Len Ziehm On Golf

Woods hopes hometown tournament will jump-start his latest comeback attempt

Even on a pro-am day Tiger Woods has fans leaning against the gallery ropes.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – Tiger Woods made a last-minute decision to enter this week’s Honda Classic, the PGA Tour stop closest to his home in nearby Jupiter, FL. He didn’t have much of a choice, though.

The Masters is only six weeks away, and being ready for it has been Woods’ main goal in this latest of his comeback attempts, and he certainly isn’t ready now.

“I need tournament reps,’’ he declared after playing in Wednesday’s pro-am at PGA National. That’s why he filed his entry into the Honda Classic last Friday — the same day he shot 76 and missed the cut at the Genesis Open at Riviera, in California.

Justin Thomas, the world’s No. 4-ranked player, was paired with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera and saw up close what it means to the PGA Tour when Woods plays – even if he isn’t playing well.

Autograph seekers turned out in big numbers after Tiger Woods makes his walk to the clubhouse.

“It was just bizarre because those first two days there was so many people and then, on Saturday, there was nobody,’’ said Thomas. “Rory (McIlroy) and I were walking up to the tee and we’re like, `Where is everybody?’ Does he really bring that many people?’’

Apparently Woods does. Rickie Fowler, who begins his Honda title defense on Thursday, called Woods “the biggest draw we have….It doesn’t matter if it’s pro-am day, or Thursday, Friday, whatever. He’s got the biggest crowd no matter what.’’

Woods, 42, hasn’t played much since his fourth back surgery. He tied for ninth in an 18-man field at his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December, tied for 23rd in the Farmers Insurance Open at California’s Torrey Pines in January and missed the cut at Genesis Open, an event that benefits Woods’ foundation.

He stayed around through its Sunday finish, then returned to Florida in time to be named a vice captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team this week. Wednesday’s pro-am round was his first at PGA National – one of the most penal courses on the PGA Tour – in four years.

PGA National has its Bear Trap, perhaps the most treacherous three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour.

Though his home is only about 40 miles away Woods has played in the Honda Classic only four times and didn’t finish in his last start in 2014 when back problems forced him to withdraw. His best showing here was a tie for second in 2012.

“It’s good to have him here this week,’’ said Fowler, also a Jupiter resident. “I’m hoping he plays well. He’s sleeping in his own bed, so he should be all right.’’

“I’m starting to get that feeling again of playing tournament golf, where each and every shot counts,’’ said Woods. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m in catchup mode. I’m just learning how to play tournament golf again.’’

Here and there

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, who is skipping the Honda Classic, ran his streak of cuts made to 10 since the start of the PGA Tour season at the Genesis Open. He finished tied for 41st after winning the pro-am title with partner Larry Fitzgerald the week before at Pebble Beach. Meanwhile Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star and another Jupiter resident, made his first PGA Tour cut of 2018 in the Genesis Open. He finished tied for 37th and is also playing at PGA National.

The Chicago Golf Show, a fixture since 1984, returns to the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont on Friday for a three-day run. Hours are noon-7 p.m. on Friday, 9:30-6 on Saturday and 9:30-4 on Sunday. Three former Bears – Emery Moorhead, Jim Morrissey and Otis Wilson — will get lessons from Illinois PGA members and trick shot artist Peter Longo will also entertain visitors. In addition to the 350 golf-related exhibits each visitor will get a ticket for a free round of golf at one of the 15 area courses managed by GolfVisions.

The rise in senior women’s golf apparently won’t involve legendary Annika Sorenstam. She revealed last week that her family will move to Lake Tahoe for a year while their Florida home is being renovated. Sorenstam bypassed last year’s first Senior LPGA Championship in French Lick, Ind., and she isn’t old enough to play in this July’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club. Sorenstam isn’t sure if she’ll attend the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June at Kemper Lakes, in Kildeer, either. “Maybe for TV,’’ she said, “but with my family I’ve got my hands full and am very content with my life. I don’t see a void (from lack of competitive play).’’ Sorenstam’s last tournament was in 2008.

PGA Tour Champions, which ended its Florida swing last Sunday, had Chicago storylines in both its tournaments here. Chicago’s Lance Ten Broeck led the qualifying round at the Boca Raton Championship and last week former Barrington star Gary Hallberg, in the Chubb Classic field in Naples on a sponsor’s exemption, opened with a bogey and then carded nine birdies on his way to a 65 that left him a shot off the first-round lead. He finished 70-72 to get a tie for 15th.

Ten Broeck may play more tournaments now that he’s caddying for Els

BOCA RATON, Florida – Ten Broeck was once a prominent name in Chicago golf, with three brothers winning titles in either the Illinois Open or Illinois State Amateur. Lance, youngest of the three, proved to be the best and – at 62 years old – he can still compete with the best on PGA Tour Champions.

Ten Broeck hasn’t played in many tournaments in the last 10 years. During that period he was a devoted caddie to Sweden’s Jesper Parnivik.

Both, however, are competing in the Boca Raton Championship at Broken Sound – the first full-field event of the season for the PGA Champions circuit. Ten Broeck got in by leading Monday’s qualifying round with a 69 on a nearby course.

In Friday’s first round he made seven birdies but settled for a 2-under-par 70. In Saturday’s second round he overcame an ugly shank off the tee at the par-3 sixteenth hole to match par. The bad swing wound up as a water ball, but he salvaged bogey with a 30-foot putt and then made a 20-foot par-saver on the next hole to keep his score in red numbers.

Clutch putts on the 16th and 17th kept Lance Ten Broeck under par after 36 holes in Boca Raton.

His 2-under 142 put him ahead of three former Masters champions – Larry Mize, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal – heading into Sunday’s final round and such notables as Jay Haas, Tom Lehman and Hale Irwin were also behind Ten Broeck after 36 holes.

A veteran of 355 tournaments on the PGA Tour, Ten Broeck had found a comfort zone as Parnevik’s bag-toter while squeezing in some tournaments on the 50-and-over circuit when the schedule permitted. The Boca Raton Championship is his 62nd start on PGA Tour Champions.

“I’ve averaged about five tournaments a year for the last 10 years,’’ said Ten Broeck, and that total may increase this year because he’s no longer Parnevik’s caddie.

“I’ll be working for Ernie Els, but I’ll be splitting time with another guy,’’ said Ten Broeck, who lives in Singer Island, Fla., which is a short drive from Boca Raton. “I’m off until Tampa (the PGA Tour’s Valspar Classic in early March).’’

So, Ten Broeck figures to compete in Monday’s qualifying round for the second PGA Champions event, the Chubb’s Classic in Naples, before beginning his work with Els on the PGA Tour. He said the breakup with Parnevik was amicable and the opportunity to carry for Els – a two-time champion in both the U.S. and British Opens – was a better opportunity.

“That’s why I took it,’’ he said.

Ten Broeck was part of a well-known golf family that carried the banner of Beverly Country Club, the Chicago South Side club that has been a frequent site of big tournaments. Lance used his training there to qualify for the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah – and survive the 36-hole cut – when he was just 18. His pro playing career was highlighted by a win in the 1984 Magnolia State Classic, but that tournament wasn’t considered an official event when Ten Broeck won it.

He also won the Illinois Open in 1984, following in the footsteps of brother Rick who won it twice – in 1973 and 1981. An older brother, Jim, was an Illinois State Amateur champion.

European stars will bolster the field for Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR, Florida – The spotlight was on defending champion Adam Hadwin at the media kickoff for next month’s Valspar Championship, but tournament director Tracy West made the most news.

One of only two women to hold tournament director’s position on the PGA Tour, West announced the participation of some top international players for the March 8-11 tournament on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort.

The commitment list 27 days before the start of the tournament included Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who last played in the tournament in 2013. It also included first-time Valspar entrants in four-time major championship winner Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood who is No. 12 in the Official World Golf Rankings. They represent a significant upgrade to the field.

Adam Hadwin was happy to return to the scene of his first PGA Tour victory.

Another up-and-coming European, England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, was given a sponsor’s exemption as was Illinois’s Dylan Meyer, who will interrupt his senior season with the Illini to test himself against PGA Tour stars. Meyer’s invitation was a reward for winning a collegiate event that is also sponsored by Valspar.

Innisbrook has hosted a pro tour event since 1977. Those events have raised $38 million for charity, and last year’s tournament brought in $2.4 million for 115 local beneficiaries. The tourney has continued to grow, as well. Four years ago the tourney had 60 sponsors; this year there are 216, including eight from China.

Last year’s Valspar Championship drew 112,000 spectators and had 60 hours of television coverage in 230 countries. Armed with that background information, West dispelled reports that the tourney might be pushed into fall dates when the PGA Tour revamps its schedule next year.

“We’ll continue to be a showcase event on the Florida swing,’’ said West, who said the tourney has been formally assured those enviable dates for at least 2019 and 2020.

Hadwin, an affable Canadian, relived his tense victory of a year ago, when he blew a two-stroke lead on Copperhead’s famed Snake Pit three-hole stretch. His drive at No. 16 found water, leading to a double bogey that dropped him into a tie with Patrick Cantlay.

“To be honest, that didn’t bother me a bit,’’ said Hadwin. “I wasn’t frustrated. I wasn’t upset.’’ Instead, Hadwin kept his poise through the finish of the round and got the win when Cantlay made a late bogey.

Tournament director Tracy West is delighted with her tournament’s growth.

The win was Hadwin’s first on the PGA Tour and got him into the Masters for the first time, but it wasn’t the only highlight of his banner season. He shot a 59 in the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in California, but wound up tied for second when Hudson Swafford rallied in the final round to claim the victory.

Hadwin was also named to the International team for the President’s Cup matches.

“I was way more nervous at the first tee in the President’s Cup than I was at the Masters,’’ said Hadwin. “Especially after my partner Hideki (Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama) put his first shot in the bushes.’’

Hadwin’s success in 2017 came with a price. He had to postpone his scheduled honeymoon, planned the week of the Masters, but that had a happy ending, too. The rescheduled honeymoon went off without a hitch in December.

Valspar spectators will be able to view the new Wall of Honor.

Luke Donald and Kevin Streelman are past winners on the Copperhead Course.

These chairs are one reason why Valspar is the PGA Tour’s most colorful tournament.

Sluman starts this PGA Champions’ season close to his new home

The signage is up and the players have arrived at Broken Sound for PGA Champions’ first big event.

Jeff Sluman has been Chicago’s lone representative on PGA Tour Champions for the last 10 years but things are different going into the circuit’s first full-field event this week.

“I’m a resident of Florida now,’’ said Sluman. “We live eight months here and summer up in Chicago. We love that city but I got tired of being cold and my golf game suffered tremendously.’’

The New York-born Sluman and wife Linda set up a base in Hinsdale in the early 1990s, when Jeff was a regular on the PGA Tour. They sold their place in the suburbs two years ago, moved to Chicago’s River North area and will still be there in the summer months. Home, however is now officially in Delray Beach, Fla., which is just a few miles from the Boca Raton Championship. That 54-hole event tees off on Friday at Broken Sound Golf Club.

While Sluman has long been a Chicago guy, he has ties to Delray Beach, too. Four years ago he supervised the renovation of Seagate Country Club there and represents that facility on the 50-and-over circuit.

“It’s got a beautiful golf course, a hotel, a beach club, a yacht club,’’ said Sluman. “Some friends from Rochester, N.Y., own it. It’s nice here. I like putting on shorts and walking on the beach. I worked 40 years so I could do that.’’

Wintering in Florida has Jeff Sluman ready for another PGA Champions season.

Sluman has enjoyed a solid career on both the PGA and Champions circuits. At 30 he won the PGA Championship at Oklahoma’s Oak Tree Course and just before his 40th birthday he won at Tucson, which triggered victories in seven more events world wide including four on the PGA Tour.

At 50 he became eligible for the Champions Tour and won the first of his six titles there a year later. Had he performed better in playoffs — he lost six PGA titles in extra holes and is 0-3 in Champions playoffs – his record would be even more impressive.

Now 60, Sluman believes he’s still got some good years left and this year’s schedule includes the first PGA Champions’ major event in the Chicago area in 21 years. The Senior Players Championship will be played at Exmoor, in Highland Park, in July and Sluman would love to be a factor there.

“There’s a big difference between being 50 and 60 on this tour. It’s like the difference from being 25 to 35 on the PGA Tour,’’ he said. “You’ve just got to be fortunate and not get any major, major injuries. That’s another reason I wanted to get out of that cold weather and be warm all the time. I’m taking it a year at a time, but I’d say I’ve got two-three real good years left in me.’’

TEN BROECK ADVANCES: The 78-man starting field in the first full field event on PGA Tour Champions will have a familiar name for Chicago golfers. Lance Ten Broeck was low man in Monday’s qualifying round for the Boca Raton Championship, shooting a 3-under-par 69 at the nearby Prreserve at Ironhorse course.

Ten Broeck, who grew up in Chicago, was the caddie for PGA Champions veteran Jesper Parnevik in recent years but competed when possible. Now 61, Ten Broeck played in 355 PGA Tour events and 61 tournaments on the Champions’ circuit. He tied for ninth at the 2012 U.S. Senior Open.

Earlier in his playing career Ten Broeck won the 1984 Illinois Open and became the second family member to do it. Brother Rick won in 1973 and 1981. A third Ten Broeck brother, Jim, was the Illinois State Amateur winner in 1968.

IT’S SHOWTIME: Friday marks more than just the start of the first full field event for the PGA Champions circuit. It’s also the kickoff to three straight weeks of golf shows in the Chicago area.

First is the Tinley Park Golf Expo, which runs through Sunday at the Tinley Park Convention Center. Show hours are noon-6 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 on Friday and $10 on the weekend days.

Tenco Events, owner and operator of the Tinley Park show, will also present the Northern Illinois Golf Expo at the Lake County Fairgrounds and Event Center in Grayslake from Feb. 16-18.

Biggest and oldest of the winter attractions is the Chicago Golf Show, which runs Feb. 23-25 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The Chicago Show was first held in 1962 and has been based in Rosemont since 1990.

Pat Bradley, the U.S. Women’s Open champion at LaGrange Country Club 37 years ago, is now aiming for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open trophy, to be awarded at Chicago Golf Club in July. (USGA Photo)

SENIOR WOMEN’S COUNTDOWN: Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton, will host the first-ever U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July and the excitement started to build when the U.S. Golf Association unveiled the championship trophy last week in Miami. At 13 pounds it’ll be the heaviest of the four U.S. Open trophies to be presented by the USGA.

The USGA also announced that the trophy is 22 inches high. Entries will open on March 5 for women 50 and over with handicap indexes not to exceed 7.4. The USGA also announced the that there will be 120 players competing for a $1 million purse at Chicago Golf Club.

“It was a magical moment to see that beautiful trophy. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to compete for it’’ said Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, who won the U.S. Women’s Open at LaGrange Country Club in 1981. “I’ve been waiting 17 years to have this championship on our schedule.’’

Bradley is a regular competitor on the LPGA’s Legends Tour. Amy Alcott, another Hall of Famer, doesn’t compete much any more but that may change. Calling the new trophy “stunning’’ and “very classy,’’ Alcott said “I’m working on my game with Chicago in mind.’’

Tour Edge, Wilson, WGA make an impact at PGA Merchandise Show

PGA Show visitors got an early look at what Team USA will wear in this year’s Ryder Cup.

ORLANDO, Florida – The PGA Merchandise Show is – as far as the golf industry is concerned – the major annual event for the sport, and last week’s 65th staging of the show at the Orange County Convention Center underscored that.

The Show, which draws about 40,000 visitors annually, featured more than 7,500 PGA professionals from all 50 states and 87 countries. In addition to those from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Korea, Japan and Taiwan had big contingents. Over 1,000 media representatives from 25 countries were also on hand, and 36 countries received television coverage.

Exhibits were spread over nearly 10 miles of aisles in the massive Convention Center as manufacturers put their new products on display and the two Chicago club manufacturers were in the thick of things.

Tour Edge president David Glod likes what he sees from players on PGA Tour Champions.

Buoyed by a big year in 2017, David Glod — president of Batavia-based Tour Edge – did more than put his new lines of Exotics, Hot Launch and Bazooka brands on display. He also revealed some strategic changes for the 32-year old company.

With the company showing a 25-per cent growth over the previous year, Tour Edge has beefed up its staff – particularly on the marketing side. It’ll have commercials on The Golf Channel and tour players will have an increased role in promoting Tour Edge products. Tour Edge clubs helped PGA Tour players win 10 tournaments in recent years without the company paying them to use their equipment.

“We’ll have a little different approach this year,’’ said Glod during his company’s media day preview. “We’ll go heavy on the Champions Tour.’’

One Champions Tour player, Tim Petrovic, even spoke on Tour Edge’s behalf during the Show preview event.

Callaway was just one of many companies offering some new designs for golf attire at the Show.

Chicago-based Wilson stepped up production of its innovative Driver vs. Driver2 series during the Show’s Demo Day and Tim Clarke, head of the company’s golf division, announced two new judges – hockey great Jeremy Roenick and PGA professional/coach Rick Shiels.

The series, which made its Golf Channel debut in 2016, features aspiring club designers competing to have their concepts transformed into the model that Wilson will use for its next driver. Clarke returns as a judge and Melanie Collins will again be the emcee of the series, which will make its TV debut in the fall after the Ryder Cup matches.

The Chicago-based Western Golf Association also made news, announcing a groundbreaking initiative to promote youth caddie opportunities. It’s called Carry the Game and will operate under the WGA umbrella with the U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America, The First Tee and Youth on Course also involved in the project.

Looking for a more modernized look for your golf cart? How about this one.

“Through Carry the Game, our goal is to provide young people with an early introduction to golf by creating life-changing opportunities to work as a caddie,’’ said John Kaczkowski, the WGA’s president and chief executive officer. “Ultimately we believe the experiences and mentorship gained through caddying are invaluable to a young person’s development and will help cultivate a lifelong passion for playing the game.’’

Other product introductions included Callaway’s line of Rogue drivers and fairway woods with Jailbreak technology; Cobra’s F8 drivers with Cobra Connect technology; TaylorMade’s M3 and M4 drivers with new Twist Face technology and Titleist’s new Tour Soft and Velocity golf balls.

These giant tees will be in abundance as the next Ryder Cup in Paris closes in.

The best three new products among merchandise displayed at the show, as determined by voters from the PGA and the top buyers, were Chippo Golf, a game for backyard, beach or tailgate events; Rhineland Cutlery, custom engraved cutlery sets targeting golf events; and Tsu Tsu Sport, a colorful apparel collection.

Each PGA Merchandise Show also has an Inventor’s Spotlight, for products not yet available at retail outlets. Best of those, according to selectors, was the Impact Improver — an indoor training device.

Many of the products introduced in Orlando will also be available at three upcoming Chicago area shows – the Tinley Park Golf Expo Feb. 9-11 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, the Northern Illinois Expo Feb. 16-18 at the Lake County Fair Grounds and the Chicago Golf Show Feb. 23-25 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

More scenes from the 65th PGA Merchandise Show reflect what a colorful event it was.

Revelation Golf: A success story that’s ongoing

RevelationGolf has done lots of good things since Elk Grove resident Donna Strum created the program in 2005. Strum, a therapeutic recreation specialist, quit a job at a hospital to work with children and adults with physical disabilities, breast cancer survivors and at-risk youth.

It wasn’t until two years later, Strum and her assistant, Kathy Williams, took the program to military veterans, that RevelationGolf really took off. By 2008 there were weekly golf clinics held at various locations. Williams is an LPGA Class A teaching professional, a former Evans Scholar and head women’s golf coach at the University of Minnesota.

“Now the military veterans program is 90 percent of what we do,’’ said Strum. “The need is so great. Our programs are used as part of healing and recovery.’’

Golf, obviously, has proven to be a tool to cope with both physical disabilities as well as those suffering from such things as post traumatic stress disorder. The RevelationGolf program works, and its slogan, “a new beginning to a great game,’’ is most appropriate.

Strum says RevelationGolf gives 1,200 lessons a year to 350 “unique individuals.’’

And, it’s not just men who need help. Women and the children of the veterans have benefitted as well and Illinois PGA members have been involved from the outset. Strum, working with medical personnel, administers her program for both the Illinois PGA and Project Hope, the national version organized by the PGA of America.

Strum and her medical staffers put interested Illinois PGA members through a four-hour training session before they are allowed to work with the veterans. The first two hours are classroom work in which the different physical disabilities and the emotional side effects are discussed. Then the professionals get an hour of simulations, hitting shots from various stations under conditions that their students are facing, before getting introduced to the veterans themselves.

Some of the participants have the use of only one hand. Some have tremors. Some are visually impaired. Some are using prosthetic legs. The golf professionals are given a taste of what it’s like to be in that state.

Don Habjan, the head professional at Makray Memorial in Barrington, took his training with RevelationGolf in the fall of 2005 and has been working as a teacher since that time. Patrick Lynch, the head professional at Cantigny in Wheaton, and Cog Hill’s Carol Rhoades, the IPGA Professional of the Year in 2017, have also been long-time instructors in the veterans’ program.

Also prominent among the instructors are Brandon Evans, head professional at Village Greens in Woodridge; Jennifer Ferrell, head professional at Glendale Lakes in Glendale Heights; Matt Tullar, assistant head professional at Cantigny; Mason Wall, of the Todd Sones Golf School at White Deer Run in Vernon Hills; and independent teaching professionals Cory Ferrell and Louise Davis.

“We use a medical model for everything that we do,’’ said Strum, “and there are usually at least two teachers at every event along with one or two therapists.’’

Clinics and related events were held at 16 locations across the Chicago area in 2017, and not just at golf facilities. RevelationGolf has put on its events at dozens of hospitals and worked with a wide variety of charitable organizations.

One of the key locations is the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago. The PTSD veterans there were treated to sessions on a weekly basis in 2017. They were held on a bi-weekly basis before that.

Susanne Brown, a recreational therapist at that facility, could attest to the value of RevelationGolf.

“So many of our PTSD veterans suffer from persistent thoughts and memories that plague them throughout their day’’ she said. “In participation (in RevelationGolf), they have shared their ability to release those thoughts, even if only for the time they are golfing. Participating in golf, they turned their focus instead on the game and their skill. That gave them momentary release and freedom….It is exhilarating to watch them as the stress and tension fade from their bodies and their faces.’’

Women going through crises at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago were treated to the RevelationGolf programs for the first time this year – 15 participated — and the three Veterans Golf Days – held at Cog Hill, the nearby Chicago District Golf Association’s Sunshine Course in Lemont and Willow Glen in North Chicago drew a record 80 veterans. Those special days were expanded to include a dinner as well.

The RevelationGolf program doesn’t run in just the warm weather months, either. Links & Tees, in Addison, hosts clinics on Tuesdays and the Buffalo Grove Dome does the same on Wednesdays during the winter months.

A date has also been set for RevelationGolf’s 13th annual fundraiser. It’ll be held on June 11 at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights.

My big night at the ING Media Awards

Wisconsin buddies Gary Van Sickle and Chuck Garbedian joined me as winners of ING Media Awards.

I’m excited, and most appreciative. Last night three of my pieces from 2017 were cited in the 24th annual International Network of Golf Media Awards presentation, which climaxed the first day of the 65th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

My Daily Herald piece, “Koepka wins first major,’’ was the winner in the Competition Writing category. It told the story of Brooks Koepka’s victory in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last June.

I also received Outstanding Achiever mentions for two pieces, one for Travel Writing and the other in the Competition Writing category. The Travel piece, “Simply Grand,’’ appeared in the Daily Herald and spotlighted Wisconsin’s Grand Geneva Resort. (This piece also was published in Chicagoland Golf). It was the second year in which I’ve been cited in the Travel Writing category.

The other mention was for “Make It a Double,’’ which ran in the Chicago District Golfer. It was a report on Patrick Flavin’s victories in the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open.

Damon Hack, of The Golf Channel, was emcee for the event and a couple of my Wisconsin buddies – Chuck Garbedian (Radio Show) and Gary Van Sickle (Profile Writing) – were winners in other categories. Tony Leodora won for the third straight year in the TV Show division.

GOLF TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: PGA National Resort is up for sale

PGA National has received numerous upgrades in recent years. Now it may get a new owner as well.

PGA National Resort & Spa, home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, is up for sale.

The resort, which includes five courses in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., fetched $170 million when it was acquired by Walton Street Capital of Chicago in 2006 from a Florida investor, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post. Another $89 million was spent on renovations since that purchase, according to that report.

Now PGA National is apparently on the market again, according to a website set up by the resort’s broker. PGA National includes 339 hotel rooms, a 40,000 square-foot spa and 42,000 square feet of meeting space in addition to the golf courses.

Best known of the courses is the Champion, which hosted the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982-2000. It’s been the home of the Honda Classic since 2007 and features one of the toughest three-hole stretches in golf — Nos. 15-17, which has been dubbed The Bear Trap following a redesign by Jack Nicklaus.

Rickie Fowler is scheduled to defend his title in the Honda Classic from Feb. 22-25 and the resort has agreed to host that tournament through 2021.

PGA National’s Bear Trap has long been one of the most treacherous three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour and an annual concern for Honda Classic competitors. (Photos by Rory Spears)

AN EARLY WOMEN’S OPEN: For the first time since 2001 the U.S. Women’s Open will start in May, ahead of the U.S. Open. In the U.S. Golf Association’s 2018 scheduled, announced this week, the 73rd annual championship will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. It is the key part of a reorganization of the USGA’s championship schedule.

Shoal Creek, another Nicklaus design, will host its third USGA championship, having previously hosted the 1986 U.S. Amateur and 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur. It’s also been a PGA Championship site.

DORMIE GOING PRIVATE: The Dormie Club, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design in Pinehurst, N.C., was well-received immediately after its 2010 opening. Now it’ll be undergoing some major changes.

A Nebraska-based investment company purchased the club and will add it to its Dormie Network – a group of destination clubs that includes Briggs Ranch in Texas, ArborLinks in Nebraska and Ballyhack in Virginia. The Pinehurst location will get a new clubhouse, halfway house and on-site lodging and gradually revert back to its original status as a private course. The plan is to have an invitation-only membership by 2020.

REE JONES BREAKTHROUGH: The renowned architect of nearly 230 golf courses now has his first one in Mexico. Danzante Bay opened last month along the Sea of Cortez as part of the Villa del Palmar Resort.

Eleven holes were available last year and the new seven, Nos. 7 through 8, cover different terrains that include beaches, cliffs and canyons.

KEMPER LANDS TOBACCO ROAD: Northbrook-based KemperSports is always adding courses to its portfolio, but one of the latest is especially noteworthy. Kemper will now provide consulting services at Tobacco Road, one of the premier courses in North Carolina.

In other developments, Kemper has been named to manage Diamante Country Club in Arkansas and The Club at Grandezza in Florida and will be involved in a $5.1 million renovation project at Forest Creek in Texas.

ALL ABOUT WHISKEY: Glen Garden Country Club, the Texas course where legends Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan got their start as caddies, is now situated on the grounds of Whiskey Ranch – the only whiskey distillery on a full-functioning 18-hole course.

Glen Garden had been closed for three years, after Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. purchased the property. The company has since built five buildings on the property and re-configured the course with plans to open it for charity and private events.

TOPGOLF GOES INTERNATIONAL: Chicago was one of the first areas to get a Topgolf location, and now there are 37 spread across the world. The company has recently opened venues in Canada, Mexico and Australia and will open another in Dubai in 2019.

The new owners of The Dormie plan to replace the old clubhouse but the rugged course will stay intact.

Biancalana’s return to golf centers on Illinois Senior Open

This is somewhat of a tradeoff. The Chicago area golf community will regain one popular name from the past but will lose another once the snow melts.

The returnee is Roy Biancalana. He’s decided to return to the Chicago area and make a run at one of the few state titles he didn’t win in his heyday. Biancalana won the Illinois PGA Junior Championship in 1977, the Illinois State Amateur in 1983 and the Illinois Open in both 1987 and 2001. He was also the Illinois PGA Player of the Year four times between 2003 and 2007.

Then family issues coupled with frustrations over three seasons on the PGA Tour led Biancalana to leave golf. He got involved first in church work and – over the last 10 years – has been a relationship coach in Florida.

“I work with single people who don’t want to be,’’ said Biancalana. “I’ve had two passions – one in the psychological world and one in the golf world.’’

Now he will combine the two. He will return as a teacher at St. Andrews, in West Chicago, where he worked from 2001-07 and also – at age 58 – plans to return as a competitive player.

“Supposedly my skill level should be dropping off dramatically, but we’ll see about that,’’ said Biancalana. “I don’t feel that way at all, and I’m looking forward to battling it out with the young guys and mixing it up with Mike Small.’’

Small, the University of Illinois men’s coach, has dominated the Illinois PGA tournaments for nearly two decades and Biancalana’s biggest goal is to win the Illinois Senior Open. They could battle it out for that title.

“I want to win (Illinois titles) at every phase. I want my own personal grand slam,’’ said Biancalana, who has played in only one major tournament – the U.S. Senior Open qualifying — in the last 10 years and also underwent heart, shoulder and wrist surgery during that period.

“I’m totally excited about teaching again at St. Andrews and getting in my competitive chops, too,’’ said Biancalana. “I’ve really missed playing, and there’s nothing like competing.’’

Medinah loses Tyrrell

Curtis Tyrrell, the superintendent who got Medinah’s No. 3 course ready for the 2012 Ryder Cup matches, is heading to Florida. He’ll become director of golf course operations at Bonita Bay Club near Naples.

In his 10 years at Medinah Tyrrell led major renovations at all three of the club’s 18-holers as well as the practice range. At Bonita Bay he’ll oversee five courses, three of which are targeted for renovations.

Tyrrell departs Medinah 18 months before the club is scheduled to host the 2019 BMW Championship.

Conway back on tournament calendar

Conway Farms competed its three-year run as host for the BMW Championship last September but the Lake Forest private club won’t be out of the tournament scene for long. Conway is among the confirmed sites for next year’s qualifying sessions for the first-ever U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

The first U.S. Golf Association national championship for women in the 50-and-over age group will be played at Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton, from July 12-15. Conway’s elimination is June 18. Conway will join some select courses from around the country in hosting qualifiers. Other sites include Pine Needles, in North Carolina; Olympic Club, in California; Scioto, in Ohio; and LPGA International, in Florida.

Here and there

Glenview’s Frank Morley has been named to a two-year term as chairman of the Western Golf Association. A member at Conway Farms and North Shore in the Chicago area and other clubs in Florida, Montana and Ireland, Morley will lead the WGA’s Evans Scholars Foundation after moving up from a vice chairman’s role.

Cantigny, in Wheaton, has been named the winner of the Youth Development Award by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

VIP registration is now open for the May 30 Illinois Patriot Day event at Medinah.

Dick Nugent was one of Chicago’s most prolific — and best — golf course designers

I was just sad to learn of the passing of Dick Nugent, the long-time Chicago golf course architect, on New Year’s Day. I don’t know more details, but Nugent was 87 — a very nice man and and one of the most prolific architects in the Chicago area.
A University of Illinois graduate — he also played football for the Illini — Nugent started his architectural career working for the legendary designer Robert Bruce Harris. He later hooked up with fellow architect Ken Killian, and they handled the design work for Kemper Lakes.
While Kemper Lakes was his best-known work, Nugent created over 90 courses in 12 states. Among his other noteworthy ones was the Dunes Club in New Buffalo, Mich. — the only 9-hole course to be ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 100.
Many of his designs came after he and Killian split up their partnership in 1983.
In addition to Kemper Lakes Nugent’s credits include some of the Chicago area’s best public layouts — both courses at Harborside International, George Dunne National, Golf Club of Illinois, Foxford Hills, Heritage Bluffs and Buffalo Grove.
He was also involved in projects at Deerpath, Big Run, Twin Orchard, Midlothian, Fox Lake , Glencoe, Glendale Lakes, Sunset Valley, Poplar Creek, Bull Valley and Ivanhoe.