A serious back injury kept Hinsdale Central sophomore Kenneth Li out of action for five weeks this summer.
For a high school golfer, that seems like an eternity.
The summer is prime time for golfers who hope to turn top tournament performances into recognition from college recruiters.
But instead of competing in events on the American Junior Golf Association or Mid-American Junior Golf Tour, Li was stuck resting in bed while spending countless hours watching the Golf Channel.
Li pulled a muscle in his back while playing tennis in the spring. He didn’t tell anyone until he tweaked the same muscle while golfing. He was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open Sectional qualifier June 3 in St. Louis and was barred from picking up a club.
When Li did return, he finished 36th in the AJGA’s McArthur Towel & Sports Future Legends in Wales, Wis. One of his best tournaments of the summer was the AJGA/CJGA Junior from Aug. 13-15 in London, Ontario, Canada, where he tied for fourth (73-71-74—218).
“It’s just annoying,” Li said of the injury. “I had a swing change after I injured my body and needed to protect it. I also had a few faults in my game at the time.”
He showed no signs of injury Monday in the season opening Palatine Invitational at Palatine Hills. Li shot a 1-under-par 71 to finish third in the eight-team tournament.
Hinsdale Central junior Brian Dolehide (70) placed second behind Wheaton Warrenville South junior Will Kelly (69), who had an eagle on the par-5 15th hole.
Hinsdale Central coach Jess Krueger split his varsity squad into two teams and the Devils still finished 1-2 in the field. The White team scored 291 with Dolehide, Li, freshman Brendan O’Reilly (73) and sophomore Drew Shephard (77).
The Red team (305) featured all seniors, with scorers Loren Guy (73), Tim Graham (75), Jeff Yoo (77) and Grant Filer and Rian Mitchell (80 each). The Devils took seven of the top 10 spots.
O’Reilly, the State Junior Amateur champion, also eagled No. 15 when his 6-iron shot landed within 15 feet. It was just his fifth hole of high school competition.
“That was pretty fun. I was 2-under through five holes,” O’Reilly said.
Dolehide, who tied for fifth at the Class 3A state meet to help Hinsdale Central win last year’s title, made a 40-foot birdie putt at No. 8.
“That really helped, but I had two easy putts on the next two holes and I missed them. I was pretty mad,” Dolehide said.
The Devils will try to build on their season opener at the Addison Trail Invitational scheduled for Wednesday. Central competes Saturday in the Warren Invitational at Bittersweet Golf Club in Gurnee.
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Now that David Whinery has graduated, Dolehide will be expected to carry Hinsdale Central’s hopes at No. 1. He and his teammates are aware that opponents will judge their seasons by how well they do against the loaded Devils.
“I told them, ‘You guys have the target; learn to wear it well,’ ” Hinsdale Central coach Krueger said.
In the summer, Dolehide was second in a Chick Evans Junior Amateur qualifier at Oak Brook and fourth in the MAJGT’s Plum Tree Classic in Harvard and an IJGA Spring Sectional back at Oak Brook.
The offseason for the Kansas-bound senior began in January with a win at the International Junior Golf Tour’s Florida Swing (70-72—142) in Harmony, Fla. He tied for 16th at the Callaway Junior Worlds Championships at Torrey Pines near San Diego in July.
Playing like it was named after him, Hudson tied for second in the Hudson Invitational in June in Ohio.
The last of the three Hudson brothers is Lyons’ top returning scorer from the state meet. He tied for 20th with a 77, one stroke better than Daniel Hudson.
Jonathan Hudson won an IJGA sectional at Old Oak and tied for eighth in the State Junior Amateur at Makray Memorial in Barrington.
The Hornets’ only state qualifier last year is back and he opened the season Monday with a 76 for eighth place at Naperbrook in the Bob Sterr Invitational. The Hornets (321) placed sixth in the 12-team tournament.
Strumillo won the Junior Championship at Medinah in June and just missed the cut at the DuPage County Junior Classic in Addison for the Callaway Junior Worlds.
He shot 80 last fall to place 46th in the state meet.