Len Ziehm On Golf

Great golf and beer — this area of Michigan is a mecca for both

A bridge is needed to get golfers over the Orchestra Pit on the striking 17th hole at Ravines.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – This is hardly breaking news. Michigan has been a golfing hotspot for, well – almost forever.

Michigan has over 850 public courses, more than any other state in the nation, and golf generates more than $4 billion to the state’s economy. You can pick virtually any section of Michigan for a visit and be assured the golf will be more than just fine.

That’s what happened when we ventured to Grand Rapids which – for us – was an untested section of the state. We found, to no one’s surprise, that the golf was great – four excellent courses in four days and more readily available had we opted for a longer stay.

The Grand Rapids area, we soon learned, has another good thing going. This city with a population just under 200,000 has over 80 breweries in the immediate area. It has earned its designation of Beer City, USA.

We were there for the golf, of course, but daily late afternoon visits to different breweries — climaxed by a guided tour of Founders, the biggest one – made this golf destination stand out from any of the others.

Grand Rapids offers much more than just golf and beer. The high-rises in its skyline are proof of that.

An Englishman opened the first brewery in Grand Rapids in 1836, and the Grand Rapids Brewing Company – the oldest of those still in existence – dates back to 1893. The golf courses aren’t nearly so well-seasoned but they have their charm, too.

Best of the ones we played was Pilgrim’s Run, located in the outlying town of Pierson. It has an interesting history. The Chicago-based Van Kampen family bought the course and had family members and friends design the holes. That was a start before Mike DeVries, a well-respected architect from Traverse City, Mich., stepped in.

DeVries attended Lake Forest College in the Chicago area before entering the golf world. He worked with designers Tom Doak and Tom Fazio before tackling Pilgrim’s Run. Then, teaming up with superintendent Kris Schumacker, DeVries routed the course and constructed in the greens. Since its opening as an 18-holer in 1998 Pilgrim’s Run has been one of Michigan’s most popular public courses.

Pilgrim’s Run stands out because of all its special touches.

Most notable from our standpoint was the short par-4 18th – one of the best finishing holes we’ve encountered. A great risk-reward hole with water protecting the green, No. 18 can play anywhere from 221 to 358 yards. It’s a thought-provoking, fun way to finish a round on a course that can play as long as 7,093 yards.

DeVries’ design credits also include The Mines, Greywalls and the Kingsley Club in Michigan and – well-received most recently – Cape Wickham in Australia. The Mines was also on our Grand Rapids itinerary, and there’s a lot to say for that layout as well – though I’m not a big fan of the many blind shots involved in playing it.

Sweeping elevation changes and undulating greens are major characteristics of The Mines and location-wise the course is near the downtown area. That can be a plus since you’ll be close to plenty of lodging, restaurants and – of course – the breweries.

The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe is bordered by a river with an airport also nearby.

The Mines was built about 150 feet above gypsum mines that had been utilized as early as the 1860s and throughout the 1900s. Some features of the mines were incorporated into the construction of the course. The No. 8 hole is located where a natural sand pit was used for the mining operation. Directional signs were also made with wooden timbers from the mining process.

Another unusual feature of The Mines was that it has back-to-back par-3 holes at Nos. 7 and 8. The course is a par-70 with two tough par-5s, the longest being the 607-yard fifth.

This statue honors Arnold Palmer’s design work at the Ravines course.

The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe isn’t bad, either, and clearly the locals like it. The course was a busy place during our visit. This is a Bill Newcomb design that opened in 1997. It’s located along the Thornapple River on Interstate 96 near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Newcomb’s stature in Michigan golf course architecture started earlier than DeVries.’ Newcomb, who attended the University of Michigan, was a nationally-ranked amateur golfer with wins in both the Michigan Amateur and Indiana Open and a competitive appearance in the Masters. Like all the courses we played on our Grand Rapids visit, The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe had great views, interesting holes and striking views.

A quirk in the planned schedule turned out much to our advantage, as we had the opportunity to also visit a course about 30 miles beyond the Grand Rapids boundaries – the Arnold Palmer-designed Ravines in Saugatuck.

Ravines was another good layout, as would be expected. It has only three sets of tees but lots of forced carries. The most eye-catching features are the tall pines that dramatize the longest hole – the 626-yard 14th – and the Orchestra Pit at the par-3 17th. There’s a deep dropoff in front of the green, which accentuates the putting surface as a stage.

Playing those four courses may give you a thirst to try some more of the area layouts, but in Grand Rapids it might be a better idea to check beer drinkers’ hot spots like the The Knickerbocker, for its pinwheel appetizers, or City Built Brewing Company, for both its unique beers and Puerto Rico-inspired food menu, or the Creston Brewery, where its beer flights are served osn vinyl phonograph disc records. The brewerys were not cookie-cutters; all had their own unique atmospheres.

If you’re having trouble picking out a post-round recovery spot you can hop on the Grand Rapids Beer Trolley Tour. It’ll take you to a variety of locations for good dining and sipping. Then again, picking from all those available options might not simplify matters either.

The colorful Grand Rapids beer scene has created a cheerful, fun atmosphere.

Ghim, Lumsden, Meyer have a great opportunity at the U.S. Open

The 118th U.S. Open tees off on Thursday at New York’s Shinnecock Hills course with the usual representation of Chicago players among the 156 starters. This year it’s a little different, however, because two of local hopefuls are amateurs.

For Arlington resident Doug Ghim it’ll be his last event before turning pro. He got into his first U.S. Open the same way he got into his first Masters in April. Both spots were due to his runner-up finish in last fall’s U.S. Amateur and Ghim needed to maintain his amateur status to take advantage of the invite to Shinnecock.

Ghim did well in the Masters. He was only amateur to make the cut, finishing in a tie for 50th place and making three eagles along the way to earn some crystal souvenirs. Once his last putt drops at Shinnecock Hills Ghim will shift his focus to playing for money.

Thanks to his sterling record as an amateur – he won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s best collegiate player in his senior season at Texas – Ghim has already been awarded sponsor’s exemptions to three PGA Tour events – next week’s Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct.; the Quicken Loans Invitational in Potomac, Md., the following week and the John Deere Classic in downstate Silvis next month.

Ryan Lumsden, who just completed his junior season at Northwestern, also will play in the U.S. Open as an amateur. Lumsden, from Scotland, survived the sectional qualifying tournament in Columbus, Ohio, but he has another year of collegiate eligibility remaining.

Dylan Meyer, who concluded his collegiate eligibility at Illinois, qualified for the U.S. Open with a second-place finish in the Springfield, Ohio, sectional. The U.S. Open will be Meyer’s pro debut, and he also has secured sponsor’s invites to play at Harford and Potomac.

Meyer will join his former Illini teammate, Nick Hardy, at Hartford. Hardy didn’t attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, a championship he played twice as an amateur. He made his pro debut at last week’s Rust-Oleum Championship, a Web.com Tour stop at Ivanhoe Club, and earned $3,070 for a tie for 33rd place.

Hardy also has invites to play in Illinois’ other Web.com event – the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek in Springfield – and the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in downstate Silvis., Ill. He also was invite made the cut at TPC Deere Run in 2017 athe Chicago area. Jon Jennings, the Shinnecock course superintendent since 2012, came to New York after serving in a similar position at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton from 2000 to 2012.

Radix Cup on tap

The Radix Cup matches between the stars of the Chicago District Golf Association and the Illinois PGA will be played for the 57th time Wednesday (TODAY) at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.

While the CDGA’s amateur stars won last year’s competition 10-8, that team will have eight Radix Cup rookies in its 12-man lineup this time. The CDGA unit has two veterans, however. Taylorville’s Dave Ryan is making his 15th appearance and Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell his 14th.

The IPGA has a notable Radix veteran as well. Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow has played in the matches 12 times, counting both his time as an amateur and a professional.

There’ll be six better ball matches, the first going off at 12:45 p.m. Though the IPGA owns a commanding 35-19-2 lead in the series the teams are both 4-4 in matches played over the last eight years.

Here and there

The 85th playing of the Illinois Women’s State Amateur concludes on Thursday at Aldeen in Rockford.

Chicago’s qualifying round for the first-ever U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be played on Monday (JUNE 18) at Conway Farms in Lake Forest. Thirty-three players will battle for five berths in the championship proper July 12-15 at Chicago Golf Club.

The 101st Western Golf Association Junior Championship begins its four –day run on Monday at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie. William Mouw of Chino, Calif., is the defending champion. Past titlists include PGA Tour mainstays Ricky Fowler, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan.

The Golf Scene, hosted by Steve Kashul, celebrated its 25th year on Sunday in its first show of this season. It’s the longest-airing golf show in the nation.

Entries are still available for the Blackberry Oaks Amateur, June 23-24 in Bristol.

Finally, a playoff decides the Rust-Oleum title as Wright beats Prugh

Chase Wright collects his trophy after his first Web.com Tour victory.

Scott Cassin has been the tournament director of previous eight Web.com Tour events played at Chicago golf courses, and he never had to experience a sudden death playoff — until Sunday, that is.

Chase Wright, in what might be the last playing of the Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club, rolled in a five-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Alex Prugh to win the $108,000 first prize.

Not only that, but Wright’s 72-hole score of 17-under-par 271 was the lowest winning score posted in the three years the $600,000 tourney was played at Ivanhoe. Max Homa, in 2016, and Stephen Jaeger last year were 13-under in their victories.

Wright notched his first win in four seasons on the PGA Tour’s alternate circuit. It could be a life-changer, as Wright moved from No. 35 to fifth on the Web.com money list. He looms a good bet to finish the season in the circuit’s top 25, and those players advance to the PGA Tour in 2019.

“It’s a great feeling,’’ said Wright, who is from Muncie, Ind., and played college golf at Indiana. “I’m proud that I hung in there. I probably knew this was going to happen all day. I just didn’t want to beat myself.’’

He didn’t do that, and Wright claimed that a two-putt from 80 feet for par on the par-3 17th hole “won me the tournament.’’

Actually it didn’t. Both Wright and Prugh singed the cup with birdie putts on the last hole of regulation play. Both also made pars on the first playoff hole and hit great approaches into the same hole – Ivanhoe’s No. 18 – on the second. Prugh’s stopped 12 feet from the cup, and he missed his birdie putt. Wright then made his five-footer for the win.

Wright’s first win in 83 Web.com starts came in his second playoff of the week. He was also in one for a berth in next week’s U.S. Open in a sectional qualifier at Ridgewood, N.J., last Monday. Wright didn’t win that one and learned later that his status as an alternate won’t be good enough to get into the field when play begins at Shinnecock Hills in New York on Thursday.

No problem there. Wright was happier to get a win that will have a more lasting effect on his career than just one that would get him into one big tournament.

After two decent seasons on the Web.com circuit Wright struggled last season. He had to drop down to the Canada’s McKenzie Tour, but got a win there. That helped him regain his status as a Web.com regular.

Now, thanks to Sunday’s strong finishes, both Wright and Prugh are in great position to advance to the PGA Tour next season. Prugh moved up from 61st to 23rd on the money list.

Whether Wright can defend the title he won Sunday, however, is doubtful. Rust-Oleum’s three-year contract as a tournament sponsor concluded on Sunday and no agreement has been reached on an extension. Contributing to the unlikelihood of the tournament returning is the retirement of Tom Reed on April 30. An Ivanhoe member, Reed was the Rust-Oleum president when the tournament was created.

The Web.com Tour has had a sporadic tenure in Chicago. Kemper Lakes hosted the first event in 2002 and the tourney moved to The Glen Club, in Glenview, the following year. It was contested there through 2008 as either the LaSalle Bank Open or Bank of American Open.

Rust-Oleum’s run featured three days of good weather before Sunday’s conclusion produced a forecast of inclement weather. Play was started at 8 a.m. in threesomes off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees and the lift, clean and place policy was invoked. It had only minimal impact on the local players who made the cut.

Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger dropped six places from the start of play and finished in a tie for 22nd place. That dropped him from 38th to 40th on the all-important money list.

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, playing his first tournament as a professional, tied for 33rd with – among others – fellow University of Illinois alum Scott Langley.

Langley, maintaining his No. 2 ranking on the circuit money list, was sailing along with his best round of the week until his last hole. Then he put two balls in the water and took a triple bogey eight, but still finished ahead of money leader Sungjae Im of South Korea.

Hardy, happy with going all four rounds in his pro debut, will get another Web.com start in two weeks at the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek in Springfield, Ill., thanks to another sponsor’s exemption. Then he’ll utilize two invites to PGA Tour events – the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn., and the John Deere Classic in downstate Silvis, Ill.

Final round weather issues don’t concern Kyle Jones at Ivanhoe

Nothing much went according to form in Saturday’s third round of the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club, and it’ll be much the same on Sunday – at least at the start of the final round.

The probability of inclement weather led tournament organizers to schedule play in threesomes off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. Rounds will start between 8 and 10 a.m. as opposed to the usual starts off No. 1 and the 54-hole leaders beginning their rounds at mid-day.

“It’ll be fine,’’ insisted Kyle Jones, who took over the tournament lead from playing partner Maverick McNealy. “It’ll be nice getting done at a good time.’’

The trophy presentation, as well as the awarding of the $108,000 first place check is planned for 3 p.m., and Jones isn’t the only one with a chance. Jones, at 15-under-par 201 after his 68 on Saturday, is one swing ahead of Christian Bland and two ahead of both Justin Lower and Chase Wright.

If any of those four win on Sunday it’ll be a surprise. Jones, who played collegiately at Baylor, is 67th on the Web.com Tour money list. Brand is 124th, Lower is 50th and Wright 35th. None are near the top 25, the dividing line to determine who secures spots on the PGA Tour in 2019, but a strong finish on Sunday could change that.

Jones was in the final pairing in Round 3 with 36-hole front-runner McNealy, the former collegiate hotshot for Stanford. After shooting 64 in the second round McNealy shot 73 in the third and enters the final round in a tie for ninth.

The names at the top of the leaderboard were also reflective of what happened to the four local hopefuls. None of them improved their position from the second to the third round. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger dropped 12 places, into a tie for 16th. Nick Hardy fell 18 spots , into a tie for 40th. Scott Langley, the former NCAA champion from Illinois who is No. 2 on the Web.com money list, fell 14 places to a tie for 51st and Deerfield’s Vince India dropped 13 places into a tie for 65th.

Still, all four could improve enough to claim a good paycheck on Sunday based on the wild leaderboard changes on Saturdays.

Jones, who doesn’t even have a top-20 on the PGA’s alternate circuit this year, is holding the 54-hole lead for the first time.

“I’m excited, but I’ll try not to think about it too much because it might get into my head,’’ said Jones. He’ll be paired with Brand and Lower in the final threesome off the No. 1 tee. Brand and Lower are frequent practice partners who travel from tournament to tournament together.

“We’re in separate hotels this week, but he’s one of my best friends out here,’’ said Brand. “The secret to finding a good road trip buddy is not wanting to strangle each other, and he’s easy to get along with. We’ll have fun, but he wants to beat me more than anybody else on tour. We have our money games on Tuesdays, and there’s a lot of good trash-talking going on.’’

Saturday’s play did produce some low scores. Ryan Yip, a Canadian who played collegiately at Kent State, was low man with an 8-under-par 64. Brand carded a 65 as did Bill Kennerly, who is tied for fifth with Yip.

“It was a great day,’’ said Brand. “Ivanhoe played great, and the sun came out for us. When I woke up I wasn’t sure that would happen, but the course is in phenomenal shape.’’

Brand had one semi-miraculous shot. He hooked his drive into the trees at No. 10 but hooked a 7-iron second shot from 200 yards to 10 feet of the cup and proceeded to roll in the birdie putt.

Yip had one, too – a holed out bunker shot for birdie at No. 14.

“I had one foot in the bunker and one out, and I was falling backwards,’’ said Yip. “I was just trying to get the ball on the green.’’

Ex-Masters champ Weir fits right in with the young Web.com Tour stars

Former Masters champions don’t usually play in Web.com Tour events like this week’s Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club. Mike Weir, the Canadian left-handed golfer who won the 2003 Masters, made it a point of coming this year, however, and Friday he was glad he did.

“Other than the Canadian Open I probably won’t play in any more PGA Tour events,’’ said Weir. “I would have probably gotten into Memphis (the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic) this week, but I wanted to come here.’’

His first round on Thursday was nothing special, a 1-under-par 71, but Weir climbed the leaderboard in a hurry on Friday after posting a 5-under 67. Weir’s 6-under 138 total left him six strokes behind leader Maverick McNealy midway through the $600,000 championship.

McNealy shot the low round of the tournament so far – a 64 – on Friday. His leading challengers include Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, who is tied for fourth and four shots back after his 66 in the second round. None of the finalists, though, are as intriguing as the veteran Weir, who has played only sparingly – and without much success – the last few years.

“I played a lot better today,’’ said Weir. “Yesterday I just didn’t hit enough fairways. Today I hit every fairway. That was the key to the round.’’

Weir, 47, got into the field at Ivanhoe on a special exemption saved for players nearing their eligibility for PGA Tour Champions – the 50-and-over circuit. The closer to 50 a former major champion is, the more opportunities he’ll have on the PGA’s alternative circuit.

“I’m still a couple years away. I haven’t played a lot of golf in the last couple of years, but I want to stay sharp and I still love to compete,’’ said Weir. “I turn 48 next May. Then I can play a more full schedule on theWeeb.com. That would be the goal if I don’t get my card.’’

Weir, who has won $27 million in PGA Tour events, played in only four tournaments on the premier circuit this year, missing the cut in three and finishing tied for 73rd in the Domincan Republic in March.

That’s a long way from his status in the game just a few years ago. Weir was ranked in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings for 110 weeks between 2001 and 2005. He won eight times during his years on the PGA Tour, the last coming at the 2007 Fry’s Electronics Open, but his play tailed off after he suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow in 2010.

“I had some tough years when I was battling through injuries from 2010 through 2015,’’ said Weir. “That was a difficult time for me, but the last couple of years it’s been pretty easy. I’m enjoying being around these young guys. I’m enjoying my golf a lot more than I ever have.’’

Especially on Friday, when his round included seven birdies.

“Today is progress,’’ said Weir. “That’s a good sign. My mindset is to get out here and compete. I can still find my way around a golf course, and when I’m out here I want to win, so it’s nice to be in the mix here.’’

Weir isn’t the only former major champion in the field at Ivanhoe. Shaun Micheel, who won the PGA Championship in 2003, is just two strokes behind Weir and was well under the cut line of 3-under-par 141 through the first two rounds.

More than anything, though, the Rust-Oleum Championship is a place to help young stars work their way onto the PGA Tour, and Hopfinger improved his case for cracking the top 25 on the Web.com money list. The top 25 at season’s end get PGA Tour cards. Hopfinger was No. 38 at the start of the week but will move up significantly if he continues his second-round play in the weekend rounds.

Hopfinger will have company from three other Chicago players in the final 36 holes. Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, making his professional debut, climbed 57 places into a tie for 22nd after shooting a 67 on Friday.

Scott Langley, another former University of Illinois golfer who is No. 2 on the Web.com Tour’s season money list, and Deerfield’s Vince India, who got into the field as a sponsor’s exemption, also made the cut.

Sainz has best start among Chicago players at Ivanhoe

The 156 starters in Thursday’s $600,000 Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club included six Chicago area players and two more who played collegiately at Illinois. None were a threat to first-round leaders Andrew Novak, of Raleigh, N.C., He claimed the 18-hole lead with a 7-under par 65.

However, four of the locals got off to solid starts. Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr. posted a 3-under-par 69 and Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, Deerfield’s Vince India and Libertyville’s Michael Schachner shot 2-under 70s.

Schachner, an Ivanhoe member, and India got into the field on sponsor exemptions and were late starters.

Sainz, who is tied for 17th place after Round 1, made birdies on four of the first six holes. He and Hopfinger are former Illinois Open champions in contention to earn PGA Tour cards for 2019.

Schachner, an Ivanhoe member and mini-tour player, was the surprise of the day while playing in the last group to tee off. India,, a college teammate of Hopfinger’s at Iowa, is a former Web.com Tour regular who has had trouble getting into tournaments this season. That trio is tied for 39th place.

Hopfinger, standing No. 38 on the Web.com Tour money list, has the best chance to advance to the main circuit at the moment. The top 25 at the end of the season advance. Sainz is down at No. 91, but coming into the portion of the season where he historically has played his best.

“I’m looking forward to the summer,’’ said Sainz. “We’re in the middle of our season now and have next week off. Then we have 11 tournaments in a row. I don’t know if I’ll play all 11, but you never know. I played 14 in a row in 2014.’’

Hopfinger was just one stroke ahead of Sainz in the fall qualifying school. Hopfinger earned full Web.com Tour privileges. Sainz had to play well in the early season chances he got. He was first alternate in the season opener before getting a chance to play.

“I was one shot out of full,’’ said Sainz, “but I got into two of the first four events based on how I finished at Q-School. Some players who tied me (in Q=School) didn’t get into anything. Then I had a top 10 (actually a tie for eighth in Colombia) and that pretty much gave me (playing) status for the rest of the year.’’

Sainz spent one unsuccessful season on the PGA Tour but could be on his way back now that he will get starts on the top alternative circuit.

“I’m happy to be on this tour again,’’ he said. “I’ve started to play some good golf. Though my scores aren’t always reflecting it, we’re on the right track.’’

Hopfinger is playing his fifth tournament in a row and had his second top-10 of the year two weeks ago at Nashville. He’s not sure how much more money he’ll need to win to make it to the PGA Tour for the first time.

“The goal is to finish in the top 25,’’ he said. “You just try to play good golf every day. That’s all you can do. You can’t think about how much you have to make.’’

As for the other locals, things didn’t go so well. Northbrook’s Nick Hardy posted a so-so 72 in his first professional round after completing his outstanding collegiate career at Illinois. A five-foot birdie putt on the final hole lifted Hardy’s spirits for Friday’s second round, when he is in the last group off the tee at 2:15 p.m.

“I didn’t have my best stuff,’’ Hardy said of Round 1. “I’m just happy to get the first round out of the way.’’

This Illinois PGA pro is also in graduate school at Northwestern

A golf professional’s job is never an easy one. Some inevitably wind up working harder than others, however.

And then there’s Tony Semonick.

Semonick, 28, has worked on head professional Jim Sobb’s staff at Ivanhoe Club since his graduation from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., in 2012. His work days aren’t like any other assistant pros, however. He’s also a college student, and not just at any old school. He’s working on his Masters of Business Administration degree at Northwestern University’s well-respected Kellogg School.

“Ivanhoe gets more time. I’m there six days a week,’’ said Semonick, “but I don’t know anyone else doing something like this.’’

Semonick’s undergraduate degree was in Professional Golf Management, and Ferris State has been a collegiate pioneer in offering programs in that area. The school became the first university program sanctioned by the PGA of America in 1975. Semonick is from Livonia, Mich., so Ferris State was a good geographical fit.

Ivnahoe has been a good fit, too. Sobb brought Semonick to Ivanhoe as an intern three months after his graduation from Ferris State and he’s stayed on in an assistant’s role.

Last summer Semonick decided he needed more on the academic side and eventually enrolled at Kellogg School of Management, which is Northwestern’s business school.

“I applied to Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Northwestern,’’ he said, “but Northwestern was my first choice. With its part-time program it made more sense for me to keep working.’’

During the winter months Semonick spends more time on Northwestern’s campuses in Evanston and downtown Chicago, but he doesn’t avoid either after Ivanhoe members start turning out to play golf in the spring. He takes classes on Mondays, the quietest day of the week at Ivanhoe, and Tuesdays.

Monday is Semonick’s usual day off but his Tuesdays can be killers. Semonick checks in at Ivanhoe at 6:45 a.m. and runs the ladies league in the morning. When his duties there are done he returns to his home in Barrington, changes clothes and catches the 3:18 p.m. train to Chicago. It arrives at 4:30 p.m., and Semonick either takes the two-mile walk to the NU campus or grabs a ride through Uber.

Northwestern provides dinner before Semonick’s three hours of classes begin at 6 p.m. When they’re over he catches a 9:30 p.m. train back to Barrington. After a few hours rest he’s back in Ivanhoe’s pro shop for another day tending to golf projects.

“Jim’s been great, and the hours have been pretty flexible,’’ said Semonick, who needs to obtain 20 ½ credits to get his MBA with a major in finance and strategy. He’s on track to complete his requirements in August of 2019.

After that Semonick isn’t sure what he’ll do. He doesn’t expect to stay in golf, though.

“Probably not,’’ he said. “At first I thought I’d stay in golf, but then I started seeing other opportunities. There are greater opportunities elsewhere.’’

He won’t rule returning to golf, but “in a corporate role,’’ he said. He could envision himself as a financial analyst for one of the equipment or management companies.

TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: More from the Missouri Ozarks; Changes on Indiana’s Dye Trail

Old Kinderhook’s ninth hole offers a full-length view from the facility’s lodge.

The Ozarks is an unusual region of the country. Broadly defined, this beautiful area encompasses parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Golf-wise its central point is Missouri’s Branson area and Johnny Morris’ array of exciting projects there. Top of the Rock and Mountain Top are Morris courses completed in recent years. Ozarks National, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design, is set to open on Sept. 1 and Tiger Woods’ Payne’s Valley is targeted for 2019. That’s going to become America’s greatest golf destination eventually.

There’s another part of the Ozarks – a segment that still in Missouri – that shouldn’t be missed either, however.

A 100-mile drive north of Branson is the long-respected Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail, an area with a conglomeration of 13 courses that are plenty good, too.

Heading that list is Old Kinderhook, a Tom Weiskopf design in Camdenton. You can be assured the ideal combination of good golf and good lodging when you visit this place. This year the 700-acre facility has a new professional in Shane Blankenship. Formerly at Sullivan Country Club in the central part of Missouri, Blankenship is well decorated as both a teacher and player and is directing the Old Kinderhook golf school while Jason Woods is the head professional at Old Kinderhook.

With its attractive elevation changes, the Old Kinderhook course is a tester, and its conditioning was excellent on our visit. The Lodge at Old Kinderhook has on-site restaurants, marina, spa, swimming pools, fitness center and even a volleyball facility. In short, other activities are available besides just golf at that location.

Golf isn’t the only nice viewing at Old Kinderhook. Volleyball works, too.

Stay & Play packages include other facilities as well. Osage National, in Lake Ozark, is an Arnold Palmer design and his original renderings of all 18 holes are on display in the recently updated Eagle Bar and Grill.

Blankenship isn’t the only new pro on this trail. Jamie Martin moved to Bear Creek Valley in Osage Beach.

Troon Golf has taken over the management at The Lodge of the Four Seasons’s Ridge and Cover courses in Lake Ozark. The Tan-Tar-A Resort is in the process of transitioning to a Margaritaville Resort property, with the grand opening scheduled for 2019.

The Pete Dye Golf Course at French Lick remains the highlight of Indiana’s re-launched Dye Trail.

CHANGES ON PETE DYE TRAIL: Indiana’s collection of Pete Dye-designed courses has been re-launched, with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development taking over the managing and marketing.

The Trail has one new addition, the Ackerman-Allen Course on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette. Plum Creek, one of the original members located in Carmel, is under new management and — while still open for play — is no longer part of the Dye Trail.

Ackerman-Allen is part of the Birck-Boilermaker Golf Complex that is the home for Purdue’s teams. One course at the Complex, the links-style Kampen, was included in the original Dye Trail.

The other, known as the South Course and later Ackerman Hills, was designed by the Bill Diddel. He was a prolific Indiana-based architect who had 160 courses on his resume, including 52 in his home state. Diddel, who died in 1985 at age 100, was as much of a Hoosier legend as Dye — but not just for his architectural efforts. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and also won the Indiana Amateur golf title five times.

Diddel’s design earned a significant place in golf history in 1961 when Jack Nicklaus won his only NCAA individual title there. Purdue was also the NCAA team champion that year, creating a moment of athletic glory for the host school. While there was some reluctance to tearing down a course with so much history, the replacement quickly won over the players.

Backed financially by Sam Allen, a former Purdue golfer who became the chief executive officer of John Deere Company, the Dye renovation was named the Ackerman-Allen Course.

“The old course was pretty nice,’’ said Dan Ross, the head professional, “but not to the level that things are now. There are five sets of tees instead of three, so more people can enjoy it. It’s such an enjoyable, fun layout. Pete did a phenomenal job.’’

Dye changed all the green complexes and much of the routing while switching the course from bluegrass to bentgrass. He also built two new holes, a par-4 and par-5 at Nos. 15 and 16. The new course opened in the summer of 2016 and both courses were used for last year’s Indiana Open.

Could there possibly any more stunning views than those offered at French Lick Resort’s Dye Course?

NEW LEADER AT BAY HILL: Don Emery is now the president and general manager at Arnold Palmer’s By Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

Emery had been at California’s famed Riviera Country Country Club the previous six years as general manager. Before that he was GM at Interlachen in Winter Park, Fla.

During his stint at Riviera that club hosted top-flight events in both golf and tennis. It was the site of the 2017 U.S. Amateur and the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust and Genesis Open in golf as well as the annual International Tennis Association Women ‘s All-American Championship.

MORE HONORS FOR NEMACOLIN: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in Farmington, Pa., continues to dominate Golfweek Magazine’s Best Courses You Can Play list.

Nemacolin’s Mystic Rock layout was named Pennsylvania’s best public course the last four years and it’s also No. 45 in the publication’s Best Resort Courses in the U.S.
Shepherd’s Rock, like Mystic a Pete Dye design, opened last July and made its debut on the rankings list at No. 5 among the Best Courses You Can Play in Pennsylvania.

TAGMARSHALL AT PINEHURST: Tagmarshall, a sophisticated pace of play system, is now operational at North Carolina’s Pinehurst Resort. It’s a course intelligence system that uses small tags attached to golf bags or installed on carts to transmit location data. Its supporters contend that Tagmarshall turns pace of play into an asset with reductions of 15 to 17 minutes per round reported at some courses.

Other facilities using Tagmarshall include the Ocean Course at Kiawah in South Carolina, Whistling Straits and Erin Hills in Wisconsin, East Lake in Atlanta and Valhalla in Louisville.

Pinehurst Resort is always at the cutting edge in providing for its golfers.

Langley heads big local contingent in Web.com tourney at Ivanhoe

The future of the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship may be in doubt, but one thing is certain. The $600,000 event, teeing off at Ivanhoe Club on Thursday, has the loyalty of the best local players.

This year’s event marks the professional debut of Northbrook’s Nick Hardy and tourney director Scott Cassin also awarded sponsor exemptions to Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly, Deerfield’s Vince India, Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Libertyville’s Michael Schachner.

Hardy won’t be alone among the University of Illinois alums in the field. Scott Langley, the NCAA individual champion for the Illini in 2011, is challenging Korean Sungjae Im for the Web.com money lead, and Langley is hot. He finished tied for second behind winner Joey Garber in last week’s Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C., and another former Illini, Brian Campbell, tied for fourth.

Im, Garber and Campbell are also in the Rust-Oleum field as players continue their battle to finish in the Top 25 on the season money list, which means promotion to the PGA Tour in 2019.

Also a factor in the Top 25 drama is Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, a former champion of both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. Hopfinger stands No. 38 on the money list and a good finish at Ivanhoe would propel him into Top 25 range.

“What makes this tournament so compelling is the high level of competition due to the stakes being so high,’’ said Cassin. “And there’s no doubt that many of the players in the field will be competing next year on the PGA Tour.’’

Some already have. The rest of the field includes Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour; former Masters champion Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel, a past winner of the PGA Championship. The Web.com Tour isn’t just for the kids, however. Seasoned veterans Stuart Appleby, Erik Compton, Brendon deJonge, Jason Gore and Dicky Pride will also compete at Ivanhoe.

Monday’s two qualifying sessions, at Stonewall Orchard in Gurnee and White Deer Run in Vernon Hills, didn’t bring out the best in local talent, however. None were included among the six qualifiers for the tourney proper from each site. Highlighting the qualifying sessions was an 8-under-par 64 by Bo Andrews, a Raleigh resident, at Stonewall.

Also surviving among the 163 entrants in the general qualifiers was Dan Woltman of Beaver Dam, Wis. Woltman also made the field through general qualifying in 2016 – the tourney’s first playing at Ivanhoe – and shared the lead through 54 holes before finishing fourth.

This week’s 72-hole test, which concludes on Sunday, ends Rust-Oleum’s three-year contract to host the event at Ivanhoe.

Lumsden, Meyer reach U.S. Open

College stars Ryan Lumsden of Northwestern and Dylan Meyer of Illinois were among those surviving Monday’s sectional qualifying rounds for next week’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in New York.

Lumsden made birdie on the last hole of the Columbus sectional to get his berth at Shinnecock. Meyer finished second in the Springfield, Ohio, sectional.

The Open started with 8,537 entrants, and 156 will tee off at Shinnecock. Meyer will be joined by Illini alum and PGA Tour Champions star Steve Stricker, who tied for second in the Memphis sectional. Lumsden is the ninth Northwestern golfer in the last 20 years to qualify for the U.S. Open and the fourth to do it while still an amateur.

Wheaton’s PGA Tour mainstay Kevin Streelman opened with a 66 in the first round of the 36-hole competition at Columbus but had his Open hopes dashed with a 73 in the afternoon. He finished one shot behind Lumsden.

KPMG countdown begins

The biggest tournament of this Chicago golf season, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, will follow the Rust-Oleum Championship with its June 26 to July 1 run at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer. It’s the third of the five annual major championships on the LPGA Tour.

Canadian Brooke Henderson, who won the KPMG event in 2016 and was runner-up to Danielle Kang last year at Olympia Fields, was a late withdrawal from last week’s U.S. Women’s Open in Alabama. No reason for the WD was provided at the time but Henderson has since revealed that her grandfather, 81-year old Bob Moir, had passed away after a brief battle with caner.

Here and there

Roy Biancalana, a former Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open champion who played briefly on the PGA Tour, recently returned to the Chicago golf scene and proved he can still compete. Now living in St. Charles, Biancalana qualified for the U.S. Senior Open by shooting a 3-under-par 69 in the Chicago qualifying round at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

The 57th Radix Cup matches between the top players in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Association will be staged next Wednesday, June 13, at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.

First of the season’s Western Golf Assocation tournaments is the 101st Western Junior. It tees off on June 18 at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie with Californian William Mouw attempting to become the first repeat winner of the nation’s oldest national junior championship since Ben Downing in 1940-41. Mouw won last year at Park Ridge Country Club.

Here’s what to expect at this year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, coming to Kemper Lakes in Kildeer from June 26 to July 1, is the biggest golf tournament coming to the Chicago area this season and it figures to be the biggest for many years to come.

Formerly called the LPGA Championship, this tournament is – with the U.S. Women’s Open – the top event on the premier women’s tour. It’s big, no doubt about it.

The men have a PGA Tour Champions major, the Constellation Senior Players Championship, coming to Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park in July at the same time the U.S. Golf Association brings its first U.S. Senior Women’s Open to Chicago Golf Club. Neither carries the historical significance that the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship does.

And, sad to say, neither the PGA of America, the U.S. Golf Association, the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions or the LPGA have any of their major tournaments scheduled in Chicago in future years. Such big events are generally scheduled many years in advance so it’s appropriate to savor this one coming to Kemper Lakes this month.

There’s some interesting symmetry involved in the connection of this tournament with this club. In 1989, when Kemper Lakes was just 10 years old, the club landed the men’s PGA Championship – the most prestigious event Kemper has ever held. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will come close.

Kemper was a young, public venue in 1989. Now, 29 years later, Kemper has landed another long-prestigious championship in similar circumstances. Kemper doesn’t have much of a track record in women’s golf. The club, now private, has never hosted a women’s professional tournament. The only thing remotely close on the women’s front was the 1992 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

So, a primer is in order. Here’s what you need to know to fully appreciate this upcoming KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

For starters, the KPMG event is the second-longest running tournament in women’s golf, having been founded in 1955. The U.S. Women’s Open is the only older one, having been first played in 1946. To put both in perspective, the LPGA Tour itself played its first season in 1950.

Three tournaments in the LPGA’s inaugural season were played in the Chicago area. The Chicago Weathervane Open, a 36-hole tournament, was played in May at Skycrest Country Club (now Twin Orchard in Long Grove). Louise Suggs won the $750 first prize. In July of that year there were two events at Tam O’Shanter in Niles. Babe Zaharias won both the All-American Open and World Championship, events staged by innovative golf promoter George S. May.

The U.S. Women’s Open made its debut in 1946, with Chicago-based Patty Berg the champion. The LPGA Championship was first played nine years later, when Beverly Hanson took home a $1,200 first prize from a $6,000 purse at Orchard Ridge in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Neither the U.S. Women’s Open nor LPGA Championship have stopped much in Chicago, making this month’s tournament a rare treat. The Open came to LaGrange Country Club in 1974 and 1981, with Sandra Haynie and Pat Bradley the champions. It didn’t return until 2000 when Australian Karrie Webb was the winner at the Merit Club, in Libertyville.

The LPGA Championship wasn’t played in these parts until last year, when Olympia Fields was the site of Danielle Kang’s first professional victory. In an unusual bit of scheduling the tourney was scheduled in the Chicago area two years in a row, Kemper landing this year’s event. The tourney goes to Hazeltine, in Minnesota, in 2019 and Aronomink, in Pennsylvania, in 2020.

Under LPGA management the tourney bounced around the country with only one major controversy. That came in 2005 when the organization’s professionals-only policy was altered so that 15-year old Michelle Wie could compete, a move designed to spur attendance and media attention. Many of the professionals objected, though Wie proved she could compete by finishing the runner-up to Annika Sorenstam.

Wie turned pro in October of that year and the professionals-only policy was restored for the 2006 LPGA Championship. Wie will also be in the field at Kemper Lakes and – unlike most every other player in the field – has tournament experience on the course. When she was just 11 Wie competed in the 2001 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Kemper.

A longer-lasting change impacted the tourney in 2015, when management was shifted from the LPGA Tour to the PGA of America and KPMG was included in the title. The sponsorship and management change has bolstered the tournament, and a record purse of $3,650,000 will be on the line at Kemper Lakes. The champion will receive $547,000, up from the $525,000 that Kang picked up for winning at Olympia.

It’s been a long time between Kemper Lakes’ hosting of the men’s and women’s PGA Championships but one tournament official was involved with both.

Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America,
worked on the tournament for Northbrook-based KemperSports in 1988 and 1989 after spending four years with the LPGA. His role in golf got much bigger after that, when he joined the PGA of America.

“I know how wonderful the women PGA players are. They’re incredible,’’ said Haigh following a two-day planning session at Kemper Lakes seven weeks before the tournament proper. “Their overall fitness and dedication are comparable to the men’s tour.’’

He feels Kemper will be comparable to the much older Olympia Fields as a venue for the tournament.

“Olympia Fields was outstanding,’’ said Haigh “There are more trees there, and it was a wonderful test of golf. Kemper Lakes has a lot more water. It comes into play on six or seven holes. It’s a more modern course and, in its own way, could be more difficult and challenging than Olympia Fields.’’

Haigh remembers Kemper Lakes from 29 years ago, when the top men battled for the PGA Championship there and the late Payne Stewart emerged the champion.

“It’s matured beautifully,’’ he said. “The bunkers are significantly more in play now, and they’re more penal. It’s a really good test and the greens can make it really difficult.’’