Len Ziehm On Golf

Pete Dye Golf Trail gives a boost to Indiana golf

CARMEL, Ind. — No disrespect to Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus or any of the other high-quality golf course architects putting their talents on display these days, but — for my money — one stands ahead of the others. Pete Dye is definitely the most innovative and probably the most prolific architects of our generation.

Last year, amidst limited fanfare, his boosters in Indiana announced the formation of the Pete Dye Golf Trail. It was basically an informational website (www.petedyegolftrail.com) then, but this project should turn into something significant for both Dye and golf generally in the Midwest.

This year the same seven participating courses will be on board, stay-and-play packages will be available and other incentives may be added as well. And the heart of all this golf activity is a good place in itself. The Indianapolis suburb of Carmel was selected as the No. 1 Best Place to Live by Money Magazine for cities with population between 50,000 and 300,000.

I wanted an early jump on the Trail, so I hit five courses in five days in the fall. One very unexpected plus was the fact that you don’t have to travel far to get from course to course in the heart of Trail country. From a hotel in this Indianapolis suburb I could get to five Dye courses with drives of 40 minutes or less.

Before getting into the Trail, consider its significance. Only the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which has 11 courses in Alabama, is similar within the U.S. The Dye Trail doesn’t encompass many of his famous courses, but it does include his first 18-holer and his last one. The Trail is a great place to get a feel for all the good things Pete Dye has done in his brilliant architectural career.

Now well into his 80s, Dye has been designing courses all over the world for over 50 years. His best known courses — arguably, at least — are the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, the Stadium Course at PGA West in California, Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin, Crooked Stick in Indiana and the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

Working alone or occasionally with other architects — usually wife Alice or sons P.B. and Perry — Dye’s portfolio lists nearly 300 courses nation-wide. Many have won awards. Oddly only one, Ruffled Feathers in Lemont, is in the Chicago area. Dye worked with P.B. on that layout, which opened in 1991.

The Dye Trail, strongly supported by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels at its creation, is a journey through Dye’s architectural career. One of the seven courses was built for less than $1 million, another for $15 million. But all are good.

In a perfect world you should start the Dye Trail with a round at Maple Creek, which opened in 1961 under the name of Heather Hills. Dye had dabbled with a few other courses before this one, but this layout — created within the Indianapolis city limits with wife Alice — was his first 18-holer. They got it up and running 50 years ago for about $80,000. Not in the pristine condition of some of the other courses on the Trail, Maple Creek is still a fun public layout with a friendly staff. It’s a must-visit for Dye enthusiasts.

In a perfect world you should also end the Dye Trail at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick, a most difficult layout in very rural Southern Indiana. French Lick, once the home of basketball legend Larry Bird, was a retreat for the rich and famous before serious economic issues decimated the little town. It’s revival is a heartwarming story in itself, and the Dye Course is a big reason for the progress that’s been made.

The Dye Course at French Lick opened in 2009 and has already hosted the U.S. Professionals National Championship. It will take the collegiate spotlight the next three years as the site of the men’s Big Ten Championship. While the men are playing the Dye Course the Big Ten women’s teams will compete for their conference title on the nearby Donald Ross Course.

In between the creation of Heather HIlls/Maple Creek and the Pete Dye Course at French Lick there were plenty of other courses of all degrees of difficulty. The five others on the Trail demonstrate the wide variety of ways Dye has found to make golf interesting and challenging.

Dye has expressed sentimental affection for the Kampen Course at Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex at Purdue University in West Lafayette. He helped raise the money to build it in 1997 and Purdue’s agronomy students use it as part of their studies. That course is popular with more than Purdue’s students. In September, 2012, it was ranked the No. 3 course in all of collegiate golf by PGA.com.

The Plum Creek Country Club in Carmel is an upscale public layout that Dye created with fellow architect Tim Liddy in 1997. It was a busy place on the day I visited, the first round of my five-in-a-row tour. (I had played the Kampen Course and the Pete Dye Course at French Lick on previous golf trips).

Most unique of the courses on the Trail is Brickyard Crossing, which has four of its holes inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Golf was played on this land before Dye was involved, but he created a special place in 1993. On my visit the engines of the race cars provided the background music to a round that’ll be hard to forget. I’d played the Brickyard in an informal outing organized by Dye shortly before the course opened, but I was looking forward to the return visit and it didn’t disappoint.

Best course on the Trail from my viewpoint was The Fort, part of a resort built on Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. It offered something for everybody.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I played the whole Pete Dye Golf Trail — yet. I still haven’t made it to Mystic Hills in Culver. But that trip will be made in the not-too-distant future, I assure you.

During my five-day tour I also played Crooked Stick, the 2012 site of the BMW Championship. It’s one of Dye’s best-known courses and in close proximity to four of the layouts included on the Trail. Crooked Stick, a private club that has proven itself as a big-time tournament venue, isn’t one of the Trail courses but hopefully it can be tied into the project in some way down the road.

WGA: Why BMW Is Moving

The Western Golf Association’s decision to move the BMW Championship out of Chicago again wasn’t a surprise. After all, the event did very well at Bellerive in St. Louis in 2008 and the PGA Tour players’ response to Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course during the 2010 tournament was less than enthusiastic.

Still, going to Cherry Hills in Denver in 2014 is hard for this Chicago golf devotee to swallow.

When the WGA took the tournament to Bellerive it was understandable. Cog Hill was undergoing a renovation.

When the WGA announced that the BMW would be played at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in 2012 that was understandable, too. After all, the Ryder Cup matches were coming to Medinah, and that event would surely take the spotlight over an annual PGA Tour event.

In going to Cherry Hills, though, the WGA is clearly indicating its PGA Tour event will be a roving tournament again — just like it was from 1899 to 1962. The decision to base the tournament at Chicago courses then made sense and — much as I hate to admit it — the WGA’s decision to move the event around again is based in logic, too.

The WGA’s role is to raise money for the Evans Scholars Foundation and its scholarships for caddies. The PGA Tour stop does a good job of that, wherever the event is held, but it might do better with visits to more golf-starved locations. The WGA was delighted with the staging in Bellerive and expects similarly warm responses in Indianapolis and Denver.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the WGA won’t be so good for Chicago area golf fans. We’ve grown accustomed to having an annual visit from the PGA Tour, and that doesn’t figure to continue. Cog Hill has the BMW tourney this September, then who knows?

The Jemsek family had hoped to keep the event at its Cog Hill facility in 2013, and even made the effort of hiring well-respected young course superintendent Scott Pavalko during the winter to encourage a contract renewal. Whether Cog Hill, a PGA Tour stop since 1991, is under consideration for 2013 will certainly depend on how the course is received by the BMW field in September.

Frankly, when it comes to golf I’m a selfish guy. I want to see a big tourney close to home. And I remember when the WGA was forced to pull the Western Open out of Butler National after 17 good tournaments because of that club’s refusal to have women as members. No suitable course stepped forward to keep the Western in Chicago then except for Cog Hill and, last year aside, Dubsdread has been a good tournament venue.

Perhaps, if not Cog Hill, the WGA will find another Chicago course to host the BMW in 2013. That might rekindle crowd support that has admittedly lagged after the tourney dates shifted from July to September. There are plenty of course possibilities, and perhaps alternating sites from one side of the city to another (say, Olympia Fields to Conway Farms) would perk things up.

I still fondly remember the Western Open, an event I covered non-stop from 1971 to 2006. I wish it had never gone away, but it did. Now the next chapter in Chicago’s rich golf history is about to be written. Let’s hope it’s as good as the last one.

Ziehm looks back at 41 years at Sun-Times

An interview with Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Ed Sherman, former Chicago Tribune golf writer.

It hardly is accurate to say Len Ziehm is retiring.

Technically, Mr. Ziehm is leaving the Sun-Times this week after 41 years. But the idea that he will stop working? Yeah, right.

We’ve all seen days when Mr. Ziehm covered a golf tournament, worked the phones for the latest on the Northwestern quarterback,and then headed over to write about a Chicago Fire game at night. He’s a machine.

Mr. Ziehm, 66, says he still is going to continue to write for several publications, including contributing to the Sun-Times.That’s great because the pressroom wouldn’t be the same without his distinctive cackle.

I asked one of the all time greats to share his memories of covering sports in Chicago for the Sun-Times.

When did you start at the Sun-Times? What was your first assignment?

Mr. Ziehm: Well, my starting date was May 11, 1969. I know the first stories I wrote were features on the Chicago Owls and Lake County Rifles’ football teams. Neither lasted all that long. The Rifles had a quarterback from Illinois, Fred Custardo, who put up great semi-pro numbers before suffering a tragic death in a fall during his offseason.

The first live event I covered was, of all things, a pro wrestling show at Comiskey Park in which Chet Coppock was the PR guy. I got all dressed up in a new madras sport coat that I thought was very cool, and Chet had me seated ringside and mentioned on the centerfield scoreboard. Then the matches started and one of the wrestlers faked an injury. Blood (actually ketchup) got splattered on that sport coat. That was my welcome to the big leagues of Chicago journalism.

Writing assignments were few and far between in those early years. It was mostly deskwork until I got the golf beat in either late 1970 or early 1971.

What were your most memorable events to cover?

I really have had a ton of them. My first U.S. Open was Johnny Miller’s 63 at Oakmont in 1973. My first Masters was Jack Nicklaus’ last win in 1986. It doesn’t get better than that.

I really enjoyed covering the World Cup soccer tournament in 1994 because it was such a different thing, with so many different cultures involved. While golf has been my biggest deal (27 U.S. Open, 10 Masters, 16 PGAs, the last 34 Western Opens), I do appreciate other events. I was in the lead vehicle of the Chicago Marathon when Steve Jones set a world record. I saw a longtime-bad Northwestern basketball team upset Michigan’s Fab Five in the last game of the regular season to earn an NIT bid. I still savor Northwestern’s shocking run to the Rose Bowl and the Fire sweeping the MLS and U.S. Open Cups in its first season of existence.

I was around for four minor league championship runs by the Wolves and a good chunk of the Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cup run. I was DePaul’s beat man when the Demons went 27-3 in the late ’80s (that’s significant because it was the first year the Tribune and Sun-Times started covering all their games on the road. Before that it had pretty much been just home games). All three of the soccer teams I’ve covered (Sting, Power, Fire) won championships. Guess I’m kind of babbling on here, but I’ve certainly been fortunate in covering a lot of exciting stuff.

Who were some of the most memorable athletes/executives you’ve covered?

The most fun was Karl-Heinz Granitza, the soccer player. He had his issues, but you couldn’t help but laughing when he was around. Northwestern had some athletes that were really good guys when I was on that beat:Kevin Rankin, Kip Kirkpatrick, Steve Schnurr, Pat Fitzgerald, Richard Buchanan. The football coaches were both ex-Missouri guys (my alma mater) in Francis Peay and Gary Barnett, so you now they had to be the best.

In the hockey world, my favorites were Jocelyn Thibault, Scotty Nichol, Marty Lapointe, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager (sorry the last two were traded). Dale Tallon was a GM who was really easy to get along with. On the Wolves’ front, John Anderson and Steve Maltais were good people, to say nothing of the owner, Don Levin. What he’s done with that team is terrific.

Cary Pinkowski, the Chicago Marathon boss, and Frank Klopas, who I’ve known as both a soccer player and executive, are longtime friends. Golf, of course, is filled with nice people starting with the Jemseks. I hate to get into listing them because I’d leave somebody out. Again, I’m babbling, but I’ve come in contact with a lot of good people.

What memories do you have of some of the outstanding sportswriters you worked with at the Sun-Times? You worked with some outstanding people.

Bill Gleason and Jack Griffin were veterans when I arrived at 26 years old. They were mentors, but Ron Rapoport was a really good friend over a long period of time. There were great writers and beat people on both sides of the street as well as at the Herald (Tim Sassone may be the best hockey writer around). I enjoyed the company of lots of S-T columnists, including Jay Mariotti.

My link with Rick Morrissey was more when he was at the Tribune. We had a weird time covering a DePaul game at Saint Louis U. one day — but I digress. Bill Jauss, Neil Milbert and I were rival-colleagues for years on a variety of beats. Bob Verdi is one of my favorite people, as well. I’ll always cherish our times together. Covering golf with Reid Hanley, Gary Reinmuth, Teddy Greenstein, Ed Shermanand Tim Cronin has been a lot of fun.

Again, I hate to leave anybody out. Obviously I’m partial to my Sun-Times teammates —Herb Gould, Toni Ginnetti, Joe Goddard, Taylor Bell, Dave Manthey, Albert Dickens, Elliot Harris, Ralph Greenslade, Bob Mazzoni, Jeff Agrest. (Some of those are on the desk/editing side of the business). We’ve been through a lot together.

What are the biggest changes in the industry between 1969 and now?

Obviously, the technological changes were the biggest thing. When I started, writers would phone in their stories, dictating them to guys on the copy desk. Women weren’t part of the action until many years later.

In some ways, things were better back then. Everything was more personal, between writers and athletes, coaches, etc. You really got to know the people you were covering.

Looking back, I have misgivings about a trend that started in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when newspapers in general started pushing for longer, “in depth”stories at the expense many times of covering hard news, the nitty gritty stuff that readers would never get via radio or TV. I still think that’s something that requires ongoing scrutiny by the people putting out newspapers in print or online. Opinion, analysis stuff, frequently crowds out solid reporting, and that’s not a good thing.

Anything else?

Just a general thought, for perspective purposes. When I started at the Sun-Times, Chicago had four newspapers. Now it’s down to two, though the Herald has increased its profile considerably since the early 1970s. In any business there’s been a lot of changes over the last 41 years, but I’m not so sure there hasn’t been more in journalism than anything else. A lot of the changes represent progress, to be sure, but we shouldn’t forget about the past. We can learn from it, just as we do from history books. End of lecture.

Ryder Cup: Love Visits Medinah

Davis Love III’s selection as the 27th U.S. Ryder Cup captain on Thursday was no surprise, but he wasn’t ready for all the questions he faced during his introduction at Medinah Country Club.

Medinah, which has already hosted three U.S. Opens as well as the PGA Championships of 1999 and 2006, will be the site of the next battle between the golf stars of the U.S. and Europe on Sept. 28-30, 2012.

“We couldn’t ask for a better home-field advantage than Medinah,” said Love. “It’s withstood the tests of time, and has a hugely passionate membership. We’ll grab the Bears’ momentum.”

Being a Ryder Cup captain means dealing with a variety of unusual issues, and Love is glad to have some time to work on them.

“I couldn’t do this job by myself,” he said. “I need to go back to all our former captains — whether they won or not. They all did a fantastic job.”

Love wasn’t so sure about who his assistant captains would be or how he wants Medinah’s No. 3 course, which underwent another renovation last year, should be set up for the match play spectacle. He also became choked up when questioned about his late father, Davis Love II, who was a famous golf instructor prior to his death in a plane crash.

Though nothing’s guaranteed, Love indicated that Jeff Sluman, a PGA Tour veteran now playing on the Champions Tour, would be an assistant captain again and that Michael Jordan, a golf addict who has played supporting roles in several recent Ryder Cups, would be involved in some capacity. Love and Jordan became friends as students at the University of North Carolina.

Love’s credentials for the captaincy are unquestioned. He played on six Ryder Cup teams between 1993 and 2004 and was one of Corey Pavin’s assistants in the last staging in September, when the U.S. lost the Cup in a tense 14 1/2-13 1/2 shootout at Celtic Manor in Wales. The U.S. last won the Cup at Valhalla in Louisville in 2008.

“The Ryder Cup demands a strong leader, and we found the consummate captain,” said Allen Wronowski, president of the PGA of America.

Love, 46, had only a 9-12-5 record as a Ryder Cup player, but he has 31 tournament victories world-wide including the 1997 PGA Championship. He has hopes of being among the eight players who qualify for his Ryder Cup team on the basis of points accumulated in tournament through the 2012 PGA. The other four players on the U.S. squad will be selected by Love.

“I’d love to make the team,” he said, “and if I”m one of the best eight I’ll want to play. But I’d have a hard time picking myself.”

Love’s opposing captain will be Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal, which creates a unique matchup for this Ryder Cup. Love and Olazabal entered the professional ranks in 1985 and were paired in Love’s first three Ryder Cup matches. Love was also the runner-up when Olazabal captured a Masters title.

In its early years the a U.S. win in the Ryder Cup was considered a formality. That’s no longer the case, as European players have established themselves and their team on the world stage.

“In the seven Ryder Cups I’ve been involved in our biggest problem is that we’ve tried to hard,” he said. “Corey Pavin did me an incredible service by asking me to help him in the the last Ryder Cup and see how the even works from the inside.”

BMW Championship: Rose Holds Off Senden

LEMONT, IL. — Wire-to-wire champions were rare in the 20 years that Cog Hill has hosted the PGA Tour, and European winners of the BMW Championship and its longstanding predecessor, the Western Open, were rarer still.

England’s Justin Rose met both criteria Sunday after holding off his Australian playing partner, John Senden, on what’s expected to be the end of an era for the tourney at the Lemont layout. Rose started the day with a four-stroke lead, allowed Senden to get within one on the 15th hole and then put him away with a 36-foot chip-in birdie at the 17th.

Rose became only the third wire-to-wire winner at Cog Hill, joining Nick Price (1993) and Tiger Woods (2003), who were Western Open titlists. The BMW, which replaced the Western in 2007, had a wire-to-wire champion in 2008, but Camilo Villegas won his title at Bellerive in St. Louis — a substitute site while Cog’s Dubsdread course was undergoing a renovation.

As far as European champions go, Rose was the first since Harry Cooper won in 1934 and he had only two real challengers in the final round — Senden and another Australian, Geoff Ogilvy, who came on late to nab third place. That got Ogilvy into this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta — the last event of the FedEx Cup playoffs — and a spot on the World team in the upcoming President’s Cup matches in his home country.

Rose had his worst round of the week, a par 71, but finished at 13-under 271 for the 72 holes. Senden shot 69 for 273 and Ogilvy, also a 69 shooter, was another stroke back.

The Rose-Senden duel swung in the winner’s favor at the par-4 17th. Rose’s approach stopped just short of the green while Senden’s went into a green-side bunker. Senden’s escape shot finished 11 feet away, then Rose debated whether to putt from off the green or use a 54-degree wedge. Caddie Mark Fulcher advised the wedge, so Rose went with it and holed the shot.

“You can boil the whole day down to that moment,” said Rose. “John Senden was a rock out there, but I knew it was coming down to me. Either I was going to fritter it away or make something happen to win the tournament.”.

The chip-in gave Rose a two-stroke lead with just the 497-yard 18th to play, but Senden didn’t think he was dead yet after making his clutch par-saver.

“We were pretty close coming down the stretch,” said Senden. “I was pretty steady, and he was making some mistakes. After I holed my putt on 17 I thought I still had a chance, because anything can happen on that last hole.”

Rose wasn’t about to let his first victory of the season and third of his PGA Tour career slip away, however.

“It had been a gritty kind of round,” said Rose, “and it was an amazing feeling, making two great swings on the last.”

After Senden left his birdie putt four feet short Rose nearly holed his. The tap-in for par sealed his victory and boosted him from 34th in the FedEx standings at the start of the week to third heading into this week’s 30-player Tour Championship. By being in the top five Rose controls his own destiny in the chase for the $10 million bonus that awaits the FedEx winner. Any player in the top five now claims it with a win at East Lake. Senden left happy, too, since he needed a top-five finish here to reach the Tour Championship and got it.

Rose, 31, tied for sixth at The Barclays, the first playoff event, but was tied for 68th in a disappointing performance at the second — the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. He didn’t expect good things at Cog Hill, a course he first played in 1997 at the U.S. Amateur.

“It beat me up then,” he said. A year later, though, Rose was the darling of the golf world when — at age 17 — he holed out from the rough on the last hole to tie for fourth at the British Open. He turned pro the next day, then missed his first 21 cuts as a professional while also coping with the death of his father. Success was slow in coming, but Rose is enjoying it now.

“Mentally this is the best I’ve ever been in terms of being very under control with my emotions, being very calm, being very aware of the situation and feeling comfortable with it,” he said. “This week, as a competitor and as a professional, was probably my best-ever performance.”

John Deere Classic: Stricker Pulls Off A Miracle

SILVIS, IL:. — Steve Stricker had 10 previous wins on the PGA Tour, but none had quite the flair of Sunday’s three-peat at the John Deere Classic.

Stricker, now the 20th player to win a PGA Tour event three years in a row since World War II, had a five-stroke lead entering the back nine only to see Kyle Stanley, playing in the twosome in front of him, make five birdies in six holes. Coupled with two bogeys of his own, Stricker found himself two strokes down with two holes to play but still found a way to pull out a dramatic victory.

“An unbelievable week, and an unbelievably finish,” summed up Stricker. “I felt no momentum going my way most of the day. I just tried to hang in there, and I feel very fortunate to have won.”

A 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole pulled Stricker to within a shot. Stanley, who scrambled for par on the 17th after driving far right into deep rough, put his tee shot on the 18th in the right trees. When he lipped out a nine-foot par-saver it opened the door for Stricker to pull off his miracle.

His tee shot wasn’t much either, winding up in a bunker 184 yards from the green with trees and a pond affecting his next shot. He also had an awkward stance, with one foot in the bunker and one out. Making a last-minute club change, to a 6-iron, Stricker managed a great second to the back fringe 25 feet from the cup.

Two putts from there would have put him in a playoff but Stricker did better, rolling in the birdie putt and sending the standing-room-only gallery into a frenzy.

“I probably had a one- or two-out-of-10 chance of pulling off the shot from the bunker,” said Stricker, and then the putt — I don’t know what to say about that. I was trying to make it, but you don’t expected those to go in. I’m just glad that one did.”

His 69 in the final round gave him 22-under-par 262 total for the tournament and an $810,000 payday.

Stanley, a Clemson graduate who played on the Nationwide Tour last year, didn’t land his first pro victory but he did get a consolation prize — a berth in this week’s British Open as the highest-finishing non-qualifier among the JDC’s top five finishers. He heard the roar for Stricker’s final putt while sitting in the scorer’s trailer.

“That was a great birdie from where he was,” said Stanley. “I’m excited to go play (the British), but it’s difficult calming down from that round. I know I have the game to win out here. I just don’t know when it’ll be.”

Mistwood: McWethy’s Renovation Is Underway

Jim McWethy’s decision to completely revamp his Mistwood golf course in Romeoville, IL. wasn’t an easy one. Despite these trying economic times, McWethy opted to renovate what was already a respected course, add a spiffy new learning center and build a new clubhouse. He chooses not to discuss the cost involved but, needless to say, it’s substantial.

So why is he doing it?

“It is scary,” McWethy admitted. “Part of it is my love of the game. We’re doing this in spite of the frustrations, the sleepless nights worrying about it. We’re running counter to the rest of the world.”

McWethy closed his course early, on Aug. 22, to allow Michigan architect Ray Hearn to get the renovation going, and he has had no regrets as work continues. His plans call for a 5,000 square-foot learning center to be operative before 2011 is over and the course to re-open in May.

“If you believe you have a really good product, market it well and take care of your customers I can’t believe that — even in this market — you can’t be successful,” said McWethy. “I go to other golf courses now and come back feeling even better about this place.”

The ressurection of Mistwood will be a three-step process. The first is the course renovation. Hearn did the original design in 1996 for a previous owner and had the course ready for play in 1998. It was deemed good enough to annually host one of Chicago’s top tournaments, the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, which completed its 18th staging this year.

Step 2 in the ressurection will be the construction of the learning center. The old clubhouse, along with a cart barn, will be torn down as soon as the learning center is ready. It’ll eventually have indoor and outdoor hitting stations, a putting green and golf simulators. Initially, though, it’ll double as Mistwood’s clubhouse when play resumes in the spring.

Step 3 is the construction of a 32,000-square-foot clubhouse. Just when that will begin is uncertain.

“At first we thought we would do everything at once, but that could have been an absolute disaster,” said McWethy. “Deciding when to start is a tough one. We plan to break ground now in the fall of 2012, but we’ve got to get the course changes and learning center out of the way first.”

When all is said and done McWethy expects to have one of the best public courses in the Chicago area.

“We can be in the top five,” he said.

The old course wasn’t far off being in that select group that includes such obvious members as Cog Hill Dubsdread in Lemont, Cantigny in Wheaton, The Glen Club in Glen Ellyn and Harborside on Chicago’s South Side. Hearn, though, said the renovation was needed.

“As time goes on that technology monster — with golf clubs, golf balls going further — every course needs to be tweaked every 10 years or so,” said Hearn. “Mistwood was no exception.”

McWethy, 68, grew up in Palos Park and developed his love for the game as a member of the high school team at Blue Island Eisenhower. He continued on to college at Cornell, in Iowa, and then settled in Chicago after entering his professional life in 1970 with Berry Bearings Co., a company created by his grandfather, Lester Berry.

McWethy was part of the ownership of Berry Bearings until 1993, when the company was sold. At that time it was the world’s largest privately held industrial bearings distributor.

Shortly after the sale McWethy entered into the business side of golf, as a 7 percent owner of another course named Mistwood. This one was in Lake Ann, Mich., near Traverse City. Eventually the owner of that layout invited McWethy to join him in creating Mistwood’s Illinois version. He was also a 7 percent owner of that course when it opened but took over sole possession in 2003 after the facility endured some difficult economic times.

McWethy made the big step after being assured that course management would stay on. Director of golf Dan Phillips, general manager Andy Krajewski, head professional Visanu Tongwarin and superintendent Ben Kelnhofer have been with him almost from the beginning.

Along the way McWethy sought the advice of Mike Keiser, who was doing his own thing in the golf business and is now the creator of extremely well-regarded Bandon Dunes in Oregon. Keiser owned the Dunes Club, which was near McWethy’s summer home, and he wanted to become a member. Eventually he did, after Keiser learned that McWethy was already a member of Chicago Golf Club — the Wheaton layout that was the first 18-holer in the United States.

McWethy became a Chicago Golf member in 1991 and later was a sponsor for Keiser when he joined that prestigious club.

Mistwood is by no means McWethy’s only business venture. He owns several farms, some in Chicago, and his wide variety of investments include projects as far away as Brazil and Uruguay. Farming, though, is particularly close to his heart. His son Todd operates McWethy Farms in Michigan, and father and son have a unique working relationship on that one.

Father Jim makes deliveries for son Todd. The two meet at a truck stop in Gary, Ind., twice a week in growing season, and Jim takes his son’s hydroponic tomatoes to Kramer Foods, a Hinsdale landmark, as well as some top Chicago restaurants. McWethy also includes a bag full of choice tomatoes in the awards given to the Illinois Women’s Open champion each year.

Married to Susan and the father of two, McWethy has been a Downers Grove resident since 1978. He wants his golf course to be considered among the best, with profitability a secondary consideration.

“I’d have no inclination to be involved in this if I didn’t love the game,” he said. “Golf isn’t an easy way to make a buck. It’s close to impossible. All I’m looking for is a modest return. This (Mistwood ressurection) isn’t to make more money or grow wealth. I’d like to have something to be very proud of, to make it as good as I can possibly make it.”

PGA: Donald Joins Chicago Win Circle

First it was Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson winning two of the first three full-field events of the PGA Tour season. Then it was University of Illinois alum D.A. Points capturing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Now still another local golfer has come to the forefront.

Luke Donald, who graduated from Northwestern in 1999 and has maintained strong Chicago ties, won the biggest tournament of the season so far on Sunday with a dominating performance at the Accenture Match Play Championship near Tucson, Ariz.

Donald, playing in only his second tournament of the year, whipped Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, 3 and 2 in the final. Kaymer was Donald’s sixth victim in the five-day event. Donald never trailed in any match. He played only 73 holes en route to winning his six matches, none of which went to the 18th hole. Along the way he made 32 birdies.

“It was a long time since I won in the U.S., and to beat the top 63 players in the world was gratifying,” said Donald. “It was an amazing week.”

That is was.

Donald, born in England, won in the U.S. for the first time since taking the 2006 Honda Classic. He’ll be in the field when that event tees off on Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

In 2010 Donald, in addition to playing in the Ryder Cup matches, became a father for the first time, won at Madrid on the European PGA Tour and finished in the top 10 in 14 of his 28 tournaments world-wide. No golfer won more money than Donald in 2010, if his winnings in both the U.S. and Europe are combined.

That busy season led to Donald taking 11 weeks off, his longest break in seven years. His first tournament of this season, the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, ended quickly when he shot 79 in the second round to miss the cut. There was no carryover last week in the first of the four World Golf Championship events, which draw international fields and rank just below the four major tournaments in importance.

Though it was played on a 7,800-yard course, and Donald isn’t one of golf’s longer hitters, he was barely challenged in his matches. The victory lifted him from No. 9 in the world all the up to No. 3.

“ Whether I deserve to be No. 3 in the world, I don’t know,” said Donald. “But certainly in terms of my work ethic and wanting it, then I do deserve it. I’ve been very diligent about working on my short game. There’s room for improvement with my game off the tee and some of my iron play, if you look at my statistics, but I make up for it around the greens.”

Donald and his wife Diane, who also attended Northwestern, have a residence in Orlando but still consider Chicago their home. Their daughter Elle celebrated her first birthday while Luke was en route to winning at Tucson and Pat Goss, his head coach at NU, has remained Donald’s swing coach since he turned pro in 2001.

Prior to Sunday Donald’s most prominent move into U.S. tournament contention came at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah. He was paired with eventual winner Tiger Woods in the final group on Sunday but shot 74 and finished tied for third.

“It was interesting to see how (Woods) worked his way around the golf course. He was always in control of his game and didn’t push things,” said Donald. “He made other people make mistakes. That’s what I learned watching Tiger. You don’t have to do anything too spectacular. You just have to do things pretty well.”

Western Amateur: Cantlay Upset In Final

GLENVIEW, IL. — Patrick Cantlay was the world’s top-ranked amateur golfer entering Saturday’s championship match of the 109th Western Amateur at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. The UCLA sophomore was low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open and a top -25 finisher in three PGA Tour events.

Not only that, but Cantlay had eliminated Chris Williams — the lowest-scoring medalist in Western Am history with a 16-under-par performance in the stroke play qualifying — and U.S. Amateur titlist Peter Uihlein in match play en route to reaching Saturday’s final. The best his opponent, Ethan Tracy, had done in a tournament this summer was an eighth-place finish in the Ohio Amateur.

Cantlay should have breezed to the title, right? Wrong!!!

Tracy, a senior at Arkansas, took the lead for good at the 13th hole and protected it the rest of the way for a 1-up victory. That put him in the company of Chick Evans, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Curtis Strange, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as winners of the prestigious tournament.

Cantlay’s well-earned reputation didn’t scare off Tracy, a qualifier for the Western’s Sweet 16 match play participants in 2010 prior to his breakthrough win.

“He was just another player to me,” said Tracy. “I knew if I played my own game I’d be OK. I’d played well all week, and I played well in the final match.”

Tracy’s 15-foot birdie putt won the 13th hole. He never trailed again, but extra holes seemed likely after Tracy’s tee shot at the 18th sailed far left, leaving him a second shot with a tree five feet in front of him and in direct line to the pin.

“I wasn’t very happy, but I played the smart shot out to the fairway,” said Tracy. “I was lucky to have a chance to win.”

Tracy’s chip-out left him with a third shot short of Cantlay’s drive in the fairway. Tracy put his third 10 feet from the pin, then watched as Cantlay”s birdie putt from 15 feet lipped out. Tracy had a par-saver to win. Otherwise the nip-and-tuck match would go into sudden death. A gallery of about 400 walked with the players throughout the match and the gallery grew to watch the drama on the 18th green.

“I tried for a good roll and started it right on line,” said Tracy, whose father acted as his caddie throughout the five-day tournament. “I made it a good read and a good stroke.”

The putt dropped, leaving Cantlay frustrated with his own play.

“The greens were slow, and I didn’t make any putts,” he said. “I played awful in stroke play and barely squeaked in to match play. I never had a stretch where I felt comfortable with my putter, but you can’t win all the time in golf. It was a good week, all in all.”

JDC Preview: Stage Is Set For Stricker Three-Peat

Rarely does a golfer have a chance to make history — really significant history — in a specific tournament. Steve Stricker has that opportunity when the John Deere Classic comes to TPC at John Deere Run in Silvis.

Stricker won the JDC in 2009 and 2010. Only 20 players in the history of the PGA Tour have won an event three straight years, the last being Tiger Woods who took the Bridgestone Invitational in 2005-07. Stricker’s chance for a three-peat comes July 7-10, but he’ll be the most closely-watched player in a strong field as soon as the players start gathering at TPC at John Deere Run for practice rounds on the Fourth of July.

The world’s No. 4-ranked player at the time of this printing, Stricker has had his great moments before. Most interesting is that he was the PGA Tour’s comeback player-of-the-year twice — and in successive years to boot. His has been a unique career since coming out of the University of Illinois.

After leading the Illini to the 1988 Big Ten title Stricker has virtually had two pro careers. He won big early on, then went into a deep slump before coming back to become one of the game’s top stars in his 40s.

“It’s been a great 5 1/2-year ride, this turn-around,” he admitted. “I keep pinching myself at times.”

In addition to his successes in the Quad Cities, Stricker’s 10 PGA Tour victories include the 1996 Western Open at Cog Hill and this year’s Memorial tourney.

Win or lose, Stricker is one of golf’s class acts. he showed that again after winning the Memorial. He didn’t get back to Madison until about 1 a.m. the Sunday of his triumph and was due for media duties at TPC at John Deere Run at 10 a.m. the following morning. Stricker, with a daughter keeping him company, made the three-hour drive in plenty of time and then discussed his golfing life in full.

He hasn’t won a major championship yet — he barely made the cut at the U.S. Open at Congressional — so a three-peat in the JDC would be his crowning achievement so far.

“It’s going to be fun,” Stricker said at the tourney’s media day in June. “I enjoy the course. It has the same bentgrass I grew up on. Once you have success, you get good vibes when you come back. I have good feelings going around this course. I’d very much like to win it three times.”

And, it could happen. Stricker knows, though, that it won’t be easy.

“It’s difficult to two-peat, much less put three together,” he said. “The expectation level is high when you win and then come back. When your shots don’t fall into place you might lose a bit of confidence, and then you have more demands on your time when you come back. People look at you more, but there’s a ton of other good players. A lot of things have to fall in place.”

Last year’s win was an epic. The 2010 JDC was a tourney like no other on the PGA Tour — and that’s saying a lot.

In the first round Paul Goydos posted a 59, only the fourth player to break 60 in an official event. But Stricker nearly matched him with a 60 later in the day. Imagine two scores of that magnitude on the same day, on the same course!

“It was cool, the whole thing that transpired last year,” said Stricker. “It had to feel weird for (Goydos) — to shoot 59 and just lead by one. (His own 60) made me feel like I was right back in it. I would think it was harder for him to swallow than it was for me.”

Goydos didn’t fold. He was Stricker’s main challenger at the end, but Stricker’s numbers were way too good. Over the first 54 holes he made birdies on 27. His 25-under-par status was a PGA Tour record for three rounds and his 26-under 258 for the full 72 holes was a tournament record by four strokes. In his last eight rounds at TPC at John Deere Run, encompassing his two victories, Stricker is 46 under par.

There’s much more to worth knowing about Steve Stricker, though, than just those spectacular numbers. They did, however, help him become the top-ranked American golfer and a solid threat to eventually become No. 1 if Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer falter. Stricker isn’t focusing on the rankings, though.

“I was No. 2 for awhile,” he said. “Me being the highest-ranked American makes me want to text Tiger and ask him, What happened?’ But I don’t have the courage to do that yet.”

Stricker was only joking about chiding Woods. They’re friends, but Woods’ recent struggles have helped Stricker and plenty of other players enhance their profiles.

“You call me under-appreciated?” grinned Stricker, when asked about the impact Woods’ much-discussed problems have had on golf in general. “Tiger and Phil (Mickelson) are still the biggest draws in golf. You can’t take that away from them. They provide a lot of excitement, and I still tune into golf to see how Tiger and Phil are playing. It was good when Tiger was winning because people wanted to see that, but (Woods’ troubles) have given other guys confidence. Now they know that anybody could win.”

In those days when Woods was winning big Stricker was struggling. He had to do some soul-searching, and lots of hard work, before his game returned. What’s most unusual is that he did the bulk of the work in Madison, Wis., beating balls in the winter at a heated driving range instead of seeking the warmth of Florida or other warm-weather climates. Stricker grew up in Edgerton, Wis., which is near Madison, and his wife and former caddie Nikki is from Madison. Her father, Dennis Tiziani, was the golf coach at the University of Wisconsin when Stricker was playing for Illinois.

`Before we had kids we tried (the warm-weather areas), but after the kids we decided it’d be better to come home with family and friends,” said Stricker. “Plus, being (in Wisconsin) gets me just far enough away from the game when I need that.”

He doesn’t feel the changing Midwest climate has hurt his golf career.

“I had played with kids from the South who aren’t around anymore,” said Stricker, “and I have the feeling they just had enough of it. There’s only so much one can do with anything, be it a job or a sport. Living in the Midwest might not be for everybody, but we’ve (Luke Donald, Mark Wilson, D.A. Points, Jerry Kelly) showed we can handle that.”

Stricker’s goal isn’t to become the world’s No. 1 golfer. He “just” wants to win a major title. He even said after his second JDC win that he didn’t want to be No. 1 because of the added attention he’d receive.

“I don’t want that. To win a major is at the top of my list, and my number of opportunities seems to be dwindling with my age,” he said. “But (winning a major and dealing with the added attention) would be a good tradeoff.”

First order of business, though, is to get his three-peat at the JDC, which will carry a $4.5 million prize fund and one of its strongest fields ever this year. Eight PGA Tour winners from 2011 will try to halt Stricker’s streak — Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson, Jhonny Vegas, Points, Johnson Wagner, Michael Bradley, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley. So will Jason Day, the runner-up in the Masters.

Winners of the last two British Opens — Louis Oosthuizen and Stewart Cink — are entered along with two former British champs in Todd Hamilton and John Daly. The past JDC winners competing again include Kenny Perry (2008), John Senden (2006), Mark Hensby (2004) and J.P. Hayes (2002).

Oh, yes, Goydos will be back, too. Wouldn’t it be something to see a repeat of the Stricker-Goydos shootout of a year ago?