July 9, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By ERIC CLARK
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa sophomore Raymond Knoll dropped a crucial 45-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole at the John Deere Classic Open Qualifier at Pinnacle Golf Club in Silvis, Illinois, on Monday, securing himself a spot in the 2014 John Deere Classic. He's still not quite sure what he did after the ball went in.
"I hit the putt and was watching it roll, and it was like slow motion," he said. "It was 10 feet short of the hole, and I knew it was going to go in. I blacked out from there."
Had Knoll missed the long-distance putt and carded a birdie, he would've fallen into a four-person sudden death playoff for the final three spots in the annual event in Silvis, Illinois. After finishing his round, Knoll couldn't even stomach a meal because of his nerves.
"I was going in and out of the clubhouse, and I had heard there was another 65, so I knew I was tied for the lead," he said. "I didn't know if I would be in a playoff. I went in and out probably three or four times, and when I went in the last time, my mom had the papers. She said 'Congratulations, you've officially made it' with a huge smile on her face and tears in her eyes. She was so happy."
Knoll preceded Monday's stellar performance with a solid freshman campaign, playing the third-most rounds of any Hawkeye golfer (25) and registering a 73.16 scoring average. He carded the second-lowest single-round score of the season, a 66 (-6) in his final round of the Boilermaker Invitational, equaling the fourth-lowest round in program history.
Prior to his initial season at Iowa, Knoll was the top-ranked player in Illinois and the 37th-best nationally in the class of 2013 AJGA Polo Golf Rankings. As a senior at Naperville North High School, Knoll won five individual tournament titles, earned his third straight Conference MVP award and posted a 68.75 scoring average en route to be named the school's Athlete of the Year.
Knoll's qualification for the John Deere Classic presents an excellent opportunity for Hawkeye fans and Naperville, Illinois, natives to watch him take his first swings in a PGA TOUR event.
"It's two hours from my house and only an hour from Iowa City," he said. "Why not have all the Hawkeye fans and Naperville people come out?"
Knoll will join three former Hawkeyes in the tournament field: Aaron Krueger (2001-2003), Guy Boros (1983-85), and Steven Ihm (2012-2014), who will be making his professional PGA TOUR debut. Ihm, who played in last year's John Deere Classic as an amateur, played nine holes with Knoll at TPC Deere Run prior to his qualification.
"What could be more inspiring than actually playing the course with the grandstands set up?" he said. "I bottled that feeling up and used it (Monday) as motivation."
Knoll and Ihm played a practice round Tuesday with defending tournament champion Jordan Spieth.
"I can't put into words how exciting and unbelievable it feels to be able to play in this tournament," he said. "I'm thrilled for the opportunity."
Ihm and Knoll open play Thursday at 2:15 p.m. (CT). Ihm will tee off on the No. 1 tee with Marc Turnesa and Paul Stankowski. Knoll begins play off the back nine with Jamie Lovemark and Patrick Cantlay. In Friday's second round, Ihm and Knoll will tee off at 9 a.m. (CT) on the opposite nine.