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Kozeal emerges as top dog for Clippers

No laughing matter

Amboy's Griffin Kozeal has cut strokes at an amazing clip since his freshman year. 
Now, as a junior, he has hopes to qualify for the state meet for the first time.
Amboy's Griffin Kozeal has cut strokes at an amazing clip since his freshman year. Now, as a junior, he has hopes to qualify for the state meet for the first time.

Two years ago, the thought of Griffin Kozeal passing on golf tips to his Amboy teammates would have been laughable.

After all, he averaged about 57 strokes per nine holes as a freshman – not exactly the kind of performance that would instill that kind of trust. Now, though, he's the top dog for the Clippers, and embracing his new role.

"Sometimes I'll give a little pointer, something that I think they should do," Kozeal said, "and they're like, 'Thanks, that really helped.' It feels good when you can do that for your teammates, to help them along."

Kozeal's scoring average has dropped to 43 this season, and the answer has been practice, practice, practice. A Van Orin resident and a junior at LaMoille High School, Kozeal was a regular at Shady Oaks Country Club, Amboy's home course, this summer to play and practice. He also competed in several junior tournaments, at the urging of Amboy golf coach Zach Ross.

"Even his freshman year, before practice or after practice, he was nothing but dedicated to the putting green," Ross said. "After last season, I wanted him to get out and play tournaments in the summer, to get used to that level of competition. He put in the work."

Kozeal isn't long off the tee, but his accuracy has improved. It's the short game where he has made the greatest progress, however. Chipping and putting get the bulk of his practice time, and the work is paying off.

"Getting up and down from just about anywhere is really helpful," Kozeal said.

Kozeal was a sectional qualifier a year ago, but he carded a 91 at the sectional meet held at the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin. The cutoff for advancement to state that day turned out to be 88.

"It makes me want to push for state this year," Kozeal said, "and hopefully just do a little bit better. Making state is a big goal."

Kozeal hopes to have some company. The Clippers, who don't have a senior in their lineup, figure to have a fighting chance to advance from today's Putnam County Regional in McNabb. If that happens, it's on to the Byron Sectional on Oct. 14.

"If the other teams don't score as well as they should, we might be able to get through," Kozeal said of the sectional, "and definitely next year. We're going to have a pretty kick-butt team next year."

Kozeal file

Resides: Van Orin

High school: LaMoille

Year: Junior

FYI: Third-year golfer at Amboy. ... Scoring average has dropped from 57 as freshman to 43 as a junior. ... Sectional qualifier as sophomore

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