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Kaneland grad Yonkovich clicks at Chick Evans

Matt Yonkovich follows through on his shot at the 16th hole Monday during the Chick Evans Junior Amateur at the Itasca Country Club in Itasca.
Matt Yonkovich follows through on his shot at the 16th hole Monday during the Chick Evans Junior Amateur at the Itasca Country Club in Itasca.

ITASCA – Recent Kaneland graduate Matt Yonkovich faces a decision between golfing at Waubonsee College or College of DuPage, a choice he knows he must make soon.

One matter delaying Yonkovich kept him occupied for a few more hours at Itasca Country Club Monday morning.

"My life's golf right now," Yonkovich said. "That's what my summer's been. It's been great."

Apart from caddying at Rich Harvest Fams in his hometown of Sugar Grove, Yonkovich plays wherever and whenever he can find a tee time. He planned another 18 holes Monday afternoon at Hughes Creek in Elburn, aiming to eclipse the 1-over-par 73 he carded in the opening round of the IJGA Chick Evans Junior Amateur here.

Yonkovich's short game helped him to three birdies in the first nine holes and a steady round overall. His score, three strokes behind leader Kevin McEneany of Lemont, puts him in sound position to make the top-32 match play tournament cut after 18 more holes of stroke play today.

"My putter, it's always been my favorite club in the bag," Yonkovich said, "and continues to pull through. … I don't know. It's my favorite part of the game, and I like to practice it a lot. I think that's why I've been doing so good."

Putting certainly pushed Burlington Central sophomore Joe Sherman to a 76. Although his round included zero birdies, Sherman rolled in numerous pars by following advice he gathered from a country club member during a practice round Saturday.

That tutelage: Stay below the hole if you want to be in position to score.

"I tried to put that into effect today, and it worked out really well," Sherman said. "So I got up and down a lot from the front, which was nice. A lot of downhill [greens]. If you were past the hole, it hurt you, that's for sure."

St. Charles East junior Daniel Haugen (75) joined Yonkovich and Sherman in the top 30 after Day 1 – whether outright or via ties. Haugen finished as runner-up at last week's St. Charles Junior Tournament at Pottawatomie Golf Course.

East senior Gary King and Marmion junior Luke Hoss of Sugar Grove both shot 78. Graham Lillibridge of Geneva registered an 82, while fellow sophomore Michael Bertke of East carded a 92.

In girls play, recent BC graduate Jenna Kurosky shot a 77, tied for sixth among a 36-player field and four shots behind co-leaders Lauren Beaudreau (Lemont) and Nina Rutkowski (Park Ridge).

After another 18 holes today, the top 16 girls athletes will qualify for the match play tournament.

Kurosky's younger sister, Josie, a Central junior, is tied for 15th after a 79. St. Charles North sophomore Kate Lillie stands 20th after an opening 81.

For Hoss, a funny thing happened on the way to each green.

Hoss has navigated through a swing hitch for the past few days. While it hasn't been entirely debilitating – see his fourth-place tie in the Aurora City Tournament, which concluded over the weekend – it's weighing on Hoss more than he knows he should allow.

His ball usually draws instead of fades. Now that it's doing the opposite, adjustments are crucial.

"It's tough to play a whole, 18[-hole] round of golf when you're thinking about your swing, you know," Hoss said. "Sometimes you should probably go play that swing. I was thinking about it here and there."

While their Day 1 scores won't reset today, players still embrace the chance at a new round with plenty of possibilities.

In addition to topping his first score, Hoss will keep an eye on how Yonkovich fares. Hoss also caddies at Rich Harvest Farms, and although he hasn't spoken with Yonkovich through the years, he recognizes their mutual hometown and respects him.

"He's always kind of a nice guy to compete with, because he's always putting scores low," Hoss said. "So you always want to beat the guys around your area. I don't really know him, but it's kind of a good rivalry. I don't know if he sees my score, but I see his."

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