Golfers go low on Day 1 of Illinois State Junior Amateur

BARRINGTON – After the cool of the morning had given way to the warm and muggy weather of the afternoon, Lake of the Hills' Gage Jereb finished his first round of golf. The recent Huntley High School graduate shot a 6-over-par 77 in the opening round of the 45th Illinois State Junior Amateur Championship at Makray Memorial.

After finishing, Jereb looked at the scoreboard and saw the scores of his competition.

"There's going to be a lot of low scores," he said.

Jereb's prediction was spot on. And while only one day of the ISJA is in the books, the scores – and maybe more importantly at this time – the cut, seems to be headed for a lower number than in recent years.

"It's in great condition right now," Jereb said of the course. "Especially the morning, when the greens are nice and firm, they're not bumpy at all."

This is the eighth consecutive year that Makray Memorial has hosted the ISJA. Over the course of three days and 54 holes, 162 golfers will compete, including several local golfers. One of those, Jordan Hahn of Spring Grove, who is committed to play at Wisconsin after his graduation from McHenry next year, shot a 73.

"I struck the ball really well, I just had a couple of three-putts," Hahn said. "The greens are rolling real fast."

That final statement from Hahn seemed to ring true throughout the competition. Despite the low scores, putting seemed to be the hardest part of the course.

"It's a great course. The greens are just – if you're putting well, they're great – but if not, then you've got some issues," said Hampshire's Christopher Boyle, a recent Jacobs graduate who plans to golf next year at Methodist University in North Carolina. "But the course is in excellent shape."

Leading the field is Matthew Weber of St. Charles, who shot a 67. Last year's winner, Brendan O'Reilly of Hinsdale, trails Weber by a stroke. Crystal Lake's Ethan Farnam shot the best round among local participants – a 72.

The champion of the ISJA will receive 12 performance stars from the American Junior Golf Association, they also will receive an exemption into the 2015 Chicago District Golf Association Illinois State Amateur and the 2015 Illinois Open.

However, the cut is looming – the field will be reduced to the top 50 golfers, plus ties, after the second round Wednesday. But if the scores from the first day continue, the cut would be the lowest it has been since the ISJA moved to Makray in 2007.

Many of those on the verge of the cut or those who didn't perform the way they wished hit the putting greens or driving range directly after their round was over, looking for any fix, or form of optimism as the cut approaches. Among those who did was Jereb.

"I'm going to go practice a little more. Figure a couple of things out, and hopefully shoot lower tomorrow," he said.

With the scores as low as they are, he's probably not the only one hoping that.

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