Streelman wants to be a factor at another PGA Championship

Last year’s PGA Championship at Kiawah, in South Carolina, will be remembered historically for Phil Mickelson becoming, at 50, the oldest winner of a major championship.

It’ll be memorable for Kevin Streelman, as well.  Chicago’s most prominent PGA Tour member finished in a nine-way tie for eighth place, his first top-10 finish in 26 appearances in golf’s majors.  Streelman finished five strokes behind Mickelson and matched the score of – among others — reigning Masters champion and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa.

Times have changed a lot since then.  Streelman is entered again in this week’s PGA Championship, at Southern Hills in Oklahoma, but Mickelson isn’t.  Embroiled in a controversy over his role in the creation of a Saudi-financed tour, Mickelson declined to make a title defense.

And Streelman, while the only Chicago-connected player among the 156 starters who will tee off on Thursday, has hardly been playing like a potential contender.

In his last three starts the Wheaton product has two missed cuts with a tie for 67th in the Mexico Open in between.  He didn’t play in last week’s Byron Nelson tournament in Texas.

A qualifier for the FedEx Cup Playoffs the last 14 years, Streelman has been dropping fast in the rankings this year.  Last year he finished at No. 64.  Now he’s No. 114 and the top 125 qualify for the three-tournament climax to the season in August. In the Official World Golf Rankings Streelman was 77th at the start of 2022; now he’s 113th.

At 43 Streelman’s best golf days may be behind him.  His two wins on the PGA Tour came in 2013 (in Tampa, FL) and 2014 (Hartford).

Still, another good PGA Championship showing could turn this season around. In 14 years on the tour Streelman qualified for the PGA Championship seven times, missing the cut in four of them before his strong finish at Kiawah. He also came off four straight missed cuts to notch his most memorable victory eight years ago at the Travelers Championship when birdied the last seven holes to win.

HERE AND THERE: Chris Nieto, the new head professional at Exmoor in Highland Park, defeated Brian Carroll, of Royal Hawk in St. Charles, in the title march of the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship at Elgin Country Club. It was the first of the section’s four major events of 2022.

Carbondale’s Britt Pavelonis and Crystal Lake’s Mike Karney shot 2-under-par at Biltmore in North Barrington to earn berths in the U.S. Senior Open June 23-26 at Saucon Valley, in Pennsylvania.

Bryan Cox, who had been general manager and head professional at Piper Glen, in Springfield, is now the general manager of golf operations at the Arlington Heights Park District.

Bryce Emory, the 2020 Illinois Open champion from Aurora, and Jaime Lopez Rivarola, of Jacksonville, FL., led the fields Monday in Chicago’s U.S. Open local qualifiers at Cantigny, in Wheaton, and Lake Shore, in Glencoe, respectively. The survivors will compete in sectional play for spots in the Open proper June 13-19 at Brookline, in Massachusetts.

The Big Ten champion University of Illinois men’s team concludes its bid to reach the NCAA finals at today’s regional at Yale’s course in Connecticut. Also concluding their bids in three-day regionals are Notre Dame, at PGA National in Florida; and Northwestern and Southern Illinois, at Ohio State Golf Club.

The first championship event of the Chicago District Golf Association’s 109th season – the CDGA Mid-Amateur – also concludes today at Naperville Country Club.






Illini men take three-tourney winning streak into NCAA regional

The University of Illinois men’s team earned its 15th straight appearance in NCAA regional play, which starts on Monday.  That was no surprise after the Illini won their seventh straight Big Ten title and 12th in the last 13 years last week, extending a run of three straight tournament titles.

Now things get more difficult.  Coach Mike Small’s team was assigned the No. 4 seed the Yale Regional in New Haven, Ct.  It begins a 54-hole run Monday and the top five teams go to the NCAA finals  at May 27-June 1 at Grayhawk, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“As a program you always want to build momentum at the right time of the year,’’ said Small.  “We’ve gotten better every month, and we were pretty solid in the last three tournaments.’’

Regardless of how the Illini perform in NCAA play, they figure to remain a collegiate power for at least another season.  Small’s top two players, seniors Adrien DuMont de Chaussart and Tommy Kuhl,  have decided to use a fifth season of eligibility – an opportunity afforded by pandemic issues.

This year Small had an inexperienced team.  Next year that won’t be the case, and the Illini hope to build on their streaks – Big Ten championships, NCAA regionals and NCAA Championships after their run in their year’s NCAA tourney.

If the Illini survive the regional in Connecticut they’ll make their 14th straight appearance in the NCAA finals.  With their present 13 the Illini have the second longest streak in the finals, one behind Texas’ 14.

“These streaks mean a lot to everybody,’’ said Small.  “They show good longevity, but there’s a little added pressure.  Each team has to play for its own identity, not for the teams from the past.  But I know they’re excited about the NCAA.’’

U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN:  Naperville’s Lisa Copeland, who finished third in the Girls 12-13 age group at April’s Drive Chip & Putt national finals at Georgia’s Augusta National, was in the spotlight again at Monday’s 36-hole qualifying round for the U.S. Women’s Open at Stonebridge, in Aurora.

Lisa was in a 4-way tie for second after shoot 71 in the morning round of the 36-hole elimination. Only one berth in the U.S. Women’s Open was on the line, however, and  Mexico’s Lisa Gutierrez, who played collegiately at the University of New Mexico and is now on the LPGA’s Epsom (formerly Symetra) Tour, got it with  a 70-72 performance on the 6,309-yard par-72 layout that hosted last year’s Illinois Open.

Lisa was a two-time qualifier out of the Medinah Regional for the Drive Chip & Putt national finals. She plays out of Cog Hill, in Palos Park,  and is coached by that club’s Kevin Weeks.

HERE AND THERE: After not being held for two years the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities outing will be staged for the 51st time on July 14 at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove. Twin Orchard, gearing up for its centennial celebration in 2024, will begin a renovation of its White Course in August with architect Drew Rogers supervising the project that also includes the addition of four pickleball courts.

Jason Hyatt, head coach at College of DuPage and a member of the teaching staff at Cantigny, in Winfield, has been named to the NCAA Men’s Coaching Association Hall of Fame.  In his 19th season as COD’s coach, Hyatt won the NCAA title and was part of national championship teams in 1997 and 1998 as a player there. His current team goes after its 10th regional title beginning on Sunday at Prairieview, in Dixon.

A local qualifier for the U.S Senior Open will be held today at Biltmore, in North Barrington, and a U.S. Open local elimination is on top for Monday at Lake Shore, in Glencoe.

Judson University will hold a golf outing to benefit its World Leaders Forum on June 13 at Bull Valley, in Woodstock.


John Deere Classic gives Flavin the royal treatment


The awarding of sponsor’s exemptions isn’t a big deal at a PGA Tour event.  Tournament directors usually announce the lucky four or so winners in the early days of tournament week.

That’s not the case with this year’s John Deere Classic, however.  Highwood’s Patrick Flavin received the good news nearly two months  before the JDC, which tees off on June 30 at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

Not only did JDC executive director Clair Peterson declare Flavin the first special exemption for this year’s tourney, he also invited him to the event’s May 13 media preview event where he will share the spotlight with defending champion Lucas Glover. Rarely are non-PGA Tour members accorded that honor.

“I’m pumped.  This is a dream come true,’’ said Flavin, who starred for his college team at Miami of Ohio but got his first major notoriety by winning both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year (2017). Only David Ogrin, a PGA journeyman, had accomplished that feat, back in 1980.

“Patrick’s performance in Monday qualifiers this season in addition to his strong college career and Midwestern roots compelled us to invite him,’’ said Peterson.

Flavin’s showing in the 18-hole Monday rounds, in which about 100 players compete for four berths in the tournament proper, particularly caught Peterson’s attention. Flavin sees them as his path to the PGA Tour, and so far so good.

Flavin survived the Monday qualifier for the Bermuda Open and tied for 17th in the tournament.  He survived the Monday qualifier for the Puerto Rico Open and tied for 22nd.

In addition to those successes he narrowly lost spots in Monday playoffs at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Valspar Championship and was one shot out of a playoff for a berth in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Though Flavin survived on Monday at last week’s Mexico Open he missed the cut and didn’t cash in for prize money or the all-important FedEx Cup points.

“I need enough points to get into the last three Korn Ferry (Tour) events of the year,’’ said Flavin.  “That’s my goal.  That’s the carrot I’m chasing.’’

If he gets into the Korn Ferry Finals and finishes in the top 25 he’ll get his PGA Tour card.  It’s not an impossible feat.  Patrick Reed tried the Monday qualifier rout in 2012 and survived six of them. In 2018 he won the Masters.

Sponsor exemptions also can lead to FedEx points, and Flavin earned some when he was invited to the Corales Puntacana tourney in the Dominican Republic and tied for 54th.  Now the only PGA Tour event in his home state has also opened a door for him.

“John Deere’s a game-changer,’’ said Flavin.  “I’ve given myself lots of opportunities. I’ve gotten so much better, but the biggest change is mentally.  It’s just feeling you belong.  I’m really in a good place.’’

Flavin has earned 75 FedEx points in the three PGA Tour events in which he made the cut and estimates he’ll need 100 to get into the Korn Ferry Finals. He could get 100 just by playing well in the JDC and hopes to compete in Illinois before that.

Last year the Western Golf Association gave him a sponsor’s exemption into its Evans Scholars Invitational, and Flavin finished fifth in that Korn Ferry stop.  He’s hoping for  a return to the tourney, renamed the NV5 Invitational, when it comes to The Glen Club May 26-29.


HERE AND THERE: The Illinois men’s team rallied in Sunday’s third round of the Big Ten championships at French Lick, Ind., to win the league title for the seventh straight year and 12th in the last 13. The Illini learn where they’ll be playing the regional stage of the NCAA tournament at today’s 3 p.m. Golf Channel announcement..

Kent State won the Mid American Conference title for the sixth straight time last week at White Eagle, in Naperville.  Northern Illinois finished third, but the Huskies had a notable accomplishment on the women’s side.  Jasmine Ly, who won the MAC title a week earlier, became the first NIU woman to qualify for the NCAAs.

Illinois alum Nick Hardy is dealing with a wrist injury in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.  He hopes to return to action at the Byron Nelson Classic.

The 32nd season of the Golfers on Golf Radio show begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday on WNDZ (750-AM). Rory Spears, Ed Stevenson, Bill Berger and myself will return as co-hosts of the longest-running golf radio show in the Chicago area.


`Tiger & Phil’ is an important addition to golf history


At first I felt bad for Bob Harig, a friend of mine who authored the recently-released `Tiger & Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry.’ Bob and I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and, while I’m a little older, we became friends over the past few decades while covering the pro golf scene for our various media outlets.

Publishing deadlines can sometimes be tricky, and those affecting Bob meant that he couldn’t include the latest big events in the lives of the two great golfers – Tiger’s dramatic return to last April’s Masters, where he survived the 36-hole cut  after a long layoff while he recovered from an auto accident, and Phil’s controversial stance involving the imminent arrival of Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed golf tour.

Upon further reflection, though, I came to realize that lack of attention to those newsworthy matters doesn’t much matter.  There’ll be a lot more to cover in the careers of both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and Harig had better start thinking about a sequel.

The bottom line is that `Tiger & Phil’ (St. Martin’s Press) stands by itself in being an important addition to golf history.

I’ll gently take issue with calling this one “golf’s most fascinating rivalry.’ Having written about the sport for well over 50 years, I still lean a bit more towards Nelson vs. Hogan and/or Nicklaus vs. Palmer. Those seemed more intense, personal matchups than Woods vs. Mickelson.

These are different times, though, and Harig has nicely blended the careers of Woods and Mickelson into a very comprehensive, even-handed report that begins when both were amateurs and captures the highs and lows in their days as professionals.

I was on site for a lot of those highs and lows, so that made the book all the more intriguing to me.  I loved the recounting of Mickelson’s frustrations in winning his first major championship after 46 misses, especially the story of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Payne Stewart won that title, and Phil was the runner-up with the birth of his first-born child as a ffbackdrop. Then there was his collapse on the final hole of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which handed the title to Geoff Ogilvy.

As for Tiger, his flops in competition were few and far between, making his run of victories seem all the more staggering. The 2008 U.S. Open win in a playoff with Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines was perhaps the most dramatic of them all, but his story isn’t done.  Right or wrong, Woods’ numerous battles after off-course issues make him front page news every time he decides to make a comeback.

Their personalities and backgrounds are different.  So are their playing records with the exception of Ryder Cup play.  Both were less than spectacular in those matches, a fact that has always puzzled me.

In short, while the exploits of both Woods and Mickelson have been covered extensively by media over the years, Harig’s version of combining their careers into one book was a great idea.  Still, there’ll be more to tell — and Harig may be one to do it the best.



Illini golfers are ready for another Big Ten title run at French Lick

Coach Mike Small’s University of Illinois men’s golf team hasn’t been the powerhouse this season that it had been during most of the last two decades.

Things changed for the Illini  in a big way at this crucial point of the season, however.

The Illini tied for the title in their first tournament, then went seven straight events without a victory before winning their last two in commanding fashion.  They expanded a one-stroke lead to eight in the final round of the Boilermaker Invitational on Purdue’s home course two weeks ago, then defended their title in Ohio State’s Kepler Invitational on Sunday by expanding a seven-stroke lead to 13 in a rousing final round..

Adrien Dumont de Chassart, a senior from Belgium, enjoyed a big two weeks.  He captured his third collegiate victory at Purdue, then was named to the International team for the second time in the Palmer Cup, a high profile team event that’ll be played July 1-3 in Switzerland.

De Chassart played in the event in 2021 when the Palmer Cup was held at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.  He’ll become the second Illini to play in two Palmer Cups, fellow Belgian Thomas Detry being the first in 2014 and 2015.

Topping off his big two-week stretch, de Chassart was named the co-Big Ten Player of the Week thanks to his victory at Purdue and joined fellow senior Tommy Kuhl in a tie for third place to spur the win at Ohio State.

While his star player was picking up those honors Small made a rare competitive appearance while the college season was still in progress.  He tied for 33rd in last week’ s PGA Professional Championship in Texas, an event he had won it three times. While his finish wasn’t good enough to crack the Class of 20 who qualified for next month’s PGA Championship in Oklahoma, it was good enough for the 55-year old Small to finish the highest among the 11 Illinois PGA members who qualified for the national championship.

Amidst the team’s strong play the school also announced a June 3 date for the Grand Opening of the Atkins Golf Club, the renamed and much renovated new home of Illinois’ men’s and women’s teams.

The wins at Purdue and Ohio State gave the Illini momentum going into the three-day Big Ten championships, which tee off on Friday on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick, Ind., and the NCAA tournament, which concludes the season.

The Illini have won the last six Big Ten titles and 11 of the last 12, and they’ve made 13 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament during Small’s 21 seasons at the helm.


HERE AND THERE:  Mistwood, in Romeoville, has announced that the 27th Illinois Women’s Open will be played there July 25-26 with a format change.  The event will be reduced from 54 to 36 holes.

Mistwood also announced that Angelica Carman has been hired as the sustainability specialist.  Her first project will be to establish The Farm at Mistwood.

Hickory Knoll, a nine-hole course in Lake Villa that was closed the last two years, has announced a re-opening on May 6. North Shore Capital Group has acquired the course, which originally opened in 1947.

Illinois-connected PGA Tour players Dylan Wu, Nick Hardy and Doug Ghim all made the cut in the circuit’s only in-season team event last week but they were on separate teams at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.  Wu and Justin Lower tied for 10th, Hardy and Curtis Thompson tied for 21st and Ghim and Matthias Schwab tied for 32nd.

The Golfers on Golf Radio show will return for its 32nd season at 10 a.m. on May 7.  The show will  switch to WNDZ (750-AM) for this season.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct a qualifying round for its Senior Amateur on Thursday at Bloomingdale.


New Orleans’ PGA Tour stop puts the focus on team play

This week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans isn’t a big deal compared to other events on the PGA Tour.  It could turn out big for Doug Ghim and Nick Hardy, two of the Chicago area’s young guns on the circuit, however.

The Zurich Classic is the only full-field team event of the PGA Tour season.  Lots of the top stars skip the two-man team battle to rest up for the bigger events coming up. Ghim. though, saw value in team last year, recruited non-PGA Tour member Justin Suh to be his partner and they cashed in with a tie for 11th finish.

Ghim has a different partner this year in Matthias Schwab, an Austrian in his first season on the PGA Tour.  Hardy, also in his rookie PGA Tour season, will team up with Curtis Thompson, another first-year player who – like Hardy – used the Korn Ferry Tour as a path to the premier circuit.

Now in his second PGA Tour season, Ghim could reflect on his success with Suh to  appreciate what the Zurich Classic offers.

“You just feel a little added weight because usually itj’s just me and my caddie that have high hopes for our golf ball,’’ said Ghim.  “Now there’s two extra people counting on you (his partner and that partner’s caddie).  It could be a season changer.’’

The Ghim-Schwab team is a little further along than Hardy-Thompson.  Though neither qualified for the Masters two weeks ago, both Ghim and Schwab made the cut in last week’s RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, S.C.  Ghim, who grew up in Arlington Heights before starring at the University of Texas, tied for 35th after going 67-69 on the weekend.  Schwab tied for 59th but has three top-10 finishes already in this first PGA Tour season.

Hardy, from Northbrook and the University of Illinois, made 12 of 24 cuts since earning PGA Tour membership but he missed in four of his last five starts.  Not qualified for the Heritage, he returned to the Korn Ferry for competition in a Texas event and missed the cut there.

Thompson’s brother Nicholas is also a PGA Tour member and his sister Lexi is a mainstay on the LPGA circuit.  Curtis’ first PGA Tour season has been a reverse of Hardy’s so far.  Curtis started slowly and has made seven of 15 cuts, but he did play all four rounds in six of his last seven tournaments.

Ghim has improved from his first PGA season to his second.  He was even No. 6 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list before the Masters, and the top six when the standings are over get automatic berths on the U.S. team for the next Ryder Cup in Italy.  That’s not until the fall of 2023, however,

Ghim has a formula for more immediate gratification at the Zurich Classic, which tees off on Thursday. At least his strategy worked last year, when he challenged Suh to a birdie contest.  It brought out the best in both their games.

“The best way for us to be competitive is to play against each other,’’ said Ghim. “I thought, if he was going to be competitive with me I knew I was going to bring my game, so he had better step in with his. (Suh) ended up beating me, so that’s always good.’’

BITS AND PIECES: Other Illinois players will compete at New Orleans.  D.A. Points is paired with Scott Gutschewski and Dylan Wu with Justin Lower.  The tourney will also make the return to competition of Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.  He’ll play with Ryan Palmer.

Wednesday will decide the 20 club professionals who will qualify for next month’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Oklahoma.  The Illinois PGA had 11 players qualify for the 72-hole event at Barton Creek, in Texas, and six survived the 36-hole cut on Monday. Mike Small, the University of Illinois men’s coach, was in a tie for 16th midway through the competition and the only local player in the top 20 at that point.  Tim Streng, Garrett Chaussard, Frank Hohenadel and Brian Carroll also survived the cut.  So did Brad Marek, a former Arlington Heights resident now living in California.  He was a qualifier for last year’s PGA Championship.


TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: TPC Myrtle Beach is new site of World Amateur climax

TPC Myrtle Beach will be in the spotlight when the 39th World Amateur concludes on Sept. 2.

America’s golf hotbeds are shifting, now that snowbird golfers are departing the warmer weather states for cooler climates where the golf seasons are just beginning.

Golf, however, is always in season in Myrtle Beach, S.C. where the lead-in to the 39th annual Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is already underway — even though the tournament itself isn’t until September.

Early entries are already at 1,400 and they’ll hit over 3,000 again before long, assuring that the event will remain the world’s biggest golf tournament.  Organizers, in fact, have already made a major announcement.  They’ve moved the Sept. 2 Flight Winners Playoff – the climax to the five days of competition – from Grande Dunes to TPC Myrtle Beach. That’s a significant change.

Grande Dunes was to host for the second time until the decision was made to conduct a massive renovation there.  Grande Dunes, long one of the area’s most acclaimed layouts, will close on May 16 and re-open on Sept. 15. Architect John Harvey, who worked with Roger Rulewich on the original design and construction of the course in 2001, will lead the renovation project.

The greens will be restored to their original size, reclaiming nearly 40,000 square feet of putting surface that had been lost over time.  That’s a 33 percent increase in the size of the putting surfaces.

Grande Dunes is installing new TifEagle ultradwarf bermudagrass greens and every bunker will be renovated with a Capillary Concrete liner installed.  That will eliminate washout and drastically improve drainage. The clubhouse will also be expanded.  The pro shop will grow by 400 feet, an indoor/outdoor bar will be added and the outdoor seating will be greatly expanded.

Grande Dunes, one of Myrtle Beach’s best courses, will soon be closed for a renovation.

“Grande Dunes is one of Myrtle Beach’s crown jewels, and this renovation project will ensure the course continues to provide the type of experience golfers have come to expect,’’ said Steve Mays, president of Founders Group International, the course’s parent company and owner of 21 MB courses.

Scott Tomasello, the World Am tournament director, has no qualms about the move to TPC Myrtle Beach, a Tom Fazio design that displays many of Dustin Johnson’s trophies in its clubhouse and hosts DJ’s World Junior Championship among many big events.

“We knew TPC would be a perfect landing spot,’’ said Tomasello.  “We look forward to showcasing their beautiful property.’’

The final shootout follows 72 holes of age group net competition that begins on Aug. 29. Over 50 other MB courses will be used in the preliminary rounds.  For more information checkout


WHILE THERE’S always golf action in Myrtle Beach, some noteworthy developments are being made in other states as well:

FLORIDA: Saddlebrook Resort, in Wesley Chapel, and Cabot Citrus Farms, in Brooksville, have new owners with big plans. Both will be closed for major overhauls.

Saddlebook, which opened in 1981, has chosen Troon to manage the resort’s golf operations. The resort has two Arnold Palmer-designed courses as well as the 45-court Harry Hopman Tennis Academy.

Camilo Miguel, chief executive officer of new owner Mast Capital, said his firm is in the early stages of a major renovation of the entire property.

“There is a lot of opportunity in elevating the property and bringing back some of its luster,’’ said Miguel.  “There hasn’t been much investment in the property in decades.’’

Florida’s Saddlebrook Resort will get a facelift under new ownership.

Cabot Citrus Farms is the new name for what had been World Woods. Work has begun there with architect Kyle Franz overseeing a renovation of the featured  Pine Barrens course.  Keith Rebb and Riley Johns, who renovated the Winter Park 9 in Orlando and designed the Bootleggers Par 3 at Michigan’s Forest Dunes, will oversee changes on the Rolling Oaks course, and Mike Nuzzo will be in charge at the short course and practice facilities.

WISCONSIN: Sand Valley, in the town of Rome, is getting a third course and will eventually get a fourth.  And that’s not counting The Sandbox, a short course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Sand Valley has a strong group of architects.  The namesake course is also a Coore and Crenshaw creation and David McLay Kidd designed Mammoth Dunes. Now those layouts will have company.

Tom Doak will begin work on Sedge Valley sometime this spring and the Lido will open to members and resort guests in 2023. Sedge Valley will open in 2024.

“The golf experience at Sedge Valley is completely different from anything else on the property,’’ said Sand Valley co-owner Michael Keiser.  “Tom Doak moves so easily from the large-scale engineering project of the Lido to this much more intimate design.  Watching him identify and work his routing to these incredible natural green sites was a true `pinch me’ moment.  This is how the great ones have always done it.’’

These chairs will soon be filled at Wisconsin’s Sand Valley with two new courses under construction.

Meanwhile, play in the golf hotbed of Kohler will soon be picking up.  Tee times are being taken at the Irish Course at Whistling Straits and the Original Championship layout at Blackwolf Run.  The Straits course, site of last fall’s Ryder Cup matches, and the River and Meadows Valley layouts at Blackwolf Run are scheduled to open on April 22.

WEST VIRGINIA; The Pete Dye Golf Club, in Bridgeport, will host the finals of the new Pete Dye World Championships on Oct. 23-25.  The late Dye called that course “my best 18 holes on one golf course.’’

Participants in the new event will be qualifiers from one-day stroke play tournaments held at any course designed by any member of the Pete Dye family. There’ll be six divisions of the tournament – men’s net and gross, women’s net and gross and senior men net and gross.  There’ll also be team best ball formats and a pro-am.

CALIFORNIA: Visit Carlsbad, the destination marketing organization for the Pacific Coast town of Carlsbad,  is welcoming golfers to the Omni LaCosta Resort, Park Hyatt Aviara and The Crossings at Carlsbad.

LaCosta has been a go-to spot for golfers and celebrities since the 1960s.  Aviara features the region’s only Arnold Palmer-designed course and The Crossings is a popular municipal course.  The city is also  known as the golf equipment capital of the world as the home of club manufacturers Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, Cobra and Honma.

INDIANA: The Harbor Links Golf Club at the Sagamore Resort is a premier marina and golf destination located between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Its 18-hole public course was designed by P.B. Dye, one of Pete and Alice Dye’s two sons.

GEORGIA: Stone Mountain Golf Club has two courses on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta.  The Stonemont Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1969.  The Lakemont Course was designed by Georgia native John LaFoy.  Both are noted for their great mountain views.

The Omni Homestead Resort, in Hot Springs, Va., dates to 1766 and is in the process of a $120 million property-wide renovation. This waterfall graces the No.17 green on the beautiful Cascades course, which was once the home layout for a young Sam Snead.



Berger joins Johnson as JDC ambassador

Daniel Berger has joined Zach Johnson as a JDC ambassador.

Only Zach Johnson had been sporting the logo of Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event on his golf bag.  Now America’s next Ryder Cup captain has company.

Daniel Berger, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, sported the John Deere Classic logo on his bag for the first time at last week’s Masters. You might have had a hard time seeing it, as Berger finished in a tie for 50th place and didn’t get much TV time.

Now a charitable ambassador for John Deere, Berger’s involvement is a big boost for the tournament that will be played a week earlier than usual – June 30 through July 3 – at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

Berger and John Deere, in a multiyear agreement, will commit $100,000 in donations to various organizations in lieu of a traditional win bonus. Berger has two wins at the St. Jude Classic and one at both the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Charles Schwab Challenge in his PGA Tour career.  The Schwab win came in the first PGA Tour event conducted after the circuit took a three-month break because of pandemic issues in 2020.

“I’ll bet I’ve got the best looking bag around,’’ Berger said on Twitter.  He’ll be in the field at the RBC Heritage Classic, which tees off on Thursday in Hilton Head, S.C.  The field also includes Illinois-connected players Luke Donald, Kevin Streelman and Doug Ghim.

ILLINI BREAKTHROUGH:  Coach Mike Small’s current University of Illinois men’s team hasn’t been the dominant force it had been in collegiate golf but that could be changing with the most important tournaments of the season closing in.

The Illini tied for first with Cincinnati in their season-opening tournament in September, then went winless in seven straight until last week’s victory in Purdue’s Boilermaker Invite. Illinois senior Adrien Dumont de Chassart was the medalist and Tommy  Kuhl, Jackson Buchanan and Piercen Hunt also finished among the top 10 individuals.

“A solid team effort,’’ said Small.  “The guys weren’t fazed by the tough, cold conditions at the start, then we were going  head-to-head with a good team on their home course. To close solidly is a mindset that we have talked about embracing and becoming a habit.’’

The Illini compete in Ohio State’s Kepler Intercollegiate April 23-24 before the Big Ten championship and NCAA tournaments kick in.

BITS AND PIECE: Dubsdread, the long-time Western Open site at Cog Hill in Palos Park, opens on Saturday, as one of the last Chicago area courses to welcome players.  Cog Hill also has a new director of grounds.  He’s Reed Anderson, who previously worked at Butler National, Chicago Golf Club and New Year’s Winged Foot.

KemperSports has made some major hires at its Chicago courses.  Chris Stewart is the new general manager at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove; Tom Grey becomes the general manager at Canal Shores, in Evanston; and T.J. Wydner is the GM at Chicago’s Harborside International.

Dave Lockhart’s Golf360 TV show now has a co-host. Katie Kearney will join ex-Bear Patrick Mannelly when the broadcasts begin in June on NBC Sports Chicago.

Taylor Lambertsen, who grew up in Palos Park and held assistant professional jobs at Kemper Lakes and Exmoor, is the new director of instruction for the First Tee of Greater Chicago.

The Illinois PGA has announced the site for its fourth and final major event of the season.  Lake Shore, in Glencoe, will host the IPGA Players Championship Sept. 26-17.



Rick Reilly’s latest book is another winner

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book report, but Rick Reilly’s “So Help Me Golf’’ (Hachette Books) certainly merits one. It goes on sale May 10, but I was accorded a sneak preview.

A great writing talent, that Rick Reilly.  I’ve met some of those gifted types and read many more of them over the years.  I got to know Rick a bit when we both reported on the PGA Tour’s Memorial tournament in the 1990s, and we played some informal rounds of golf while the event was going on.

I’ve read a few of Rick’s nine previous books, my favorite being “Commander in Cheat,’’ an analysis of Donald Trump’s involvement in golf.  “So Help Me Golf’’ is much different than that one. It’s one of those rare books that you can read briefly, put it down for a day or so and then pick up reading without missing a beat.  It’s filled with short but very readable segments on such celebrities as Bryson DeChambeau, blind entertainer Tom Sullivan, basketball legend Michael Jordan and golf personalities  Jordan Spieth, Joel Dahmen, Sophie Popov, Erik Compton and Mike Keiser.

At least those were the segments that were most memorable to me. They were presented in an unusual setting, Reilly tying the book into his own family matters – most notably a difficult relationship with his father. The paperback version is 258 pages, all filled with interesting vignettes.  Some might already be familiar to you, others not.  All benefit from the Reilly touch.

Scheffler is the obvious choice to win this year’s Masters

Scottie Scheffler may have been the only player still smiling after the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.

Picking the winner of any PGA Tour event is an exercise in futility. Still, come Masters time, forecasting the champion seems almost an obligation. I’ve been making the effort since attending my first Masters in 1986, and I’ve picked the winner only once – Fred Couples in 1992.

With the 86th Masters teeing off on Thursday, I’ll first tell you who won’t win this week.  Then I’ll explain why Scottie Scheffler will.

The usual contenders don’t seem ready.  Tiger Woods, assuming his “game time decision’’ is to play, hasn’t been in serious competition since being involved in a serious auto accident in 13 months ago. The fact that he even considered teeing it up so soon was surprising.  Winning? Well, even he’s not ITAL that END ITAL good.

Phil Mickelson won’t play, either because he’s suspended or contemplating his future in the game – take your pick.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama has a sore neck that was painful enough to force his withdrawal from last week’s Valero Texas Open and Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau couldn’t even come close to making the cut in that last tournament leading into the year men’s first major championship of 2022.

Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, surprisingly, haven’t won yet 15 tournaments into the  2022 portion of the PGA Tour schedule.  Thomas has played in seven events, Johnson in five.  Patrick Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2021, hasn’t won either and his form has been way off since a runner-up finish at Phoenix in February.

And now for Scheffler.  The 25-year old Texan is on a role.  He’s won three of his last five starts that began with a win over Cantlay in a playoff at Phoenix and included a head-to-head win over Johnson in the semifinals of his last start – a victory in the World Golf Championship’s Match Play Championship two weeks ago.

I was up close and personal for Scheffler’s other victory, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.

Already the first player to win three times before the Masters since Thomas and Johnson did it in 2016, Scheffler wisely skipped the Valero Texas Open in his home state to get ready for this week’s shootout at Augusta National.

Despite his youth, Scheffler knows all about Augusta National.  He played in the last two Masters and finished top-20 in both. This is a young player coming on fast, and a tournament in the Chicago area played a big role in that.

In 2019, when the pandemic was keeping fans and media away from tournaments, the Western Golf Association created the Evans Scholars Invitational in an effort that kept the Korn Ferry Tour in Chicago.  Scheffler won it at The Glen Club in Glenview, beating Marcelo Rozo in a playoff. That was Scheffler’s first win as a touring pro and triggered his ascension to the PGA Tour.

Last year he was a captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team — a surprise to many, myself included.  Still, he was unbeaten in his matches at Whistling Straits, going 2-0-1 in the Americans’ one-sided victory over the Europeans.

Now, after his continued success over the last three months, he’s been elevated to the No. 1 player in the world, according to the Official World Golf Rankings.  Can that first major championship be that far off?

BITS AND PIECE: Chicago had a champion in Sunday’s Drive, Chip & Putt national finals at Augusta National.  Michael Jorski, of Clarendon Hills, won in the Boys 12-13 division. It was his second appearance in the finals.  He made it in the 7-9 age group when his family lived in Kansas.

No Chicago-connected players qualified for this year’s Masters.  Needing to win last week, all five entered the Valero Texas Open.  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman did the best, tying for 18th.

Deerfield’s Vince India, a former Illinois Open champion and  now a regular on the Korn Ferry Tour, helped his father Dan get a tee time for his foursome on a recent guys’ trip to the TPC Stadium Course in Florida. It produced a shot for the record books.  Playing from the White tees, Dan holed his tee shot from the White tees at No. 12 – a 296-yard par-4 – for an albatross.