not an easy life,” Nathan said. “There’s a lot of traveling. You’re on the road for a month at a time, from Days Inns to Best Westerns. It’s not very glamorous.”
Like a GPS gadget after you drive down a dead end, he recalculated.
With a solid job lined up – Nathan, a Winnetka native and Glenview resident, trades bonds at the Chicago Board of Trade – it was back to the amateur ranks.
“It’s a little disappointing when you decide you’re going to give it (the pro game) up, but that’s the one good thing about golf versus other sports,” Nathan said. “I can still play, can still practice, and still play in tournaments. It’s fun to compete.”
Last week’s Illinois Mid-Amateur at Flossmoor Country Club was, aside from a best-ball exercise with a friend, his first venture into the amateur world since reinstatement.
He won it. Wire-to-wire. Tuesday’s opening round of 1-under-par 71 put him out front, he remained a stroke clear after an afternoon 74 brought him an aggregate of 1-over 145, and Wednesday’s 4-over 76, compiled in a chilly breeze, earned him a total of 5-over 221, one stroke ahead of Frankfort’s Glenn Przybylski.
They were grouped together in the final round, and could see each other’s every move, which Nathan loved.
“That’s why we sign up for these tournaments, for that excitement in the end,” Nathan said. “That definitely got the heart rate going; a little shaking in the hands. It was a lot of fun.”
Guys like Nathan, 28, and Przybylski, 45, are the very definition of mid-amateurs. They play excellent golf and have little time to do it. Nathan was able to miss a couple of days at the Board of Trade, while Przybylski’s boss at Apollo Colors allowed him to play hooky.
“My boss is really cool with it,” Przybylski said, grinning. “He is a great boss.”
The mid-amateur concept gained favor after the USGA created its mid-am in 1981. You could almost call it the Post-Collegiate Championship, given the near-total domination of the National Amateur by college-age players in the last half-century.
The Illinois Amateur hasn’t been quite so overrun with youngsters, though the trend is in that direction. Names like Hirsch and Mitchell are on the Emmerson Trophy, but the kids hoist it more often than not these days.
That makes the Illinois Mid-Am a welcome sight on the annual calendar. The final round, with 31 players surviving the cut, featured three players who had won the Illinois Amateur, Illinois Open or CDGA Amateur before, plus a pair of old salts in downstate seniors Dave Ryan and Tom Miler, who have piled up plaudits on the senior circuit and still have enough game to challenge the juniors.
The week before, Miler and Ryan, from Kewanee and Taylorville respectively, finished 1-2 in the Illinois Public Links Championship at Dunne National Golf Course in Oak Forest, beating players of college age and up.
So Nathan, a New Trier standout whose tenure at Maryland commenced after a freshman year at Texas A&M, didn’t just beat a bunch of fellows who happened on the tournament by accident. He knocked off a quality field, and on a quality course. Flossmoor, tucked away behind large plantings on Western Avenue, is a 112-year-old standout, recently refurbished by architect Ray Hearn.
“The golf course is unbelievable,” Nathan said. “Very difficult. The greens were extremely fast and very firm, which made it hard to get shots close. … On a day when the course is playing so difficult, you just have to take your medicine. It was really a grinding-type final round. Making four and five-footers all day was pretty huge.”
In the end, birdies offset a double-bogey, and helped hold off Przybylski, whose charge included birdies on the 10th, 12th and 13th holes. But a double-bogey on the par-4 14th, a marvelous dogleg right with a tree standing sentinel in the middle of the fairway 160 yards from the tee, gave Nathan a cushion. He took it from there.
Chicago’s Max Scodro is flying high these days. He captured the Big East men’s individual title wearing Notre Dame’s colors, then shot 7-under 65 to lead the U.S. Open local qualifier at Schaumburg Golf Club. The area’s sectional is June 4 at Village Links of Glen Ellyn. … Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park has opened a practice range, the first for the 36-hole club which has roots that go back to 1927.