Maine East’s Orion Yamat finishes second at state meet

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BLOOMINGTON — A change in putter grips for the Class 3A boys golf state meet solved some of Orion Yamat’s previous problems on the green, but a lack of birdies Saturday prevented the Maine East senior from pulling out a victory at The Den at Fox Creek.

Yamat started the second round with a one-stroke lead after shooting even par Friday; however, his one birdie (at the par-5 fifth hole) and two bogeys (at the par-4 first hole and at the par-5 14th) weren’t enough to overcome a record round by Hinsdale Central junior Kenneth Li.

Li (73-67—140) tied the Class 3A course record for a round at the state meet and beat Yamat (72-73—145) by five strokes. Yamat finished as the runner-up and he recorded the best finish at state in school history, according to the IHSA website.

Yamat’s recent success has increased interest in golf at the Park Ridge school. Yamat’s runner-up finish could provide a boost at Maine East for next season, according to coach Tony Montesano. Yamat was Maine East’s only golfer in this year’s state meet, but Montesano said his freshman numbers increased this season as school announcements about Yamat’s tournament success sparked interest among other boys.

“This is amazing. This is so good for the school and for the community,” Montesano said. “We are not know for great golf. We are not know for sports at the school, but this gets people excited.”

Yamat has struggled on the green recently, so he switched putter grips for the state tournament. His putter at the sectional had a thicker Super Stroke grip and he shot a 75 to finish fifth. His Scotty Cameron putter for the state meet had a narrower Ping Black Out grip.

“It gave me a better feeling in putting,” Yamat said about the grip. “It loosens up my hand more and I feel [the ball more] on these faster greens.”

Yamat also put in the work. He asked Montesano if he could arrive for Saturday’s tee time two hours early to spend more time on the practice putting green. Yamat putted, then practiced off the driving range and then returned to the practice green before his 10:27 a.m. tee time.

The highlight of Yamat’s tournament was an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole to end his round Friday. He reached the green from 240 yards with a 3-wood and sank a 35-foot uphill putt breaking right to left.

“I knew the line once I saw it. I had to get it there. It was a great run,” Yamat said. “It was a great finish.”

Yamat finished tied for 31st at state in 2013.

“Orion was a year older and little more mature [this year],” Montesano said. “He has hit longer and further. His ball flight is more aggressive. He has worked that to his advantage now and you see how steady he is.”

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