Philip Arouca heads into the final round of the 62nd Illinois Open Championship with a 4-shot lead after carding a four-under-par 67 in Tuesday's second round at Hawthorn Woods Country Club.
"All in all I'm very happy with my round today and where I stand overall in the tournament," said Arouca, who is 10 under for two rounds with a total of 132. "I'm extremely pleased with my performance these past two days. To go around this golf course with only 1 bogey in 36 holes is very, very good."
Arouca, 26, from Wilmette, made his only bogey of the tournament on the par-4 12th hole, his 30th hole over two rounds that featured 11 birdies.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., Arouca moved to Wilmette at the age of 14 and attended New Trier High School, where he was a member of the baseball team his first two years. After being cut his junior year, Arouca decided to try golf.
Following a quality performance in his first tournament the summer before his senior year, he made the Trevians golf team and played collegiate golf at La Salle University in Philadelphia and St. Joseph's University, where he earned a degree in history in 2008.
"If I hadn't been cut from New Trier's baseball team, there is very little chance I would have been playing professional golf today," Arrouca said. "I was a pitcher and I just love having all the pressure on me. There is no one else you can blame. It's the same thing in golf and that is why I fell in love with the game."
Bennett Blakeman, 24, is in second place after shooting a 4-under-par 67 in the second round. A professional from Burr Ridge, Blakeman is 4 strokes off the lead with his 36-hole total of 136 (-6). Last month he qualified for his second consecutive United States Open Championship held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
"I need to go on the attack tomorrow like I did today," Blakeman said about today's final round. "I'll definitely be on the aggressive side to start. It would be nice to close to gap to at least 1 by the ninth hole and catch him. If I do that, we can move on from there."
Also in contention is professional Michael Schachner, 25, from Libertyville, who shot a 2-under-par 69 in the second round. His total of 137 (-5) has him third, 5 strokes behind Arouca. Schachner will be paired with Arouca and Blakeman in today's final group.
Arouca has won twice on the National Professional Golf Tour.
"To be honest I'm just going to put the ball in the fairway and put it on the green and putt solidly," Arouca said. "I'm going to try and focus on what I'm doing. If I start worrying about what everybody else is doing, then I'm going to start playing conservative and not being aggressive."
Defending champion Eric Meierdierks, 26, from Wilmette, failed to make the cut by 2 strokes after shooting a 2-over-par 73 in the second round for a total of 149.
Four-time champion Mike Small, 45, from Champaign, finished with a 1-over-par 72 and a 36-hole total of 144, tied for 23rd.
Doug Ghim, an amateur from Arlington Heights who Monday became the youngest player to compete in the Illinois Open at the age of 15 years 3 months and 9 days, carded a 3-over par 74 in the second round. His 36-hole total of 146 (+4) has him tied for 35th place.
"It's a great experience and really fun playing in a huge tournament like this," said Ghim. "I left some shots out there today and I need to come out tomorrow and capitalize and avoid mistakes and keep plugging away."