DiscoverGolf is a youth teaching program that is different — but it works

Richard Franklin has a good thing going at both Deerpath and Desert Mountain.

The golf lessons that Richard Franklin offers aren’t for everybody.

“Some people look at what we do and say it’s not even golf,’’ admitted Franklin, but he can live with that.

Franklin, 38, calls himself “a game designer.’’ That’s what his group lessons are – a series of games for youngsters as young as 4 years old and as old as 14. They go through three-hour sessions for up to six days a week playing  golf-relevant games.  Franklin has given them names like “Bedazzled,’’ “Catch Corn,’’  “Neanderthal,’’ “Cave Man,’’  “Night at the Museum,’’ “Croctology,’’ “King Putt’’ and — at least a version of — “Basketball.’’

“Croctology,’’ as an example, requires the student to putt through a series of very menacing cardboard crocodile teeth to reach a ramp.  That leads to the next step in the game, where precisely placed putts determine who wins the competition.

Franklin’s programs – called “DiscoverGolf’’ — may seen on the novel side, but they work. Franklin has run a successful program for 12 years at the Deerpath public course in Lake Forest.  Late in 2020 he took his program to Desert Mountain, a luxury community in North Scottsdale, Ariz.

DiscoverGolf is based at Desert Mountain from October to April, then shifts to Deerpath for the summer months. He also teaches his program to other instructors, and the methodology has reached more than 7,000 youngsters world-wide at more than 250 facilities on five continents.

“Kids love games, but games have rules, constraints,’’ said Franklin.  “Constraints are great for teaching. We create interesting, diverse games based on male or female, introverted or extroverted. It’s a pretty progressive approach to junior golf.’’

That it is.  He describes it as “more of a Montessori style.’’ Each class has at least a 4-to-1 student to coach ratio.

DiscoverGolf’s goal is to get youngsters emotionally involved in golf.

Youngsters in Franklin’s sessions are provided clubs similar to those used in the SNAG teaching program.  In Franklin’s programs, though, those clubs have different shafts, different molded grips and different head sizes.  Participants hit tennis balls during the game sessions, though some time is spent on a golf course  as well.

“Of the 800 we saw this summer (at Deerpath), only about 5 percent were interested in golf,’’ he said.  “Where junior golf has gone awry is that those programs assume that the child will be interested in pars, birdies, specific outcomes. Our challenge is to get into their imagination, their sense of wonderment, making something socially relevant. We focus 100 per cent on creating emotional investment in what we’re doing.’’

That’s evident in the structure of a day’s session.

“We spend the first two hours playing games or doing something on the course.  Then we ramp up the drama,’’ Franklin said. That’s when the games turn into mental and physical challenges.

“We’re big believers that kids are over-stimulated by screen time and undernourished when it comes to social interaction,’’ he said. The games stimulate interaction.

Franklin’s background is interesting.  Though he was born in Chicago, Franklin’s parents are from Zimbabwe, and he spent much of his youth years overseas. The family also lived in Hinsdale and had a home off the third hole of the par-3 East Course at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena. That’s where he had his first lessons as a junior golfer.

Nick Price, the great South African player, stayed with the Franklins when he was winning Western Open titles at Cog Hill in the 1990s. Franklin eventually went to the University of Arizona, had a so-so collegiate career and then qualified for the Canadian PGA Tour.

It’s target practice in this game incorporated into DiscoverGolf’s program at Deerpath.

It didn’t take long for Franklin to realize he’d be better suited to a career in golf as a teacher rather than a tournament player. He worked with Mac O’Grady, the one-time PGA Tour player who developed the “stack and tilt’’ swing method while working as an instructor in California.  Franklin was eventually a swing coach for Chip Beck, the Lake Forest resident who had his moments in some major championships before moving on to other golf-related projects.

Franklin felt much more comfortable with working with youngsters instead of professionals.

“In professional golf it’s you and a number.  They just want you to massage their egos,’’ said Franklin. “With 6, 7, 8 or 9 year-olds you’re actually changing their lives.  I really believe that.’’

In addition to his brief fling playing professional golf Franklin has a background in childhood development, behavioral psychology and graphic design.

“Golf is usually taught in a linear way – grip, stance, tempo, etc.,’’ he said. “I believe in an approach that honors the non-uniform nature of childhood development.  Leading young people requires us to adapt with culturally relevant programming that honors a child’s kaleidoscope of prior experiences, unique perspectives, emotions and personality.  That is brought to bear on our lesson tee.’’

“Basketball” is just one of the many innovative games used in Richard Franklin’s cutting edge teaching program.

 

 

Illinois Am champion skips Western, takes aim at winning State Open

This week’s 119th playing of the Western Amateur may have one of its strongest fields ever at the Glen View Club, in Golf, but one notable name is missing. Ethan Farnam, who repeated as the Illinois State Amateur champion last week, won’t be there.

“I didn’t even apply for the Western Amateur,’’ said Farnam.  “Usually the top 100 (who receive invites) are the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. It’s just a hard tournament to get in, plus  I’m working.’’

Farnam, from Crystal Lake, is a caddie at Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club while preparing for a final year of college golf at St. Mary’s, in California. His accomplishment in the State Am at Mistwood, in Romeoville, was one for record books.  Only 15 players in 90 years have won multiple titles in the State Am and Farnam became just the 10th to win back-to-back.

Others to win titles in consecutive years include three who became regulars on the PGA Tour – Bob Zender (1970-71), Gary Hallberg (1978-79) and D.A. Points (1998-99). The last player to do it was Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell (2002-03).

Others going back-to-back were Warren Dawson, the tourney’s first winner in 1931-32; Harold Foreman Jr. (1944-45), Ed Moehling Jr. (1960-61), Joel Hirsch (1988-89) and Jay Davis (1991-92). Farnam’s first win came in 2019. The 2020 event was canceled due to pandemic concerns.

“Everyone was congratulating me for the first one,’’ said Farnam, “and it’d been so long just to reaffirm that you’re still here and that you’re still one of the better players in the state and the nation.’’

While he’s skipping the Western Am, Farnam will chase another historic feat when the Illinois Open tees off at Stonebridge, in Aurora, next week.  Only two golfers, David Ogrin 1980 and Patrick Flavin in 2017, have won both the Amateur and Open in the same year.

“I’m pretty motivated,’’ said Farnam.  “It’d be pretty cool, but it’ll be a lot more challenging to win against professionals who play tournaments all the time.  But it is do-able.’’

Farnam, 22, will consider turning pro after his college eligibility expires. He attended Northwestern as a freshman.

“I got kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons,’’ he said.  “It was a wild ride, and a growing-up moment, but it’s turned out well. I was born in California and, due to covid, I have one more year of college golf. I’ll go to Q-School in the middle of the school year while I’m still an amateur.’’

While the Western is in progress Farnam will pair up with Michael Fastert in Wednesday’s (TODAY) qualifying round for the Chicago District Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship at Blackstone, in Marengo.

The Western Golf Association takes 156 players into its Western Am,  and topping the list of locals this week is Hinsdale’s Mac McClear, who won the Big Ten’s individual title while playing for Iowa and was in a three-man playoff with Farnam for the State Am crown. Three other Illinois residents playing at Glen View are college golfers – Tommy Kuhl (Illinois), Timmy Crawford (Loyola) and Connor Polender (Liberty).

Veteran amateurs in field include Kenilworth’s Charles Waddell, the Glen View club champion and a qualifier for this year’s U.S. Amateur; Lake Bluff’s Andrew Price and Hinsdale’s Michael Castleforte.

The 72-hole stroke play portion of the tournament concludes on Thursday and the 16 survivors decide the champion in match play on Friday and Saturday.  That portion of the event will be streamed over Golf Channel’s digital platforms with more than 12 hours of coverage available.

University of Texas senior Pierceson Coody is the defending champion and the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world rankings. Champions of the previous two years —                                                                                                                                                                                                   Garrett Rank (2019) and Cole Hammer (2018) – are also in the field as are two former Western Junior winners.  William Mouw won that title in 2017 at Park Ridge Country Club, and Piercen Hunt was the 2019 champion at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove. Hunt, a sophomore-to-be at Illinois, just won the Wisconsin State Amateur.

HERE AN THERE:  Cog Hill, in Palos Park, has been named to host the 46th Boys & Girls Junior PGA Championship in 2022.  Dates are Aug. 2-5….Deerpath, in Lake Forest, has broken ground on The Lawn – a 30,000 square foot putting and chipping green….Northwestern alum Dylan Wu won the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., on the Korn Ferry Tour on Sunday….Mistwood teaching pro Nicole Jeray is in the field at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which starts its four-day run on Thursday (JULY 29) in Brooklawn, Ct….PGA Tour rookie Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, has been named an honorary ambassador to the First Tee of Greater Chicago….Marissa Wenzler was both medalist and champion at last week’s 121st Women’s Western Amateur at Park Ridge Country Club. The University of Kentucky student is also a caddie at NCR in Dayton, Ohio, which was just named the site of the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

 

Here’s how the Illinois PGA events have changed

 

While the four major championship on the PGA Tour are now history, the Illinois PGA has three of its four still coming up. The next is the Illinois Open, Aug. 2-4 at Stonebridge, in Aurora.

IPGA leadership did considerable soul-searching in trying to salvage the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, and their efforts are reflected in the streamlining of some  events and the expansion of its role in others this year. Executive director Carrie Williams outlined the changes event by event.

ILLINOIS WOMEN’S OPEN: The IPGA was reluctant to get involved when the late Phil Kosin organized the IWO 26 years ago, but now that’s changed.

“We were always interested in increasing our reach when it comes to women’s championship golf, and our relationship with Mistwood (in Romeoville) allowed us to establish a partnership for the first year, which hope to expand.’’ said Williams.

The IPGA provided starters, scorekeepers and rules officials for this year’s event, played earlier this month, and the section’s role could expand with Mistwood director of golf Andy Mickelson the tournament chairperson on the IPGA board of directors.

“It’ll always be the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open,’’ said Williams, “and I anticipate it will always be at Mistwood.  It’s the place we want to be, and we want to staff it with more females.’’

ILLINOIS OPEN: The expanded field for the finals is over.  The IPGA dropped Stonebridge as the alternate site last year when the field was cut back to 156 players and it’ll be the solo host this year.  There were 312 finalists the past few years in an effort to stimulate more entrants in the qualifying rounds.

“We think 156 works better from an administration perspective as well as providing a better championship experience for the competitors,’’ said Wlliams.  “When we went to two sites in 2014 or 2015 we had 500 to 600 qualify and saw an immediate increase in entries.  Over the last six years that’s evened out.   Now, in a typical year, we get 490 to 530.’’

IPGA CHAMPIONSHIP: The three-course rotation, used for more than a decade, is done. This year’s event is Aug. 23-25 at Ivanhoe Club, and no future sites have been announced.

“Medinah has the intention to host every few years, and we hope to return to Olympia Fields in the future,’’ said Williams. “We will remain regional, but not rotational. We may be downstate once in awhile. We want to go to clubs that want us to he there, clubs that will support us from a volunteer perspective, that are excited to have us.’’

FALL CHAMPIONSHIP: It’s now turned into two events – a best ball played a Metamora Fields and a 36-player invitational for the top players on the Bernardi Point List, to be played at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. That event is now The Players Championship.

“The old event always had an identity crisis,’’ said Williams.  “It was a points event to determine player-of-the-year and also a celebration of the end of the season. We’d only get 70 players.  Some of the top guys couldn’t get there (it was generally held at Eagle Ridge, in Galena) and some who did had not played much all year.’’

DRIVE, CHIP & PUTT: Williams is happy to announce that Medinah will be the site of a regional in which 88 qualifiers will battle for spots in the national finals on the Sunday before April’s Masters in Georgia. The regionals are rotated around the country, and Medinah has been the only Chicago site used.  That was five years ago.

IPGA JUNIOR TOUR: Operated by the IPGA Foundation, the new circuit called for seven 90-player tournaments played at high-end private clubs.  Dana Gattone, of the IPGA staff, is running the circuit with the finals coming up July 26 at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.

“The IJGA (Illinois Junior Golf Association) embraced it, and we had a fantastic launch in a very abbreviated season,’’ said Williams. She had headed the IJGA for eight years before moving to the IPGA six years ago.

HERE AND THERE: Dylan Frittelli, who missed the cut in defense of his John Deere Classic title two weeks ago , bounced back with a fifth-place finish at the British Open and earned $480,000.  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, who also missed the cut at the JDC, wasn’t bad across the pond, either.  He tied for 19th and earned $109,000…..Nicole Jeray, a long-time competitor on the LPGA Tour who is now on the teaching staff at Mistwood, in Romeoville, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open….The 90th Illinois State Amateur concludes Thursday at Mistwood. One former champion, 2012 winner Quinn Prchal, couldn’t compete this time but – working with his father Tom – he has come out with a book to help young players who want to play competitive golf.  It’s called “Lessons Learned, Playing Junior and College Golf.’’…The 119th Western Amateur begins its six-day run on Monday at Glen View Club and the IPGA Senior Masters will be played on Monday at Onwentsia.

Ownership change triggers big changes at Illinois’ Eagle Ridge

The Highlands Restaurant welcomes visitors to Eagle Ridge, and now it’s bigger and better.

GALENA, IL. – I love Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa.  There, I’ve said it.

Actually, it’s not that earth-shaking a statement.  I’ve had good vibes about this place since my first visit, probably in the early 1970s.  There have been a lot since then, the highlights being an invitee to the Grand Opening of the South Course in 1984 and The General in 1997.

Eagle Ridge is, for all intents, Illinois’ only golf resort – and, with its 63 holes, it’s a good one. More recently, however, it’s undergone some significant changes.  All were triggered by an ownership change.

The resort has had a few of those over the years, but now – for the first time – it has an owner who lives on site.  Mark Klausner and wife Kathy have resided in the Galena Territory for over 20 years.

Klausner lived in the Chicago suburb of Aurora for 30 years and lived in Galenaa part-time.  He became a full-timer in Galena upon his retirement in 2016.   That’s when Eagle Ridge became available for purchase and Klausner stepped to the plate.  He doesn’t like the term “owner,’’ however.

The Klausners prefer to look on themselves as “stewards’’ of the resort.

“I always loved the Territory and feel privileged to be part of this,’’ said Klausner.  “When the opportunity presented itself I said I wanted to be part of it.  Who wouldn’t?’’

Mark and Kathy Klausner, savoring the new decor at The Highlands, have had a long attachment to Eagle Ridge.

Once committed, Klausner put his own game plan into effect. A $2.5 million clubhouse renovation has been the most eye-catching but $800,000 was also targeted for course upgrades.

“My first reaction was, I wanted this to be a world-class, first-class place and when it came time to do this transaction I was a little surprised at the lack of maintenance,’’ said Klausner.

To correct that problem he brought in Marty Johnson.  He’s a local, too.

“We hired the best architect.  He was born and raised in Galena.  Everybody knows and loves him, and he knows all the contractors,’’ said Klausner.  “We’re very fortunate to have him on our team.’’

The “team,’’ most specifically general manager Thomas Ruhs and director of golf  Mike Weiler, were also heavy contributors since Klausner took over but none were more impactful than Johnson.  He designed the original clubhouse for The General, the resort’s premier course and one of the best anywhere.  Twenty years earlier Johnson had designed Klausner’s home near that course.

Views from the new outdoor dining deck at The Highlands are stunning.

This time the Klausner-Johnson combo took on the clubhouse at The Highlands, the headquarters for The General and the first thing you see when you enter the long, winding road to the Eagle Ridge Inn. The Highlands is a lot more impressive now.

Johnson incorporated the General Store into the building. It had been located closer to the Inn.  The Pro Shop was moved from the second floor to the first.  Johnson found some 110-year old beams to highlight a new lounge.  The best part, though, was the creation of a new outdoor dining deck.  Garage doors lead to it and can be open when the weather permits.

The outdoor dining deck has magnificent views that stretch to three states (Illinois and neighboring Iowa and Wisconsin) and include several holes of The General. One is a new No. 18. In the old rotation it was the ninth hole of The General. Many players —  myself included – long felt the nines designed by the late Roger Packard – should be been switched, and they were shortly have Klausner took over.

Under the old rotation the finishing hole could not be seen from the clubhouse. That par-5 is now No. 9. The new rotation coupled with Johnson’s new clubhouse deck has created a much more intimate connection between players on the course and the diners watching them.

The course remains a rarity in the basically flat state of Illinois.  The hills make it special, especially on the tee shots that are now at No. 2, a par-3, and No. 5 – a par-4 that has long been my favorite driving hole in all of golf with its 180-foot elevation change from tee to green.

Klausner said the changes to the resort are only about half done.

“The Spa will get our undivided attention next, then the Inn,’’ he said. “We’re also going to expand the driving range with two more simulators (one is already in operation).’’

And don’t bet on that being the last upgrade at Eagle Ridge.  There’s sure to be more to come.

This used to be the tee shot on No. 10 on The General. Now its at No. 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streelman looks for a bounce-back at the British Open

Last week’s John Deere Classic wasn’t kind to Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, the top local player on the PGA Tour.  He missed the 36-hole cut at the JDC, but he’s still in this week’s British Open at England’s Royal St. George’s course.

“It’s a different level of everything.  Everything’s elevated – the adrenalin, the crowds, the golf course,’’ said Streelman, who has played in the year’s last major championship five times since his first appearance in 2011.

Royal St. George’s was also the site when Streelman made his British Open debut – and missed the cut.

“I love it, but now I’m a more developed golfer than I was then,’’ said Streelman.  “It’s very weather-dependent, and you know what it will throw at us.’’

Like the JDC, the British Open wasn’t played in 2020 because of pandemic concerns. There’ll be still be restrictions in place there this week  and that’s bothering some of the players — but not Streelman.

“It is what it is,’’ he said. “We’re all in the same boat but. Heck, it’s a lot better than not having a championship. We’ll eat at the golf course. We’ll get through it, and someone will go home with the Claret Jug and be real happy.’’

Streelman’s berth in the field was announced on June 27, thanks to his No. 52 standing in the Official World Golf Rankings at that time. In addition to his first appearance 10 years ago Streelman tied for 79th in 2013, tied for 54th in 2014,, missed the cut in 2018 and tied for 57th in 2019.

He doesn’t appear to be going into his sixth appearance with his game in good place. After five solid performances – including an eighth-place finish in the PGA Championship – Streelman missed cuts in his last two starts. The first was at Hartford, a tournament in which he was a past champion, and the second was at the John Deere Classic, the only annual PGA Tour stop in his home state where he had three top-10s in nine appearances.

“I was pretty tired,’’ he said.  “I’d played in nine of the previous 11 weeks and been home only four nights in nine weeks,’’ he said.  “We spent a few days at Cape Cod (Massachusetts) and a few days in Lake Geneva and planned to get it going (in the JDC) but I didn’t play as well as I wanted. Still, it was a nice week with the family,  nice to eat Whitey’s Ice Cream (a tournament tradition) and get to see some friends from Chicago.’’

Instead of competing at TPC Deere Run he worked on his game at Black Sheep, in Sugar Grove, before catching the flight from the Quad Cities airport to England.

“We’ll figure it out.  We’re not far off.  I’m sure about that,’’ said Streelman.

Despite his recent struggles, Streelman has had a good year and still holds out hope of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the upcoming matches at Whistling Straits, in Wisconsin.

“With a monster British Open and a good  FedEx Cup Playoff run I can still get there,’’ said Streelman.  “I’ll take two weeks off after the British.  That’ll be key for me because I’ve played a ton the last few months.  That was a good problem because it got me into more tournaments than I would have done.  I got into the PGA and the U.S. Open, but now I need to get a recharge.’’

Streelman, 42, lives in Phoenix and spent the early stages of the pandemic shutdown getting in good family time that included some golf with son Rhett, who is just starting to play the game. He was ready to go when the PGA Tour resumed its tournament schedule on June 11

For the 2020-21 season he has made 17 of 26 cuts, accumulated three top-10 finishes, earned over $1.8 million and got his FedEx Cup ranking up to No. 57.

HERE AND THERE:  The Women’s Western Amateur, a tournament held without interruption since 1901,  begins a six-day run at Park Ridge Country Club on Monday (JULY 19) and the 90th Illinois State Amateur tees off the following day at Mistwood, in Romeoville….Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, Chicago’s only LPGA Tour player, tied for second in the Marathon Classic, in Ohio, on Sunday and earned her biggest check — $157,123….Vince India, Deerfield’s former Illinois Open champion, finished a strong sixth in the Korn Ferry Tour’s TPC Colorado Championship on Sunday…..A notable miss from last week’s Illinois Women’s Open:  Elyssa Abdullah, 14, of Hinsdale, finished in a tie for eighth place at Mistwood.  Her parents are Medinah members and her coach is Ian Grant at Oak Brook Golf Club…..Former University of Illinois stars Thomas Detry and Thomas Pieters will represent Belgium in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.

 

 

Glover bucks the trend in winning the John Deere Classic

SILVIS, IL. – Lucas Glover isn’t supposed to be the type of guy who wins the John Deere Classic. That event has been one for young players – like Payne Stewart, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau — to kick-start their careers.  They were among the 23 first-time PGA Tour winners among the JDC’s 50 champions.

Glover certainly doesn’t fit that mold. Usually players win the JDC first, then might go on to bigger things.  For Glover it was just the opposite. He won the JDC 12 years after he won the U.S. Open.

Even before he was a PGA Tour member Glover had played in the JDC.  He made his tournament debut here in 2002.

“I loved it,’’ said Glover.  “Virtually everywhere else we go there’s always something else going on at the same time, whether it be another sport or a concert or something.  In this area it’s the Classic, and you’re going.  It was rotten (weather) today and we still had people crawling all over the place supporting us.  It was great.’’

Glover, 41, has been on the PGA Tour since 2004. He won the 2009 U.S. Open at New York’s Bethpage Black on a day similar to Sunday at TPC Deere Run – a day-long drizzle on the heels of heavy overnight rain. Despite that U.S. Open accomplishment Glover hadn’t won on the PGA Tour in 10 years, his last victory coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011.

“It turned into a long week with the weather, but I seem to do all right in the mud,’’ said Glover. “I always thought I could do this again.  I just needed to figure out the best way to go about it.’’

Before Glover the JDC had three champions in a row – Bryson DeChambeau, Michael Kim and Dylan Frittelli – who won their first PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run. Glover’s playing partner in the final round was Adam Schenk, and he best  represented this year’s “first-time’’ candidates.

In his three previous seasons on the PGA Tour Schenk had failed to finish in the top three at any tournament. The former Purdue golfer was tied for second, but three strokes behind Glover, when they finished their round but he wound up in a tie for fourth.  Kevin Na and Ryan Moore shared runner-up honors, two strokes behind Glover’s winning 19-under-par 265.

Glover, who shot 64 in the final round, and Schenk started six groups in front of the last twosome of third-round leader Sebastian Munoz and Brandon Hagy, who was also a potential first-time winner but wound up tied for 18th.

Munoz was out of it early, with two bogeys in the first three holes, but he rallied to finish a tie for fourth with Schenk, Luke List, Scott Brown.

Glover had his own game plan.

“The focus starting out was aggressive, make as many birdies as possible then see where we are coming to the middle of the back nine if it’s going well,’’ said Glover.

It wasn’t going well – Glover was just 2-under-par for the day after making a bogey at No. 11 – but then everything got better in a hurry.  He strung four straight birdies and had five birds in his last seven holes. That put him in control the rest of the way and sent him off Sunday’s flight to the British a good mood.

Glover has been to the British 10 times and missed the cut in five of those.  His best finish was a tie for 12th in 2011. The John Deere Classic had four other champions in its 50-year history who also won the U.S. Open — DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Steve Jones and Payne Stewart.  Four of its other winners won major championships –  Johnson, Vijay Singh, David Toms and Dave Stockton.

Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, finished the tournament strong, shooting a 68 that landed him in a tie for 18th place. Steve Stricker who, at age 54, had hoped to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event, finished in a tie for 41st place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glover ends a trend in winning the 50th John Deere Classic

SILVIS, IL. – Lucas Glover isn’t supposed to be the type of guy who wins the John Deere Classic. That event has been one for young players – like Payne Stewart, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau — to kick-start their careers.  They were among the 23 first-time PGA Tour winners among the JDC’s 50 champions.

Glover certainly doesn’t fit that mold. Usually players win the JDC first, then might go on to bigger things.  For Glover it was just the opposite. He won the JDC 12 years after he won the U.S. Open.

Even before he was a PGA Tour member Glover had played in the JDC.  He made his tournament debut here in 2002.

“I loved it,’’ said Glover.  “Virtually everywhere else we go there’s always something else going on at the same time, whether it be another sport or a concert or something.  In this area it’s the Classic, and you’re going.  It was rotten (weather) today and we still had people crawling all over the place supporting us.  It was great.’’

Glover, 41, has been on the PGA Tour since 2004. He won the 2009 U.S. Open at New York’s Bethpage Black on a day similar to Sunday at TPC Deere Run – a day-long drizzle on the heels of heavy overnight rain. Despite that U.S. Open accomplishment Glover hadn’t won on the PGA Tour in 10 years, his last victory coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011.

“It turned into a long week with the weather, but I seem to do all right in the mud,’’ said Glover. “I always thought I could do this again.  I just needed to figure out the best way to go about it.’’

Before Glover the JDC had three champions in a row – Bryson DeChambeau, Michael Kim and Dylan Frittelli – who won their first PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run. Glover’s playing partner in the final round was Adam Schenk, and he best  represented this year’s “first-time’’ candidates.

In his three previous seasons on the PGA Tour Schenk had failed to finish in the top three at any tournament. The former Purdue golfer was tied for second, but three strokes behind Glover, when they finished their round but he wound up in a tie for fourth.  Kevin Na and Ryan Moore shared runner-up honors, two strokes behind Glover’s winning 19-under-par 265.

Glover, who shot 64 in the final round, and Schenk started six groups in front of the last twosome of third-round leader Sebastian Munoz and Brandon Hagy, who was also a potential first-time winner but wound up tied for 18th.

Munoz was out of it early, with two bogeys in the first three holes, but he rallied to finish a tie for fourth with Schenk, Luke List, Scott Brown.

Glover had his own game plan.

“The focus starting out was aggressive, make as many birdies as possible then see where we are coming to the middle of the back nine if it’s going well,’’ said Glover.

It wasn’t going well – Glover was just 2-under-par for the day after making a bogey at No. 11 – but then everything got better in a hurry.  He strung four straight birdies and had five birds in his last seven holes. That put him in control the rest of the way and sent him off Sunday’s flight to the British a good mood.

Glover has been to the British 10 times and missed the cut in five of those.  His best finish was a tie for 12th in 2011. The John Deere Classic had four other champions in its 50-year history who also won the U.S. Open — DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Steve Jones and Payne Stewart.  Four of its other winners won major championships –  Johnson, Vijay Singh, David Toms and Dave Stockton.

Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, finished the tournament strong, shooting a 68 that landed him in a tie for 18th place. Steve Stricker who, at age 54, had hoped to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event, finished in a tie for 41st place.

 

 

 

Munoz makes another big splash in regaining John Deere Classic lead

Sebastian Munoz (left) was a happy camper leaving TPC Deere Run after regaining the tournament lead.

SILVIS, IL. — The John Deere Classic, which concludes its 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday,  is known for its long history of first-time winners on the PGA Tour.  The tourney has had 23 of them in its first 49 years and is on a streak of three straight champions who cracked the win list for the first time here.

That streak could reach four on Sunday, but the odds are against it.  Only three players in the top 11 after 54 holes are without a PGA Tour win – Brandon Hagy, Maverick McNealy and Luke List.

Sebastian Munoz, who takes a one-stroke lead into the final round, had his only PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2020 when he beat Sungjae Im in a playoff.  Munoz, who played collegiately at North Texas State, has also tasted victory in his native Colombia three times, once in a Korn Ferry Tour event and twice in domestic competitions.

Munoz shot 63 to take the first-round lead here.  List shot 8-under-par 63 in the second round to take the lead away from him, and Scott Brown shot 63 on Saturday to climb to the top of the leaderboard but he couldn’t stay there. Munoz, who has been brilliant on the back nine at TPC Deere  Run the first three days, rallied for a 67 and stands at 197 for the three rounds.

Round 3 was played in a steady drizzle, and more rain is in the forecast for Sunday.  That didn’t hamper the usual low scoring – another JDC tradition.

“It was tough on the front nine, scrambling with the umbrella, the towel and trying to keep the clubface dry,’’ said Munoz.  “It was just take your time, do the best you an and hope for the best.’’

His best came on the back side, where Munoz is 13-under-par for the tournament as compared to only three-under on the front. He played in the last threesome on Saturday, paired with List and Adam Schenk. List (71) and Schenk (70) had trouble keeping up with the other contenders.

“We could see on the leaderboard that people were going low, so it was really important to birdie 11, 13 and 16 coming in,’’ said Munoz.  “It’s nice to be in the position I am right now.’’

Hagy is one stroke back in second place with Brown, Adam Long, Cameron Champ, Kevin Na and Ryan Moore all two back and McNealy, Jhonattan  Vegas, Chez Reavie and List three behind.

The 10 players trailing Munoz have won a combined 20 times, so – for at least this anniversary year – one of the JDC’s most notable traditions may have to be put on hold.  Only one of the top 11 on the leaderboard, Moore, has won the JDC.  He did it in 2016, the last of his five PGA Tour victories. This year he’s without a top-10 finish after piling up 69 of them in his PGA Tour career.  Na has also won five times.

 

Brown had the best round Saturday, and it came on top of a hot Sunday round – a 66 – last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. The strong finish in Detroit, however, only got him a tie for 52nd place.  Standing at No. 180, he’s far down the FedEx Cup standings and is on the brink of missing the lucrative postseason series.

“Last Sunday I started to see some putts go in, and it carried over to this week,’’ said Brown.  “With my FedEx position, I need to win.  I have one goal – to come in here and win.’’

Hagy, Munoz’ closest pursuer, has his eyes on the top prize, too. The winner gets $1.116 million from a $6.2 million purse.

“It’s definitely within my grasp,’’ said Hagy.  “I can hit all the shots that are necessary to get me to the top, but the key is all these guys can hit those shots.’’

A couple noteworthy ones had trouble doing that Saturday, however.  Three-time champion Steve Stricker, trying – at 54 — to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, managed a 68 but is tied for 29th. Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights who started with two strong rounds, settled for a 70 and dropped 10 spots in the standings to a tie for 22nd.

Canadian David Hearn made a hole-in-one at No. 3.  It was the second ace of the tournament.  McNealy made one at No. 16 on Friday.  Those were the first holes-in-one in the tournament since 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recharged List passes Munoz for lead at midway point in John Deere Classic

Luke List has been off the PGA Tour for a few weeks, but he was ready to play at the JDC.

SILVIS, IL. – Sebastian Munoz knew that shooting a 63 in Thursday’s first round of the John Deere Classic – with birdies on the last five holes to boot — wasn’t all good.

“It’s never easy showing up the day after you shoot 8-under,’’ he said.  And it wasn’t easy for him on the first nine of Friday’s Round 2.  Munoz was only even par – not a good score at TPC Deere Run whenever the PGA Tour stars gather there.  The Colombian-born Munoz rallied on the back nine for 67, however, and his 12-under-par 130 was good enough to keep him in the lead midway for most of the day in the $6.2 million championship.

Unfortunately for Munoz, it wasn’t quite good enough to keep him there  Luke List got hot late in the day. He matched the bogey-free 63 that Munoz shot in Round 1, and he emerged the 36-hole leader at 13-uinder 129.

List needs good finishes in the next few weeks to get into the lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs. He’s only No. 117 in the playoff standings now in large part because he missed two weeks while his son Harrison, born on June 5, was hospitalized with a respiratory virus.

“That’s a dangerous thing for a premature.  He was born a month early,’’ said List.  “He fought hard.  He was incubated for a couple days and in the ICU for 14 days. Everything’s great now.  He’s home and eating like a champ.’’

“A champ’’ is what List would like to be on Sunday.  Winning would take care of his worries about not making the FedEx Playoffs.

“I’m not trying to think about that,’’ said List. “I’ve got enough on my plate with the next two days and, as long as I stay in my own head space, all that stuff will take care of itself.’’

Munoz had no complaints about losing the lead.

“I would like to be more in the lead,’’ he said, “but I’m in a good position.  You learn, you stay in the moment, don’t get ahead of yourself and just keep going on.’’

That’s all any player still alive in the tournament can do at this point.  Saturday is “Moving Day,’’ and that’s when lots of players will gun for List and Munoz in hopes of getting in position for a run at the title in Sunday’s final round.

Among those poised to make such a move is Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights.  He followed a first round 66 with a 67 on Friday and enters the final round in a .tie for 12th place, four shots behind List.

“I didn’t get off to the best of starts,’’ Ghim said of his Friday play.  “There’s some scorable holes to begin the front nine, and one-over through three isn’t really what you’re looking for.  I lipped out twice in the first three holes. Hopefully I’ll make a couple more putts tomorrow but – given the fact I didn’t putt my best – I’m still here.’’

So is three-time champion Steve Stricker, who made the tough decision to help the JDC celebrate its 50th anniversary rather than defend his title in the U.S. Senior Open. The U.S. Ryder Cup captain had a shaky first round, a 1-over-par 70, but improved to a 66 Friday.

That was good enough to survive the 36-hole cut, but more spectacular scoring will be needed on the weekend if the 54-year Stricker is to fulfil a dream of becoming the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event.  Sam Snead was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open three years before Stricker was born.

“I’ve got to go out there and try to make birdies,’’ said Stricker.  “I’m a long ways from the lead – seven back – so I’ve got to go out and make something happen.  I’ve got to shoot a real low one tomorrow or Sunday – or both.’’

Defending champion Dylan Frittelli missed the cut, a fate that did in the last five JDC champions as well as Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman. He’ll still be on the flight to next week’s British Open when it departs the Quad Cities on Sunday night.

 

 

 

Did Stricker make a mistake in returning to the JDC?

SILVIS, IL. – Did Steve Stricker make a bad decision in helping the John Deere Classic celebrate its 50th anniversary, albeit a year late?

Stricker is a legend in the PGA Tour stop played three hours from his Wisconsin home.  He won the John Deere Classic three straight times, from 2009 to 2011. He’s won more money in the tournament than anyone else, and he was 186 strokes under par in his first 17 appearances in the tournament.

In this his 18th visit, though, he is 54 years old. Nobody else in the field has reached his 50th birthday. The oldest previous winner on the PGA Tour was Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open, and that was three years before Stricker was born.

If Stricker is to make a run at another win at TPC Deere Run he’ll have to shake off a lackluster first round. Stricker didn’t come ready to play Thursday, making two bogeys in the first four holes before notching his first birdie.  He made three more of those on his second nine, but a 1-under-par 70 is not a good score in any round at the John Deere Classic, an event noted for low scoring. He’s seven shots behind co-leaders Sebastian Munoz and Chesson Hadley after Round 1.

“It was an early wakeup call,’’ said Stricker.  “I’m not used to getting up at 5 in the morning anymore to play.  I played like I was still asleep for awhile. Hopefully I have to come back tomorrow and put up a good number.’’

In addition to being the U.S. Ryder Cup captain Stricker is a PGA Champions Tour mainstay now – and he’s been a good one.

Last year he won the U.S. Senior Open, perhaps the most significant major for the 50-and-over circuit.  He won another Champions’ major in his last start, taking the Bridgestone Senior Players at rugged Firestone two weeks ago by a whopping six strokes. After that he was looking at a return to the John Deere Classic, even though it conflicted with what would have been his title defense in the U.S. Senior Open.

“I wish they weren’t the exact same week, but I’m glad I’m here,’’ said Stricker. “It’s a special place for me and my family.’’

It’d be even more special if he won here for a record fourth time and became the oldest PGA Tour winner in the process. Phil Mickelson’s victory in the PGA Championship in May at age 50 was an incentive for Stricker to make a return to the PGA Tour. Mickelson was the oldest player to win a major and the sixth oldest to win a PGA Tour event. If Stricker came back to become the first four-time JDC champion that would be a similarly big deal.

“I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t think I could do something similar,’’ he said. “Obviously winning the John Deere is going to be a tall order, but I still think there’s some good play inside of me. Hopefully  I can get that out here this week.’’