What does this say about the University of Iowa's golf program?
A recent Hawkeye alum won the 65th Illinois Open on Wednesday at The Glen Club in Glenview, and it wasn't the leader going into the final round (also an Iowa golfer) or the champion of last week's Illinois State Amateur (still another from the neighboring state university).
Lake Forest resident Brad Hopfinger held off Medinah teaching pro Travis Johns to win the biggest tournament of the year for Illinois residents. Finishing the 54-hole competition with a 71 in winds that gusted up to 28 miles per hour, Hopfinger posted a 6-under-par 210 to claim a $13,500 first prize.
Hopfinger became the seventh player to claim titles in both the Illinois Open and Illinois State Amateur, having won the Amateur after completing his eligibility at Iowa in 2011. Others to win both crowns were David Ogrin, Gary Hallberg, Bill Hoffer, Gary Pinns, Mark Hensby and Roy Biancalana.
All but Hoffer made it at least briefly to the PGA Tour, and Hopfinger hopes to get there eventually. This year he competed primarily on the new PGA Latinoamerica Tour. He'll resume tournaments there in September after continuing the extraordinary run of success by University of Iowa golfers in Illinois' biggest events.
Iowa teammate Vince India preceded Hopfinger as champion of the 2010 Illinois State Amateur and Iowa freshman Ray Knoll won the title this year. Brian Bullington, an Iowa senior, was the leader after Tuesday's second round of the Illinois Open, but both he and Knoll wilted in the final 18.
Hopfinger, who graduated from Lake Forest High School, started his collegiate career at Kansas before heading to Iowa. Now 25, he had only one serious challenger after his fast start. Johns, who began the day one stroke behind Bullington, was one in the last threesome.
They were tied through 16 holes and Hopfinger had a 5-footer for birdie at the par-3 17th to take the lead. He missed, but Johns made bogey playing in the group behind him. Then Johns' errant drive on the par-5 18th turned into a lost ball.
Hopfinger caught a plugged lie in a green-side bunker at No. 18 and didn't know about Johns' dilemma until after he two-putted from 35 feet for bogey. Johns wound up making bogey, too, so Hopfinger still came out on top.
"I knew I was in a tough spot," said Hopfinger. "But those last two holes were into the wind and they were just hard holes.''
Johns, who finished one stroke back, lost his hat on his wild drive at the 18th and almost holed his chip shot for the par that would have forced a playoff.
"I was hitting it everywhere on the back nine, and it was entertaining – just like Phil Mickelson," said Johns. "I went down in style, though."