WHEATON | Michael Davan, like most just-graduated collegians who can boom a drive and make a putt, has a dream. Some day, hopefully soon, he’ll be playing for money.
In the meantime, while he hones his game, he has a new bauble to place in his trophy case. The Hoopeston resident collected the 93rd CDGA Amateur on Friday, scoring a 4-and-3 victory against David Lawrence, of Moline, at Cantigny Golf.
Davan, a recent graduate of IUPUI in Indianapolis – fondly known to most all as “Ooey Pooey,” much to the school administration’s displeasure – knew his opponent well. He recalled playing Lawrence, just graduated from Eastern Illinois, three or four times in college tournaments. Plus, Davan’s caddie, Corbin Sebens, also just graduated from Eastern Illinois. Like so many high-level amateur tournaments, this was nearly an NCAA-sanctioned show by the time the finals came around.
Neither had played for a trophy with such prestige attached. The CDGA Amateur, which dates to the founding of the association in 1914, had the great good fortune to be won first by Chick Evans. Since then, a succession of notables, including Frank Stranahan, Joel Hirsch, and three-time winner Mike Milligan, who happened to be at Cantigny on Friday for a game with friends, have had their name etched on the trophy.
“It means a lot,” Davan said. “I won a lot of junior stuff and some college tournaments, but this is the first amateur tournament that I’ve won.”
Davan lost in the first round last year, his first experience in match play. He proved a quick learner. His lead in the final match was 6-up after Lawrence bogeyed the 19th hole of the 36-hole match, but he saw the margin trimmed to three holes with seven to play. Lawrence, even with a kick-in birdie on the 14th in the afternoon, could narrow it no further, and Davan closed him out with a 12-footer on the 15th hole, the 33rd overall, to take the title.
It can be said fairly that Davan gained the momentum when he and Lawrence parred the seventh hole in the morning.
They had been all-square from the start, with par following par following par. But Davan sent his tee shot on the 549-yard par-5 some 40 yards right of sideways, into a wilderness area that Jimmy Hoffa could have hidden in.
Sebens found Davan’s ball, and Davan, standing on the edge of weeds five feet high, hacked it out like a cat coughing up a fur ball. It tumbled into the light rough, from where he smacked a long iron to the edge of the green and got up and down for a gold-star par, while Lawrence two-putted.
Davan rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth, and surrendered the lead for only one hole thereafter. He was boosted by winning the first three holes after a 2-hour, 40-minute thunderstorm delay to go 4 up.
“I thought I was in a better position, but took a nap and it took me an hour and a half to wake up,” Lawrence said.
Both Lawrence and Davan, having been freed from the shackles of college, have pro careers in mind. Lawrence plans to turn pro after the U.S. Amateur, if he qualifies for it, or after the Illinois Amateur. Before that, he hopes to advance through two stages of qualifying to play in the John Deere Classic as an amateur. Regardless of his schedule, he has a practice destination in mind: Florida, and PGA Tour qualifying school.
“I’ve never had a year to work on my game before,” Lawrence said.
Davan advanced to the final with a 2-and-1 victory, but knocking off Dave Ryan, a senior from downstate Taylorville who never shows his age, wasn’t easy. Davan was 2 down after five holes in the 18-hole semi.
“I made a good putt on the sixth, about eight feet, and said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get it in gear,’ ” Ryan said. Davan squared the match on the 11th and closed Ryan out with a par on the 17th.
Mike Cushing, of Pontiac, took Lawrence to the limit in the semis, coming from 2 down with seven holes to play to square the match on the 18th when Lawrence’s tee shot trickled into a weedy hazard. Cushing’s par sent the match to the 19th, the first hole on Cantigny’s Woodside nine, where Lawrence’s 122-yard gap wedge landed 20 feet to the right of the cup and sucked back to within five inches.
“It’s great to get a conceded birdie on a playoff hole,” Lawrence said after Cushing’s 15-footer for a 3 to extend the match went by the hole. “It’s one of the best shots I’ve hit.”
Keep an eye on Naperville’s Raymond Knoll down the line. He won the 43rd Illinois Junior Amateur by seven strokes, with only Lake Forest’s Joe Willis that close to him. Knoll stitched together rounds of 71-67-72 for a total of 3-under-par 210 at Makray Memorial Golf Club in Barrington to collect the title.
The 4-under 67 came on a day with wind gusts up to 30 mph, helping separate himself from the field. Even a triple-bogey early in the final round didn’t harm his march to the title, which earned him exemptions into next year’s Western Junior and Illinois Open.