MEDINAH, Ill. –It may be time for Jim Billiter to revise his goal for the Illinois PGA Championship.
“My goal is top nine,” Billiter said, referring to the placing needed to qualify for next year’s PGA Professional Championship.
He’s qualified for that the last two years. This time, if he keeps up his good work of the first two rounds, he may advance as the Illinois PGA champion.
Billiter added a course-record 5-under-par 66 to Monday’s 68 and stands at 8-under-par 134 entering Wednesday’s final round of the 93rd Illinois PGA Championship on Medinah Country Club’s Course One. He leads Matt Slowinski by three strokes and first round leader Steve Orrick by four.
Representing Libertyville’s Merit Club, Billiter scattered eight birdies across his card, starting with the first three holes, part of an outward 4-under 32. That calmed his nerves.
“I’d never shot under 70 in the section championship before,” Billiter said. “I knew 68 was a great start. I couldn’t be happier with the way I played.”
His goal was even par 71. He exceeded that by five strokes.
As for potentially winning?
“I have to think about that tonight,” Billiter said. “The goal is still top nine. If I play great, I’ll win. If I play average, it’s not guaranteed, because I know Matt is outstanding, and Steve is about as steady as it gets and he’s the best putter I’ve seen.
“If I can put it in the fairway, because I can hit it as far as Matt, and me and Matt both hit it a little farther than Steve, I’ll be in good shape,” Billiter added.
“There are some long holes out there.”
Slowinski opened with a watery bogey on the par-4 10th but birdied four straight holes on the back nine, his outward nine, for a 33, part of a card that featured eight birdies, six bogeys and four pars. He parred only one hole coming in and closed with a pair of bogeys, part of his three three-putt day.
“It would be hard to make it around without one three-putt,” Slowinski said.
Slowinski was the runner-up in 2011 and tied for second with Curtis Malm in 2013. As much as he wants to win, he’s not looking at playing strictly against Billiter and Orrick, with whom he’ll be paired.
“Not at the start,” Slowinski said. “Play your game. You can have a lot of back and forth here with the amount of birdies that are out there.”
On a sweltering day when the scoring average of 77.33 strokes, Orrick’s even-par 71 was pedestrian compared to the rounds of Billiter and Slowinski. The 2012 champion had three birdies and three bogeys, two of them caused by three-putts, and groused about his play, especially on the greens.
“I just didn’t hit it good and didn’t putt good,” Orrick said. “The slopes (on the greens), it depends on where you’re putting from. There are subtle reads.”
Host Medinah has three players among the 61 who made the cut, which fell at 11-over 153. That includes director of golf Marty DeAngelo, who made the cut on the number, and a pair of teaching pros: Rich Dukelow, tied for eighth at 1-over 143, and Travis Johns, whose 2-under 69 places him fourth at 2-under 140.
B.J. Paul is fifth at 1-under 141 following a second round 67, with Frank Hohenadel and Dakun Chung tied for sixth at even-par 142.
Defending champion Mike Small is tied for 10th at 3-over 145 following a 2-over 73.
Katie Pius, who is four months pregnant, added a 74 to an opening 72 for 4-over 146 and in a tie for 13th. If she finishes in the top nine, the Biltmore Country Club assistant will be the fourth woman to qualify for the PGA Professional Championship, and the first from the Illinois Section.