DECATUR — Somewhere on the back nine at Kingsmill Golf Resort in Williamsville, Va., on March 27, everything changed for Hunter York.
He could see a difference in his Southern Illinois University golf coach Justin Fletcho's mannerisms. York, a junior on the SIU golf team, knew the Salukis were in striking distance of a major tournament win.
So York birdied each of the final four holes, finishing with the second-best score on the team, leading SIU to a four-stroke victory in the 24-team tournament.
York has never lacked confidence, but it's also never been as high as it is now. He will ride that wave into the first round of the Rex Spires Men's City Amateur on Saturday at Red Tail Run Golf Club.
"I’ve done things like that before, but I hadn’t done it for quite some time," York said of the performance at Kingsmill. "Knowing I can perform and deliver under pressure is just that much more added confidence when it comes down to it, and knowing you’ve done it before."
York finished second in his last two men's city tournaments, behind Christian Crabill in 2016 and Wes Hillen in 2017.
But Hillen, winner of three of the last four years, isn't competing this year because of a a prior commitment.
“He’s won three of the last four, so you could say he is definitely the guy to beat," York said of Hillen. "The door is open."
York's not getting too far ahead of himself. He's still got to outlast Daniel Miller, Chad Burrus, Kraig Rogers or any number of golfers clamoring for the crown.
“There are still going to be guys who can light it up," York said. "It’s going to be the same game plan — go out and hit the best shot I have in hand."
York, a former standout at LSA and 2014 Class 1A state champion, isn't the same golfer he was in his previous stops at the men's city.
He's got Division I experience, golfing for the Salukis last year after two years at John A. Logan Community College, and he's been to courses that impose their will on golfers.
In college, a par is a good score, a sign of a stalemate with some of the country's most challenging greens. But in the city tournament, a par score isn't going to etch his name on the side of the trophy.
“One of the biggest differences is is how much harder the golf courses that we play were," York said. "I gained a lot of mental toughness and a lot of resilience from last year.
"A lot of times, par is a really good score and if you’re shooting par, you’re shooting really well. In the city, you’ve got to take it deep to win."
The two-week tournament will be played at Red Tail Run on Saturday, Hickory Point on Sunday before returning to Red Tail Run on July 21 and Hickory Point for the final round on July 22.
York, however, will have no such break.
After his first two rounds of the men's city, he will travel to Bloomington Country Club for the Illinois State Amateur Championship.
It's no bother to York, who is golfing as well as he ever has, and his confidence as high as it's ever been.
“I’ve been playing really well this summer, coming off a pretty strong end of the season for me down in Carbondale," he said. "I feel pretty good about my game."
The next thing he has to do is break through in the men's city.
"I would love to put my name on that trophy — I would love it," York said.