Prchal Upstages Elders At Illinois Am

MARION – Quinn Prchal wants to be an engineer.
“My strengths are math and science, and I think I’m inquisitive,” Prchal says.
Enough that Prchal, an 18-year-old from Glenview, is headed to Princeton next month, but not so inquisitive that he looked at every leaderboard dotting the Links at Kokopelli during the final 36 holes of the 82nd Illinois Amateur.
“I just wanted to hang around, be in the rear view mirror of the two leaders,” Prchal said.
He was, until he passed two-time champion Todd Mitchell of Bloomington and Jeff Miller of Centralia. Then he put it into warp-drive, leaving them behind Thursday and scoring a two-stroke victory ahead of Mattoon’s Derek Meinhart.
Prchal scored 66 and 69 on the 36-hole final day, totaling 8-under-par 272 through the three-day grind. Not bad for someone who looks like he’s 12 and will be carded until he’s 40, at the least.
Watch him strike an iron with precision or roll a putt, and you see a player wise beyond his years. It doesn’t hurt that Prchal had taken lessons from Ed Oldfield – the original, Ed Sr., sage of so many LPGA stars across the decades – for seven years.
Oldfield, long retired from his stint at the Merit Club, to say nothing of Glen View Club, teaches these days at Willow Hill in Glenview, selecting his clients. In picking Prchal, he picked a lad who is as level-headed as they come on the course, and off it as well.
Prchal has been a well-hidden secret. Glenbrook South isn’t the first north suburban school that comes to mind when golf powers are considered. He hasn’t made a lot of noise on the IJGA circuit, though he did win a junior tournament at PGA West just after Christmas last year. But he can play. A recent second-place finish at the revived Northern Amateur at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton, Ind., was proof of that, and a confidence builder.
That’s how a kid can decide that lurking behind the leaders is the proper strategy entering the final round of the state amateur championship – a tournament won by notables including David Ogrin and D.A. Points before they embarked on professional odysseys – rather than get to the first tee in the afternoon and, say, throw up. No, Quinn Prchal goes and birdies the first hole, sinking a 15-foot putt, to get into the ring with Mitchell and Miller.
By Prchal’s sixth hole, all three were 8 under. But Mitchell and Miller each carded 4-over 74s in the final round, Mitchell tying Frankfort’s Brian Bullington for third at 275, Miller finishing fifth at 277.
Prchal hadn’t even tried to qualify for the Illinois Am until this year. Doing so now was part of a plan.
“Heading off to college, I wanted to add some (non-junior) amateur events to my schedule this year,” Prchal said.
Fifteen birdies across four rounds later, he was holding an old trophy and trying not to look self-conscious about it.
Along with the fine play, Prchal became the first player since Mitchell in 2002 to win before entering college, though Ravi Patel, already through his freshman year at Northwestern in 2007, remains the youngest winner, 17 at the time.
Prchal’s total of 272 tied for the second-lowest score in the Illinois Am’s stroke-play era, which began in 1963. Only Bob Zender’s 270 at shortish Kankakee Country Club in 1971 was lower.
That’s all great. But here’s the rest of the story.
Prchal, when he was working to become an Eagle Scout, began to collect old golf clubs and accessories for the CDGA’s Sunshine for Golf campaign. He has collected and donated at least 250 full sets for veterans and disabled people, continuing to do so long after winning his scout honors.
He didn’t volunteer that. A CDGA employee had to prod it out of him. And suddenly, after a 91-degree day when his face turned beet red, it got just a little redder.
Oh, and his mom, Mary, was his caddie, dutifully carrying the bag for all 72 holes.
“She’s able to give me a second opinion, like if the putt is uphill or downhill,” Prchal said. “And she says, ‘Make sure you eat something.’ ”
Like a good Eagle Scout, he does.
Quinn Prchal. Difficult as it is to spell, remember the name. He might be running NASA someday.


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