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Yonkovich advances after surviving playoff holes

Matt Yonkovich of Sugar Grove hits onto the eighth green Wednesday morning during the third round of the Chick Evans Junior Amateur at the Itasca Country Club in Itasca.
Matt Yonkovich of Sugar Grove hits onto the eighth green Wednesday morning during the third round of the Chick Evans Junior Amateur at the Itasca Country Club in Itasca.

ITASCA – Just one day and a change of rules can make all the difference.

Day 2 at the IJGA Chick Evans Invitational at Itasca Country Club began Wednesday, kicking off match play for the surviving 32 boys and 16 girls.

Match play changes the strategy of the players and also allows for a quick comeback after a rough hole. A snowman 8 on a hole could sink a player’s chances in stroke play, but in match play, it’s just one of 18 potential holes.

The change was noticeable in the boy’s side of the bracket and the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds – determined by stroke play on Tuesday – each went down in the first round of match play.

Matt Yonkovich from Sugar Grove advanced through the first round of match play, defeating Mokena’s Tyler Kelly, 6 & 5. The recent Kaneland graduate said his game was shaky at times in the first round of match play, but it was still good enough to advance to the round of 16.

“Every part of my game was a little shaky at the start,” Yonkovich said. “I didn’t have much time to warm up, but it worked out.”

The drama hit nail-biting levels when Yonkovich and his second round opponent, Joseph Addante, went shot-for-shot in extra holes to decide a winner. Yonkovich was mere inches short on a putt on the 18th green that would have clinched it and again just short on a chip from off the green on the second playoff hole.

Finally, Addante missed the green with his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole, the duo’s 42nd hole of the day, and Yonkovich capitalized with a tap-in par to advance to the elite eight in tomorrow’s bracket.

“It was a long and hard battle,” Yonkovich said afterward. “I’m exhausted right now. I’ve played that many holes before, but the intensity of it just made it that much better.”

In his first official match play tournament, Yonkovich said he enjoyed the differences that match play provided rather than the usual stroke play.

“If you have a bad hole, you can just totally forget about it,” Yonkovich said. “It’s totally different. What (your opponent) takes on a certain hole could totally affect what you take. It’s a lot better, I think.”

On the girl’s side, Lauren Beaudreau eliminated Elgin’s Jenna Kurosky by being 6 up through 14 holes. The No. 2-seeded Beaudreau faced St. Charles North’s Kate Lillie in the second round and eliminated the North Star sophomore 2 &1. Lillie was down two after 14 holes but came back to pull within one by winning No. 15. However, Beaudreau nailed “a great putt,” according to Lillie on the 17th hole to end the match.

Lillie thought she played well, especially chipping, and also enjoyed the added mental aspect of match play that stroke play doesn’t provide.

“I think match play is really fun,” Lillie said. “If you’re down a hole, it’s a lot more mental and learning how to deal with that, which I find is a lot more interesting.”

Lillie pulled a minor upset in the first round of match play, as she topped Hanna Netisingha 3 & 2. Lillie was the No. 10 seed after Tuesday’s stroke play and was able to beat the No. 7 seed to advance to the final eight before bowing out to Beaudreau.

With Lillie eliminated, Yonkovich is the only area golfer still in contention. He will be back out on the course Thursday morning for a quarterfinal match against No. 17 seed Jackson Wetherbee.

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