Chadd Slutzky, a 36-year old financial trader from Deer Park, is in position to reverse a trend in the 84th Illinois State Amateur golf tournament Thursday.
College players have won the prestigious title every year since 2003, but Slutzky was better than all of them in the first two rounds at Cantigny in Wheaton. Slutzky followed his opening 66 with a 73 on Wednesday and stands at 5-under-par 139 entering Thursday's 36-hole tournament wrap-up.
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"Winning this would be huge, the biggest win of my life probably," Slutzky said. "Just playing the same course with the younger guys and leading after two rounds is incredible."
But two promising college players are in close pursuit. Kyle Kochevar, a redshirt junior at Virginia, is 2 shots back after carding a 70 in the second round and Raymond Knoll (Illinois) is another stroke back after shooting the day's best round, a 67.
"I'm just trying to play the best I can. It doesn't matter if I'm a college kid or not," said Kochevar, a Glen Ellyn resident still a week shy of his 20th birthday.
Neither Slutzky nor Kochevar has contended in the State Amateur before. Slutzky reached the finals twice but didn't survive the 36-hole cut in 2008 or '09. Kochevar entered the tournament for the first time this year.
Naperville's Knoll, 18, came into the state amateur after qualifying for last week's John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities, the only PGA Tour event in Illinois in 2014. He shot 65 in a qualifying round but didn't survive the 36-hole cut.