Len Ziehm On Golf

Our revealing inside look at the best in women’s college golf

HAIL TO THE CHAMPIONS: Furman’s women won their second tourney of the season at St. Lucie Trail.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — We received a great inside look at women’s college golf when we volunteered to host a player participating in the Central District Invitational on the St. Lucie Trail course here. What an eye-opening experience it was!

Michigan State University hosted the tournament, and the players on all 14 participating schools were housed by local residents like us. Our player was Alice Chen, a junior at Furman University in South Carolina. Not only was she a delightful houseguest, she also proved a great player in winning her first-ever college tournament. (Alice had already been crowned the New Jersey Women’s Amateur champion).

Alice and I have something in common as far as our golf games go. After most of our tee shots our playing partners say `Nice drive, Alice.’’ Just a joke, folks.

Furman head coach Jeff Hull and individual champion Alice Chen had plenty to celebrate at the Central District Invitational.

Furman was also the run-away winner of the team title at St. Lucie Trail, much to the delight of two of the school’s most celebrated golfing alumni – LPGA legends Beth Daniel and Betsy King. Also on hand was another LPGA great, Meg Mallon.

Ranked No. 7 in the country entering the tournament, Furman appears a sure bet to get into the NCAA tournament and I’m hoping the Paladins (they’re knights on horseback, according to Chen) can make it all the way to the finals. They’ll be played at Rich Harvest Farms In Sugar Grove, IL., from May 19-24. I can take that favoritism approach now because head coach Jeff Hull told us afterwards that “you’re now part of the Furman family.’’

I’ve watched plenty of women’s golf over the years (four U.S. Women’s Opens, four Legends Championships, a flock of LPGA Tour events and 21 Illinois Women’s Opens), but not much at the major college level.

When flying isn’t a necessity this is how the Furman women’s team gets to its tournaments.

Hull drove his team to Port St. Lucie – a 9 ½ -hour drive – in a luxury Mercedes tour bus with reclining leather seats, surround sound, flat-screen TV and disco lights. I’d say that was traveling in style. The team played at a high level as well, posting an even par 864 in winning by 23 strokes over second place Memphis. Louisville, North Carolina and Maryland rounded out the top five.

The Furman team arrived in late afternoon on Saturday, played a practice round on Sunday, then endured a 36-hole session on Monday before Tuesday’s final round. It was all walking golf with most of the players using push or pull carts. Some, though, carried their bags all 54 holes. That made for a good physical test, and St. Lucie Trail is (my opinion) the most difficult of the four courses that encompass PGA Golf Club – the winter home for the PGA of America’s 28,000 members.

Furman has a long way to go before it can win the NCAA title at Rich Harvest Farms, but the Paladins – if they get there – will visit a course big in the history of women’s golf. Owner Jerry Rich hosted one of the most successful-ever Solheim Cup matches there in 2009 when Daniel captained the U.S. team to victory.

Alice Chen shows her winning form on her final tee shot of the Central District Invitational.

Chicago Golf Show’s arrival also reveals The Glen’s return as an Illinois Open site

SOMETHING NEW FOR THE JDC: PGA Tour players will have a tougher approach shot when they visit the par-5 second hole at TPC Deere Run in July. The pond on the left side of the fairway is being expanded, meaning the second shot at the green will be more demanding. Tournament director Clair Peterson said the work is being done to improve aesthetics on the hole. Last year the JDC was selected as the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year. (John Deere Classic Photo)

The Chicago Golf Show is always a tantalizing event, in that a mid-winter walk through the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont is an early forerunner to golf courses opening in the spring.

This year that’s not quite the case, as many courses have taken advantage of unusually warm winter weather to already announce their openings for the season. Still, the 33rd annual show, which opens its three-day run on Friday, will still provide a preview to what’s coming on the courses, in the pro shops and at the resorts when golf is in full swing here.

The arrival of Chicago’s biggest of three golf shows is also a good time to catch up on winter developments on the local scene. Biggest of those was the Illinois PGA’s decision to bring the Illinois Open back to The Glen Club in Glenview.

Though The Glen hosted the tourney finals a record nine times since 1991, it wasn’t used after the IPGA went to an expanded field and two-site format for the finals in 2015. The 54-hole finals were played at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove, and Hawthorn Woods in 2015 – the first time 258 finalists were welcomed instead of the previous 156 — and St. Charles neighbors Royal Fox and Royal Hawk hosted last year.

With the IPGA headquartered at The Glen, the use of the Tom Fazio-designed course as the main site for the finals made sense. Finalists will play 36 of their 54 holes at The Glen. The alternate site for the other 18 holes hasn’t been determined.

Here’s some other tidbits created after the last putt dropped in the last Chicago tournament of 2016:

The par-4 16th is typical of the new Preserve at Oak Meadows layout. (DuPage Forest Preserve Photo).

NAME CHANGE: The massive renovation project engineered by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District and Batavia architect Greg Martin in Addison will be completed in the spring and the course – known in the past as both Elmhurst Country Club and Oak Meadows – will be called The Preserve at Oak Meadows. While the 288-acre Preserve’s opening will be a Chicago season highlight, the adjoining Maple Meadows course will host the most unique event of the year – a One Club Tournament on April 15.

Welcome to the course chosen as the best of 2016

A TIME TO CELEBRATE: French Lick, the Indiana resort that is the presenting sponsor for the Chicago Golf Show, is celebrating more than the centennial of its Donald Ross Course. The resort just learned that its Pete Dye Course has been named Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association. In July the LPGA’s Symetra Tour will hold a tournament on the Donald Ross Course and the next day the first LPGA Senior Championship will tee off on the Dye.

MOVING ON: Madasyn Pettersen created a sensation when she won the 2015 Illinois Women’s Open by a five-stroke margin at Mistwood in Romeoville as a 15-year old. She recently left her hometown of Rockford, moved to Arizona verbally committed to play collegiately at Grand Canyon University.

LEGENDS ARE COMING: The Legends Tour, the official senior circuit for the Ladies PGA, has relocated its Walgreens Charity Championship from Delray Beach, Fla., to Geneva National Resort in Lake Geneva. The event, featuring 60 of the top women players who have passed their 45th birthday, will compete in the $300,000 Red Nose Day Walgreens Charity Championship from May 20-21 after two days of preliminary festivities.

KPMG QUALIFIERS: The 63rd KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which comes to Olympia Fields beginning June 29, has its first four qualifiers. Karen Paolozzi, of Atlanta; Alison Curdt, of Woodlands, Calif.; Jessica Carafiello, of Stamford, Ct., and Amanda McCurdy, of Arlington, Tex.; earned berths in Florida qualifying events this month.

SHOW TIME: The Chicago Golf Show opens at noon on Friday. Doors close at 7 p.m. that day and the hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The last two days have been dubbed Hall of Fame Weekend with Tim Raines featured on Saturday and Ryne Sandberg on Sunday.

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Couples, Daly are off to encouraging starts

The stands are empty around the 18th green at Broken Sound now, but they won’t be for long.

BOCA RATON, Florida — You don’t see this very often any more.

Fred Couples is healthy for a change, and John Daly is not only belting his tee shots further than last year, his drives are straighter, too.

Those two items are what matter most going into the start of Florida’s turn to host the men’s pro golf tours. Couples and Daly are here for the Allianz Championship’s 54-hole run that begins on Friday on The Old Course at Broken Sound.

The 50-and-over circuit moves to Naples next week for the Chubb Classic at TwinEagles. Then the PGA Tour arrives for three tournaments in four weeks. The sport’s premier circuit has the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens from Feb. 23-26, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Tarpon Springs from March 9-12 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando from March 16-19.

That’s five tournaments in six weeks for the Sunshine State, and the PGA Tour will be back one more time — for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra in May.

Charity benefactor Boca Raton Regional Hospital will be a big winner at the Allianz Championship.

NO FIDGETING FOR FREDDIE: Last year Fred Couples’ season was limited to three tournaments. Back problems, his nemesis for years, nearly wiped out his competitive schedule but don’t look for a repeat in 2017.

Couples started the year shooting 65-65 in the weather-shortened Mitsubishi Classic in Hawaii two weeks ago to finish second behind Bernhard Langer in a limited field event. Couples is also in the field at Broken Sound, his second start in three weeks to begin the new year.

Over the years Couples has tried a variety of cures to fix his sore back. None quite worked long-term, but he hopes a change in routine will keep him on the course more this year. Under the impression that he needed to keep his back loose, Couples would twist and turn throughout his rounds in the past. He’s since learned that such squirming might have exacerbated his back issues.

During the Hawaii tournament Couples admitted “Just physically I can’t stop doing it…. I wish I could because I might last longer.’’

At 57 – and despite his relative inactivity in tournaments – Couples may be the most popular player on the PGA Champions’ circuit. The tour needs him out there – if he could only stop fidgeting.

DALY’S PLAYING IT STRAIGHT: Last year, in a shortened rookie season on the Champions’ circuit, Daly led the tour in driving distance with a 303.6-yard average but hit fairways only 57 percent of the time on his tee shots.

In the Mitsubishi event, however, he averaged 310.5 yards and kept 75 percent of his drives on the short grass. Though his tie for 23rd place wasn’t impressive, Daly’s driving was much better than it’s been in years and he credits a new, unique driver for the improvement.

Daly started playing the Vertical Groove driver in Hawaii and spent last week promoting it at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The company, which produces the club with vertical instead of the usual horizontal groves, has hired him as its ambassador.

“I’m hitting it so much further and straighter,’’ he said during one of his promotional appearances. “It’s like all I have to do is just aim and hit it. No spin. I’m hitting it straighter than my putter actually.’’

The practice range was a busy place, even though the Allianz Championship won’t start until Friday.

KELLY OPTS FOR PEBBLE: Jerry Kelly was to make his Champions debut here, but he opted to play in the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am after getting a spot in the field there. The Allianz field also lost an even bigger name when Tom Lehman withdrew.

Also on the WD list were Scott Verplank and Gil Morgan. Their spots were filled by Marco Dawson, Guy Boros, Willie Wood and Jim Carter.

MILESTONE YEAR FOR SLUMAN: Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago player on the Champions circuit, begins his 27th season as a PGA tour player this week. He contended in the Allianz Championship last year after a 69-67 start but faded to a 70 in the final round and finished in a tie for fourth behind champion Esteban Toledo.

Sluman his a birthday milestone when he turns 60 later this year but there’s no indication he’ll slow down. Last year he went over the $10 million mark in winnings on the Champions circuit.

BITS AND PIECES: The Allianz Championship is in its 11th year at Broken Sound but next week’s Chubb Classic is even older. It’ll turn 30 next week and legendary Gary Player will be on hand to hit the ceremonial first tee shot. Player, now 81, won that tournament in 1988.

Bernhard Langer notched his 30th Champions win at the Mitsubishi tournament and has had some success at Broken Sound. He has six top-10s in nine starts including a victory in 2010.

Pro-ams are on tap for both Wednesday and Thursday with double shotgun starts at 7:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. both days. Wednesday’s schedule also includes a special ceremony honoring soon-to-be World Golf Hall of Famer Ian Woosnam. He’ll compete on a sponsor’s exemption as will former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, NBC announcer Gary Koch and Tom Petrovic, a PGA journeyman who will make his Champions debut.

Youngest player in the field will be Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal. The two-time Masters championship and former European Ryder Cup captain turned 50 on Sunday.

Corporate support is a big reason the Allianz Championship has been a successful Champions event.

Allianz tourney draws big numbers for PGA Champions opener

Champions players will find the prettiest hole on the Old Course at Broken Sound as the par-3 14th.

BOCA RATON, Florida – This week’s first full-field event on the PGA Champions circuit couldn’t come at a better place. The Old Course at Broken Sound, home to the Allianz Championship, is one of the best courses on the 50-and-over circuit.

In its 11th season, the Allianz has been the Champions’ season-opening event every year since 2011 and no player wants to miss it. The 80 entries this year include the top 36 in last year’s Schwab Cup standings, eight members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and winners of a combined 317 Champions events, 346 PGA Tour titles and 17 major championships.

And this year’s field is even better than usual. Fred Couples is playing here for the first time. So is John Daly. European stars Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal will make their Champions debuts and David Toms will play on the senior circuit for just the second time.

“The best field we’ve ever had,’’ said tournament director Ryan Dillon. “There’s nothing like this on tour. We’re the envy of the PGA Champions.’’

Defending champion Esteban Toledo (right) and tournament director Ryan Dillon are ready to get the PGA Champions circuit going again.

Leading into this year’s tourney, Dillon announced earlier this month that Broken Sound had won the ELGA Award – the largest environmental stewardship honor available. The club is very into environmental issues. It has 13 acres of butterfly gardens, 22 beehives and 22 bat houses on its property.

The golf tournament is extraordinary as well. Though Esteban Toledo is the defending championship, the focal point in the 54-hole shootout that begins on Friday will be Couples, who is making his first appearance in south Florida since playing in the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic in 2006.

Couples missed most of the 2016 season with back problems, but he finished second to Bernhard Langer two weeks ago in a Champions limited field event in Hawaii.

Toledo endured 27 hours in airplanes to show up for the Allianz kickoff event last month. He won last year in a three-hole playoff with Billy Andrade. An interesting sidelight: Toledo has four Champions wins with three coming in playoffs, and all of them went three holes.

“I don’t know how I did it, but it was a wonderful experience,’’ said Toledo, who has an interesting background. The youngest of a family with 11 children he grew up in a very poor neighborhood in Mexico. The family’s house had dirt floors and no plumbing. Toledo fished golf balls out of a pond at a nearby golf course and sold them back to the club’s members to help the family survive.

The Old Course at Broken Sound may be the best-conditioned course on the Champions circuit.

He also took up boxing and was good at that, compiling a 16-1 record until an appendicitis brought an end to his time in the ring.

“I’m a better boxer than I am a golfer. There’s no doubt in my mind,’’ he said.

Golf didn’t come as easily as boxing did.

“I used to shoot 100 because I had to always borrow clubs to play,’’ he said. “Then I met an American guy from San Francisco who wanted to sponsor me.’’

That arrangement helped Toledo play on tour for 12 years and he emerged as a mainstay on both the PGA and Champions circuits. His win in last year’s Allianz Championship, which paid him $262,500, came on the same day as the 50th Super Bowl. That, along with less-than-ideal weather limited attendance for the tourney’s climax but the event still drew over 60,000 for the week and 20,000 were on hand for Saturday’s second round.

Broken Sound’s Old Course – one of two 18-holers on the property — was designed by Joe Lee for its 1978 opening and was re-designed by Gene Bates with help from Johnny Miller in 2004. In addition to a beautiful setting it has what Toledo says are one of the top three putting surfaces on the Champions circuit.

The tourney festivities include a members’ pro-am, Lexi Thompson exhibition and women’s pro-am on Monday; practice rounds on Tuesday; and pro-ams featuring Champions players on Wednesday and Thursday before three rounds of tournament play tee off on Friday.

Tee shots at the Old Course will present a variety of challenges for Allianz Championship players.

Drivers were the most interesting feature at the PGA Merchandise Show

Kevin Streelman was the first play to use Wilson’s new Triton driver on the PGA Tour.
(Photo courtesy of Wilson)

ORLANDO, FL. — Be it clubs, balls, training devices or apparel, the PGA Merchandise Show always has something to intrigue every type of golfer.

The 64th staging of this biggest show in golf ended its four-day run on Friday at the Orange County Convention Center with 40,000 industry members from all 50 states and 19 countries getting their first look at the new products entering the marketplace. At the end the talk was mostly about drivers – and with good reason.

When Nike decided to stop making golf clubs last year that left its two high-profile stars, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, free to pick new equipment. Both opted for TaylorMade’s M2 driver, with Woods making his equipment announcement during the show.

The search for the next driver that will produce the longest, straightest tee shots, though, went far beyond TaylorMade and the other big manufacturers – Callaway, Ping and Titleist.

Most visually different of the new models was the Vertical Groove Driver. Its Boston-based manufacturer claims to be the first to bring to market a club with vertical grooves on the clubface. Horizontal grooves are the norm, but Vertical Groove has already convinced two high-profile senior players – John Daly and Rocco Mediate – to use its driver. Daly will be the company’s global ambassador.

Callaway’s banner to promote its new driver rivaled only Wilson’s in size at the PGA Show.

Two Chicago companies were also in the mix. Tour Edge, based in Batavia, introduced its Hot Launch adjustable driver. It has a lighter weight and thinner face, which the company claims will make the club more forgiving while creating more distance. Tour Edge also claims its new hosel system will double the adjustability options, allowing players to raise or lower the loft by two degrees.

Wilson, the long-established producer of all sorts of sports gear, took the most extraordinary steps in putting its new Triton driver on the market, however. The Chicago-based company did it by creating a reality TV show that was shown on The Golf Channel over a two-month period.

The show, which made its debut on Oct. 4, featured 11 teams of amateur club designers completing for $500,000 and the opportunity to have their creations brought to life and sold under the Wilson banner. The judges of the competition were Tim Clarke, president of Wilson’s golf division; Frank Thomas, a long-time director for the U.S. Golf Association; Brian Urlacher, the Bears’ legendary linebacker; and Kevin Streelman, the PGA Tour pro from Wheaton who has won twice on the circuit using Wilson equipment.

Winner of the design contest was Eric Sillies, a University of Cincinnati graduate in its College of Design Architecture Art & Planning. His club featured two detachable sole plates and three adjustable weight ports that allowed the club to change from a lightweight model to a pro-weight version. The TV series was captivating – especially for golfers in the 19 to 35 age group – and Wilson engineers worked with Sillies is creating a finished product.

The problem was, the “finished’’ Triton driver wasn’t quite finished when it was to go on the market with much fanfare last month. The U.S. Golf Association ruled it was non-conforming.

“As long as Wilson has been in business – 100 years – we always produced conforming products,’’ said Clarke. “The decision the USGA made was quite unfair. I had a thousand things on my list that I was worried about, but the USGA ruling was the last thing on my mind.’’

Clarke said the problem with the USGA was corrected with a “cosmetic adjustment,’’ but valuable marketing time was lost while Wilson personnel worked to make the club legal in the eyes of the sport’s ruling body in the United States. The process wasn’t completed until Monday of show week. At Tuesday’s Demo Day – the traditional kickoff to the show — the Wilson station was a focal point.

“It was the busiest Demo Day we’ve had in my 20 years at Wilson. From 9 to 5 people were there banging the Triton,’’ said Clarke, who feels a potential crisis was averted. “It was a great learning experience. The whole concept was to bring excitement around the game and give our brand exposure. It did both those things.’’`

Streelman gave the Triton driver its debut on the PGA Tour when he missed the 36-hole in last week’s Career Builder Classic in California. Ricky Barnes put the club in his bag for the first time at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open . How the club performs for them over the early season tournaments will go a long way in determining its popularity in the marketplace.

The Triton will likely continue to be a prime subject for discussion at two, much smaller, shows on tap for next month in the Chicago area. The Tinley Park Golf Expo is Feb. 10-12 and the Chicago Golf Show, at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, will run from Feb. 24-26.

This combination motorcycle/golf cart was the most unusual item on display at the PGA Show.

Palmer Design Company shows off Shingle Creek’s new course — near Bay Hill

Course designer Thad Layton tees off during Shingle Creek’s media preview outing.

ORLANDO, Florida – The late Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club is just a 15-minute drive from Shingle Creek Golf Club, an 18-holer connected to the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel and in Palmer’s final days his design company was in the process of renovating the nearby layout.

That renovation is now completed and the course has opened to rave reviews.

Thad Layton, the lead designer on the project, said Palmer was most interested in how the new Shingle Creek course would differ from Bay Hill – site of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational each March.

Palmer had played the original Shingle Creek course, designed by a less known local architect David Harman, at least two times since its opening on Dec. 1, 2003. That was even before the accompanying hotel had been built.

Shingle Creek provides a nice blend of challenging golf with a user-friendly design.

Layton took on a re-design that required the course to be closed for six months, though its Brad Brewer Golf Academy remained opened while the work was being done. The finished product is a fun course in which Layton completely re-designed three holes (Nos. 12, 13 and 14) and redid the other 15. The greens in particular underwent major changes. The original ones were relatively flat. The new ones have plenty of interesting undulations.

Brewer, who opened his Academy at Shingle Creek after directing the teaching operation at Bay Hill, said the course became a busy place immediately after its recent re-opening. His teaching staff includes Chris Spalla, a transplanted Chicagoan, and the director of golf, David Scott, got his start in the business at Naperville Country Club.

The Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel offers a steady presence to Shingle Creek golfers throughout their rounds.

A milestone for the world’s first replica golf course

Designer Ron Garl takes aim at his re-creation of the famed “postage stamp” green at Royal Troon.

OCALA, Florida – The world’s first replica golf course, turned 30 this week.

Ron Garl, one of the most prolific of all course architects, was the brainchild for the layout at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. Back in 1986 he picked out eight holes from five of golf’s most famous courses – Augusta National and Baltusrol in the United States and Royal Troon, Muirfield and St. Andrews from Europe – and worked them into his design at Golden Ocala.

The concept of replica – also called inspired or tribute – holes has been tried numerous times by other architects since then. Few, though, have been as successful in creating the magic of the famous holes as Garl was at Golden Ocala.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of both the concept and the course Garl hosted a small outing at the club for a variety of players – members who knew the course well all the way down to first-time visitors.

Some of the replica holes are, understandably, better than others. The most photogenic was Golden Ocala’s No. 13 – a re-creation of the “road hole, or No. 17 at Scotland’s St. Andrews. Being Garl’s cart partner in the outing, I benefitted from an architect’s eye view of the construction process. Needless to say, building the “road hole’’ was a difficult, time-consuming effort 30 years ago but the work then is still paying off today.

Having not seen the original European holes in person, my choice as the best of Golden Ocala’s replica holes was its No. 6 – the par-3 over-the-water sixteenth at Augusta National. That’s always one of the best holes for drama during the Masters tournament. (From my experiences at that annual April epic, it’s the best).

Architect Ron Garl has worked on over 100 Florida courses and over 250 world-wide.

Garl stressed the attention to detail that went into making each replica hole as concise as the original. Citing various reasons for selection including how the holes would fit into the topography available, Garl picked three holes from Augusta National. In addition to No. 16 he opted for another par-3 – Augusta’s No. 12 and Golden Ocala’s No. 11 – and the short par-5 13th at Augusta (No. 12 at Golden Ocala).

St. Andrews was the only other course to have more than one hole selected. St. Andrews’ opening hole – the first hole in golf – is No. 14 at Golden Ocala.

Other than the trio at Augusta National, the only other hole from an America course selected was No. 4 at Baltusrol – the par-3 fifteenth at Golden Ocala.

Royal Troon’s No. 8 – with its famous “postage stamp’’ green – is Golden Ocala’s par-3 fourth hole and the next hole in the rotation is a replica of Muirfield’s No. 9, a par-5.

“This is a very special place for me,’’ said Garl, who was in the 10th year of his 40 designing courses when he created Golden Ocala. The process back then included obtaining precise photographs of the famous holes – a project that cost $50,000 a hole 30 years ago.

What’s also interesting is that the replica holes, while a nice feature, don’t dominate the course. The “Garl originals’’ aren’t bad, either. Garl rates the par-4 third hole as his overall favorite on the course and the other non-replica holes fit seamlessly into the rotation.

The “road hole” at Scotland’s St. Andrews has a look-alike in No. 13 at Florida’s Golden Ocala.

Garl returned to Golden Ocala to supervise a major renovation in 2001 and convinced the Roberts family members, owners of the course now, to acquire more land that would facilitate an expansion of the practice facilities. That led to the building of two fullscale practice holes that were a big hit with players from the LPGA in 2015 and 2016.

The LPGA contested the Coates Classic as an early season event for two years, and it has been the biggest competition yet held on the course. The players said crowds resembled those at the U.S. Women’s Open, but the tourney was discontinued after two stagings.

Garl, meanwhile, has emerged as perhaps the most prolific architect in his native state. Based in Lakeland, he opened his first course in 1972 and has designed over 100 in the Sunshine State. The best-known of those, in addition to Golden Ocala, are TPC of Prestancia in Sarasota, Fiddlesticks in Fort Myers and Palm Beach Polo in West Palm Beach.

Moving beyond Florida, Garl has designed or renovated over 250 courses and worked in 10 other countries. He’s completed such award-winning courses as Wooden Sticks in Canada, Alpine in Thailand, Gudymaral in Colombia and Nine Dragons in China and is currently deeply involved in a course for the King of Morocco.

Ron Garl’s favorite hole at Golden Ocala isn’t a replica one. It’s this pleasant-looking par-4 third hole.

Chicago Golf Show expands its program

The Chicago Golf Show, presented by French Lick Resort, is expanding the program available to its visitors.

A new four-color glossy magazine-style program will be available when the show is staged for the 33rd time from Feb. 24-26 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Chicagoland Golf, which publishes monthly during the local season, will oversee editorial content and advertising sales in creating the program.

Val Russell, publisher of Chicagoland Golf, said the program will be distributed on the show floor, via mail and at golf retailers and courses. It’ll represent a departure from both the show programs of the past and the regular issues of the Chicagoland Golf.

“We are going to produce 40,000 high-end, glossy magazines with 40 percent editorial content that will be valuable to both golfers and golf advertisers,’’ said Russell.

The program will feature articles on show exhibitors, local courses, travel destinations, innovative products and services. Over the last five years the show – the oldest and largest of the three golf shows held in the area this winter — has attracted between 15,000 and 20,000 golf enthusiasts.

“The Chicago Golf Show is excited to collaborate with Chicagoland Golf to produce a high-quality show program aimed at giving our attendees, exhibitors and other advertisers an opportunity to get together in print the way they do on the Golf Show exhibit floor,’’ said Tom Corcoran, the show operator. “Chicagoland Golf has been producing an excellent publication since 1989 and we know they are going to do a great job on our show issue.’’

HERE AND THERE: No doubt about it: The Loop is Best New Course of 2016

We played The Loop in both directions and felt the experience was well worth the walk.

The Loop, Tom Doak’s 18-hole reversible course in Roscommon, Mich., isn’t just something new. It’s also been declared something very good.

Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine, the golf industry’s two leading publications, both honored The Loop with its top awards. Golf Digest named The Loop as the Best New Public Course of 2016 and GOLF Magazine named it the Best New U.S. Course You Can Play.’’

Forest Dunes owner Lew Thompson wanted “something industry changing’’ when he decided to add a second 18 holes to his facility and he got it with The Loop.

“Tom Doak delivered by providing us some of his best work, and the feedback by our guests has been tremendous,’’ said Thompson. “The genius of the concept is how it looks and plays completely different when you play in the other direction.’’

Doak, who operates out of Traverse City, Mich., had long considered the reversible concept and was able to create the course while working close to home.

The Loop is a walking-only experience, with caddies an available option. The two different layouts alternate directions on a daily basis.

Tom Doak’s bunkering provides a challenge, no matter which direction you play The Loop.

Another Nicklaus redesign

The Banyan Cay Resort in West Palm Beach, FL. Is getting a new Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Chris Cochran, Nicklaus’ senior design associate, will join Nicklaus in leading the design team. John Sanford, of Sanford Golf Design will also be involved when construction begins in February. Sanford grew up playing the course and his father had been its director of golf.

Formerly known as Presidents Country Club, the Banyan Cay club has been home to 36 holes of golf but one of of the courses is being transformed into a residential development consisting of 100 single family homes, a boutique hotel, new clubhouse, villas and a 20-story condo tower.

Torrey Pines North is open again

Tom Weiskopf has completed his renovation of the North Course at Torrey Pines, in LaJolla, Calif. The $12.6 million project was completed in nine months and the city-owned public course is now considered a rival to the world famous South Course, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open and will be the venue for that tournament again in 2021.

Weiskopf reduced the number of bunkers from 59 to 41 and the average green size increased from 4,500 square feet to 6,400 as part of the North renovation. The front and back nines were also reversed, allowing golfers some spectacular ocean and canyon views when they finish their rounds.

Bits and pieces

The Major Series of Putting has moved its 2017 championship to the fall. It’ll conclude in Las Vegas beginning on Oct. 27 after a nation-wide series of over 250 qualifying events.

Sean Foley, one-time coach of Tiger Woods, has announced the formation of the Foley Performance Academy at Eagles Dream in Lake Mary, FL. It’s based at Timacuan Golf & Country Club and is a full-time residential program that offers training to all levels of golfers.

Chicago-based KemperSports has been selected to manage the Forest Creek Golf Club in Round Rock, TX. The course will be renovated and re-branded as a top-notch municipal course.

The rugged International Course at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, a Greg Norman design, has reopened after undergoing an $860,000 renovation of its greens approaches and bunkers. The reclaiming of 42,000 square feet of greens has added an average of three additional pin positions per green.

Presidio Golf & Concordia Club, in San Francisco, is now undergoing major renovations following the merger of the historic Presidio Golf Club and the Concordia-Argonaut Club. It’s an $8.5 million project. Presidio was founded in 1895 and Concordia-Argonaut has roots dating back to 1864.

Hokuala Resort, a newcomer to Hawaiian island of Kauai, has completed renovations to its Ocean Course. That layout is the home to the longest stretch of consecutive oceanfront holes in all of Hawaii.

Play was limited at The Loop in 2016. That won’t likely be the case once the course opens in 2017.

Jupiter has its big-time clubs — but don’t underestimate Jupiter Dunes

Pleasant clubhouse is in keeping with the atmosphere at Jupiter Dunes.

JUPITER, Florida – This town on Florida’s East Coast, just north of Palm Beach, has long attracted top golfers. It’s home for Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald and a host of others.

Those pros have a wide range of championship courses to play, but there’s another course in town that shouldn’t be missed.

Jupiter Dunes is an 18-hole par-3 layout that is owned by two homeowner associations. The holes, ranging from 70 to 178 yards, weave between the housing options. I had lived off arguably the best par-3 course in Illinois, Nickol Knoll, but that Arlington Heights Park District facility had only nine holes.

Not only is Jupiter Dunes at 18-holer, the holes feature all sorts of challenges – water, out of bounds, tricky greens, big bunkers. It’s a real challenge, though definitely a fun one. It may be the best par-3 that I’ve ever seen, though the nine-hole layout at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Mo., is hard to ignore. After all, the PGA Champions circuit used it for one of its annual tour stops.

Jupiter Dunes has attracted golfers for 43 years.

Jupiter Dunes is a much different than Big Cedar. We were looking for a course that would provide an upgrade for my 8-year old grandson. He’s also past the First Tee program in North Carolina and been to some low-level camps. Jupiter Dunes represented his first try at an 18-hole course.

The architectural icon Tom Fazio designed the original Jupiter Dunes in 1974. There wasn’t much around it then. In 2005 the original course was re-designed by Florida-based architect Tom Pearson and now it’s surrounded by a variety of private clubs.

Still, Jupiter Dunes won’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s an affordable course that is very suitable for walking with a friendly staff. Unfortunately there’s no practice range – just a few spots for golfers to hit shots into nets — but there is a big putting green and the course itself lends itself to beginners and recreational players of all age levels. Pros have had a 27-hole money event there, as well.

Even in a state rich in golf facilities, that’s not easy to find. American golf overall needs more Jupiter Dunes.

The third hole, one of many with a tee shot over water, falls between the lodging at Jupiter Dunes.