BLOOMINGTON — A booming drive left Anthony Ruthey with only a 9-iron into the par-5 10th hole Wednesday at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course.

When Ruthey stuck his approach within 5 feet, he knew what that meant.

"That made me realize we can get this low if we can start making putts," said the 17-year-old from Port Byron.

Ruthey sank the eagle putt. He proceeded to shoot 4-under 32 on the back nine that led to a 69 and two-day total of 142 to win the 17th annual State Farm Youth Classic's 16-17 boys/AJGA division title by three strokes over Aaron Kuznik of Orono, Minn. 

Angelina Chan of Franklin, Tenn., backed up a solid opening day with an even better closing round in the girls 16-17/AJGA at Prairie Vista Golf Course. Chan fired a 1-under-par 70 for a 142 total, giving her an eight-stroke victory.

Chan tied the tourney record of 142 set by Ember Schuldt of Sterling in 2008 at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State. 

Sam Mortell of Chicago also handled the pressure of being the first-round leader at Prairie Vista. Mortell's 74 gave him a 144 total and a one-stroke win in the boys 14-15 division.

The tourney is organized by the Bloomington-Normal Area Sports Commission. 

Boys 16-17/AJGA: Ruthey came into the final round four strokes behind 14-year-old Ye Zicheng of Shanghai, China. However, the Riverdale High School senior was confident.

"I knew coming in I was still in contention because a lot can happen in 18 holes," said Ruthey. "I knew yesterday missing a couple short putts I could have been lower. I understood if I played like I did (again) and just made those putts, I could shoot the score I did today."

Ruthey followed the eagle on No. 10 by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the 11th. After narrowly missing birdie putts the next two holes, Ruthey drained a 10-foot uphill birdie effort at No. 14. He then got up and down from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the 15th.

The only blemish for Ruthey on the back nine was a bogey at the par-3 17th. Even that was OK.

"That 17th hole was playing so tough. The wind started picking up there,"  said Ruthey. "If you made par there you were gaining a stroke on the field."

Ruthey didn't play well at The Den in last year's State Farm Youth Classic and wasn't pleased with his most recent tournament last week.

"Before I left (home) I took about six hours just putting, chipping and going on the range and trying to dial stuff in," said Ruthey, who finished second as his team won the Class 1A State Tournament title last fall at Prairie Vista.

"I knew I was making confident swings and I figured some things out. I knew I could shoot some good scores and had confidence in my swing."

Kuznik finished fifth in last week's Pepsi Little People's in Quincy. While he walked away with the Grand Champion trophy Wednesday given to the combined low scorer at the Little People's and State Farm Youth Classic, he couldn't keep pace with Ruthey and shot 74-145.

"It was a little tougher conditions (than Tuesday)," said Kuznik. "The putting was good and that kind of kept me with it. Front nine definitely I felt better than the back. The wind picked up and my irons were a little rougher, but I had some good comebacks on the back."

Robert Beaubien Jr. of Barrington took third in a scorecard playoff (74-147), while Connor Vicary of Morton was fourth (75-147) and Justin McCoy of Savoy fifth (76-147).

Ye is in the middle of a seven-tournament swing through the United States and will return to China in early August. He tied his career best round of 69, which he shot at home, during Tuesday's first round.

After shooting 38 on the front Wednesday, Ye struggled on the back nine. He ended up with 79 and tied for sixth at 148.

"My driver was not very straight on the back nine ... and a little pressure, too," he said.

Girls 16-17/AJGA: Chan made sure everyone was playing for second place early with a 1-under 34 on the back nine.

She then cruised around the front side in even-par 36 and finished eight strokes ahead of Alaina Bowie of Mahomet (71) and Mary Li of Beijing, China (76). Bowie took second in a scorecard playoff.

"It was the same thing as (Tuesday)," said Chan. "My drives and putts were as important as ever, especially the short putts with the weird breaks and, of course, the grain (of bent grass greens). I managed well."

Amy Gao of Shanghai, China, placed fourth (74-151) with Savannah Weyrauch of Bloomington fifth (78-153). Weyrauch also earned the Grand Champion award for best combined score of those who played in the Pepsi Little People's and State Farm Youth Classic.

Boys 14-15: Mortell, who will be a sophomore at Whitney Young High School, led Oakley Gee of Carmi by two strokes after firing 70 on Tuesday.

Gee overtook Mortell by firing 1-under 35 on the front as Mortell was shooting 38. But Mortell came back on the back nine to nose ahead of Gee, who ended up with 73. 

T.J. Barger of Bloomington finished third (74-147), with Walker Weston of Peoria fourth (72-148) and Jackson Yoder of Bloomington fifth (74-148). Matthew Barker of Bloomington tied Weston for the day's low round of 72 and tied for eighth.

Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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