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NORMAL — Rob Wuethrich is not turning his back on his father, Dave. In a way, the 19-year-old has decided to play the Bloomington-Normal Two-Man Best Position Tournament with another "family" member this year.

Wuethrich will join his former Illinois Wesleyan teammate, Conner O'Neil, when the Two-Man begins Thursday with the first of three qualifying days at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State.

"I've played with my dad (in the Two-Man) since I was 13. Nothing against playing with him," said Rob Wuethrich. "I love playing with my dad. Who couldn't beat a father and son duo and stuff? But Conner, this is the last year he can play."

Dave Wuethrich remains in the field and has joined his good friend, Gordie Glover. In fact, the two veterans have decided to forgo the senior division (for those 50 and older) and go head-to-head with the young guys in the regular division.

"I get my competitiveness from my dad," said Rob Wuethrich.

After qualifying ends Saturday, the low 31 teams join defending champions Tom Kearfott and Mike Cushing in the championship flight for matches. There will be 16 teams in other flights.

Those still interested in playing in the Two-Man can sign up for open tee times for any of the three qualifying days. Saturday's last tee time is at noon.

Wuethrich and 10 others actually will be playing in two tournaments simultaneuously in the Twin Cities. The Illinois State Amateur takes place for three days, beginning Tuesday, at Bloomington Country Club.

Besides Wuethrich, others signed up in the Two-Man field who also are competing in the State Amateur include the teams of Kearfott-Cushing, Logan Stauffer-Joe Rieger, Mike Henry-David Marquardt, Alan Bardwell-Tyler Weaver and brothers Branden-Michael Mounce.

Wuethrich isn't worried about developing a "scramble swing" that could affect his State Amateur performance.

"I'll mainly focus on my game and hitting smooth shots and not trying to outdrive him (O'Neil) because if he hits one he'll be farther," said Wuethrich. "He's a good partner if I'm going to play in another tournament to just be able to play my game."

O'Neil and Wuethrich enjoyed a productive season with IWU in their only year together.

A native of Green Bay, Wis., O'Neil was selected as a Division III PING first-team All-American and was a finalist for the Division III Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award. He posted seven top-10 finishes as a senior, including medalist honors at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin meet and the Augustana Invitational.

Wuethrich earned the Division III Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award, voted by the Golf Coaches Association of America, and capped his season with a tie for 29th at the NCAA Division III Championships, shooting 3-under-par 69 in the final round. 

A Normal Community graduate, Wuethrich was medalist at the Millikin Invitational and posted five other top-10 finishes.

This is the first year O'Neil has been eligible for the Two-Man Best Position. IWU and Illinois State golfers who didn't graduate from an Intercity high school are ineligible while still in school.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," said O'Neil. "It will be fun."

O'Neil graduated in May with a degree in mathematics and financial services. He is currently interviewing for jobs as an actuary.

This will be the first time O'Neil said he has played in a tournament such as the Two-Man. He is no stranger to match play, though, and it's doubtful any golfer is going to faze O'Neil after his opponent in the Wisconsin State Match Play earlier this summer.

O'Neil found himself paired against Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and CBS analyst, in a first-round match.

The match went to sudden death before Romo prevailed on the 19th hole.

"He missed one shot all day. He played very good golf. It was fun to watch," said O'Neil. "To see his competitive side, not on the football field but on the golf course, was cool."

Wuethrich appreciated the help and advice O'Neil gave him during the last year and knows his partner will be ready when they tee off for qualifying Saturday morning.

"He will be competing as much as anyone. He has a strong mental game and strong all-around game," said Wuethrich. "It's very fun playing with him in practice and competing with him."

Wuethrich is in the midst of a busy stretch. He played in Wednesday's 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier at Weibring Golf Club and has an 18-hole Illinois Open qualifying round at Flossmoor Country Club on Friday.

After missing the cut in his first State Amateur last year, Wuethrich is confident he can get to the final 36 holes and hopefully finish in the top 20 to be exempt for next year.

Of course, O'Neil knows where Wuethrich's attention should be focused.

"The most important tournament this week is ours. This one comes first,"  said O'Neil, laughing.

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



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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