WHEATON — Nick Hardy fought his swing all week at Cantigny Golf, and most of the time, he won.
But it finally knocked him out Thursday, taking away the Northbrook resident’s chance to win the 84th Illinois State Amateur on the fourth playoff hole. Hardy hit his tee shot on the par-4 16th into a hazard, making a double bogey as Naperville’s Raymond Knoll made par to clinch the victory.
“My swing’s been terrible,” Hardy said. “But I went in with the attitude [Thursday] of not caring about it. I just wanted to go out and somehow shoot the lowest scores.”
Six strokes off the leading pace after the tournament’s first 36 holes, the Illinois-bound Hardy put himself in contention in Thursday morning’s third round with the day’s lowest score, a 6-under 66. He followed that up with a 69 in the afternoon to post 8 under for 72 holes. Playing in the penultimate pairing, Knoll shot 67-71 to also reach 8 under.
Each player had a good looks at birdie in the three-hole aggregate playoff, Knoll on the 16th — the first hole — and Hardy on the par-4 18th. After six pars between them, the playoff went to back to the 16th hole for sudden death.
Hardy said the right-side miss with his driver on the fourth playoff hole was no surprise to him.
“I just get too steep, and it’s gotten bad,” said Hardy, who finished 70-75-66-69 for the week. “It’s really frustrating.”
But Hardy said he was proud of how he handled himself throughout the week to make the most of his faulty mechanics. He recorded 14 birdies on Thursday and 21 for the tournament, and he credited caddie Eric Markus, a friend of his from Northbrook, for providing a calming presence on the course.
“This was one of my gutsier performances,” Hardy said. “I talked about wanting to shoot 135 [Thursday], and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t care how I made the birdies.”
Knoll, a rising sophomore at Iowa who qualified for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic last week, opened with a 75 on Tuesday. Even when he was 3 over, he said he felt like he still had a chance to win.
“I knew I could come back because you can make a lot of birdies,” said Knoll, who grew up playing at Cantigny. “I was confident.”
Deer Park’s Chadd Slutzky led after the first two rounds, but the 37-year-old stumbled to rounds of 71 and 75 on Thursday to finish alone in fourth place at 4 under. Roselle’s Dan Stringfellow took third at 6 under. Lincolnshire’s Jack Watson was in a group that tied for fifth at 3 under.