Len Ziehm On Golf

ANWA has taken women’s golf to a new level

The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur was staged a few days before the Masters tournament and partially on the same course the male stars played their first major championship of 2019. It turned out to be one of those rare golf competitions where the determination of the champion wasn’t the most important thing – not by a long shot.

A couple of collegians soon to become touring pros, Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi, put on a captivating duel going head-to-head in the final pairing before Kupcho won. That was all well and good, and so was the obvious friendship and sportsmanship that both strived to present for the big on-site galleries and national television audience.

This was more about the big picture. Bottom line, you’ve got to like what’s been going on for a while now in the women’s game.

For the third straight year the top women players had a new high profile event to build on. In 2017 it was the Senior LPGA Championship at Indiana’s French Lick Resort. In 2018 it was the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. And now, in 2019 in was the tournament recognized as simply the ANWA.

The ANWA had far fewer players than its two predecessors but it had also more hoopla and far bigger galleries. The post-round awards ceremony was very Masters-like, too. Augusta National’s membership certainly knows how to stage – and market – a big golf event. The two professional events, put on by the LPGA and U.S. Golf Association, didn’t come close.

“Just walking up the fairway with so many people is a feeling like no other,’’ said Kupcho. “This tournament showed how good we are. It exceeded my expectations, and it was the most organized tournament I’ve ever played in. The women’s game will come up stronger because of it.’’

Saturday’s gallery marched four deep on both sides of the fairways when Kupcho and Fassi were wrapping up their daylong duel for the title.

Kupcho, the reigning NCAA champion and No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, took control thanks to a torrid stretch on holes 13 through 16. She played them in eagle-par-birdie-birdie and added another bird with a 25-footer to conclude the tournament. That’s as strong a performance on Augusta’s Amen Corner stretch as most any male star has produced over the years.

The tourney started with 72 invited players, and 25 countries were represented. Augusta National was set up at 6,365 yards for the ANWA. The men played it at 7,475 yards in the Masters .

Fred Ridley, the Augusta National president who announced the creation of the first women’s competition at storied Augusta National at the 2018 Masters, saw nothing but positives from the first staging.

“Focusing on women’s accomplishments in general, not just in golf and sports, is good for society,’’ he said. It’s good for everybody’’

The final round started with ceremonial tee shots from four of the greats of women’s golf—Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam. They had the same good vibes that Ridley had.

“When they announced it last year I had chills wishing I could be an amateur again so I could come and play,’’ said Lopez.

“It was so exciting to see the players after their rounds, their smiles all up to their ears,’’ said Sorenstam. “They can’t stop smiling and it’s a dream come true. I’m so happy for them.’’

There were three players with Illinois connections in the starting 72. They didn’t perform well, but they all felt good about being in the historic first field of this big event. Illinois’ Tristyn Nowlin, Northwestern’s Stephanie Lao and Missouri’s Jessica Yuen, from Bolingbrook, didn’t survive the 36-hole cut.

The trio battled for two rounds at Champions Retreat, the site for the first two rounds in the town of Evans on the outskirts of Augusta., and they did get to play a practice round a day later at Augusta National.

Champions Retreat, a private club that has one nine designed by Arnold Palmer and the other by Jack Nicklaus, was the warmup site for this ground-breaking tourney.

Nowlin, an Illini junior, tied for 52nd and was 9-over-par for the tournament and six shots shy of the cut line. Lau, in her final season at Northwestern, tied for 69th and Yuen tied for 71st. Neither Lau nor Yuen could break 80 in the second round but they took the setback in stride.
“I have to keep in mind that it was special to be part of something historic and play a small part in it,’’ said Lao, who will enter the professional ranks after Northwestern’s season is over. She looked on the ANWA as a good learning experience.

“I just try to look at it on a micro level and a macro level,’’ she said. “On the macro level I have to remember the big picture. On the micro-level, it’s still golf at the end of the day. I’m just trying to hone my skills and enjoy it as long as I can.’’

Nowlin got in her first competition of 2019 at Champions Retreat. She had been recovering from February wrist surgery until being cleared to play two weeks earlier.

“I was very glad to be back in competition,’’ she said

Like Nowlin, Yuen had battled a wrist injury and received her ANWA invitation only a week before the competition began. She was a late invitee after another player withdrew because of injury.

“I wasn’t fully aware of this tournament until I got there,’’ said Yuen. “It was huge, bigger than the U.S. Amateur.’’

At first, though, she wasn’t sure she should go because her game was struggling

“I’m glad I got the phone call,’’ she said after getting a taste of what the event was all about. “I earned my way in, and my coach said I had to go. Playing there was great. I was so honored to be there.’’

In short, this is a golf book worth reading

Book report time again – and this one’s different. I’ve always avoided political issues on both my Len Ziehm on Golf and personal Facebook pages. The many books I’ve read lately in the political arena only tend to trigger reactions – pro and con – that I’m not interested in exploring.

Rick Reilly’s recently released “Commander in Cheat’’ clearly has political overtones. However, it is also filled with interesting, worthwhile information from the golf world and this website is all about golf. I first met Rick about 25 years ago when we were reporting on PGA Tour events (I believe in our case it was at the Memorial tournament). Rick’s an extremely respected, gifted writer. I heartily recommend his latest book. It offers lots of food for thought.

College golf programs in Illinois couldn’t be much better

It’s hard to imagine anything being better for Illinois’ top college golf programs than it is right now, with the NCAA championships closing in.

Coach Mike Small’s Illinois men’s team won its fifth straight Big Ten title and ninth in 10 years on Sunday in Philadelphia and had the conference medalist for the ninth straight year in freshman Adrien Dumont de Chassart. The Illini will learn their NCAA regional assignment on Wednesday night via The Golf Channel.

Northwestern director of golf Pat Goss announced the school’s Gleacher Golf Center is getting a $5.7 million renovation. The project, now underway, is scheduled for completion in the fall. NU had the nation’s first comprehensive indoor collegiate facility when the Gleacher Center opened 20 years ago. A notable part of the renovation is the expansion of the indoor short game and putting area to 5,400 square feet.

NU had more to celebrate than that. Ryan Lumsden, who has the third-best career stroke average at NU behind former stars Dylan Wu and Luke Donald, was named the winner of the Byron Nelson Award. It goes to the graduating senior who is given equal consideration for performance, academics, character, integrity and citizenship

On the women’s front Illinois’ Renee Slone became her school’s first Big Ten Women’s Coach of the Year after guiding the Illini to a runner-up finish in the league tournament for the second straight year. Northwestern, though, had the conference player-of-the-year in senior Stephanie Lau.

The women’s NCAA tournament tees off on Monday (MAY 6) with Northwestern, Illinois and Southern Illinois all qualified for regional play. NU and Southern Illinois, which got an automatic NCAA berth by winning the Missouri Valley Conference title, will compete for a berth in the finals at Tumble Creek, in Washington. Illinois is in the field at Forest Akers West in Michigan.

Illinois State’s men swept the Missouri Valley individual honors with Trent Wallace the MVC Player of the Year and David Rauner the medalist in the conference tournament. The Redbirds didn’t win the league title, though. That went to Southern Illinois. Conference champions receive automatic NCAA berths. Other schools must wait until Wednesday announcement to find out if they’re in.

Setback for Small

The change in the PGA of America’s tournament schedule kept Small from competing in the PGA Professionals National Championship, an event he has won three times. That tournament, along with the PGA Championship, were moved to the spring and in conflict with Small’s coaching duties at Illinois.

His team’s Big Ten title provided plenty of consolation, however. There’s no seniors on Illinois’ nine-man roster and – until the breakthrough at the Big Ten – the Illini hadn’t resembled Small’s teams of the recent past.

“This team needed to grow up, and it did,’’ said Small. “It was a young team that was trying to find itself. Until we took over on the back nine (at the Big Ten tournament in Philadelphia) we had been have trouble closing out events this spring.’’

Even without Small in the field the Illinois PGA had 11 qualifiers for the PGA Professionals Championship, which is in progress at Belfair in Bluffton, S.C.

Here and there

Phillis Meti, who represents Batavia-based Tour Edge, set a women’s record with a 413-yard drive en route to winning her third World Long Drive Championship.

Ho Sung Choi, a 45-year old South Korean who won last year’s Casio World Open on the Japan PGA Tour, has received a sponsor’s exemption into July’s John Deere Classic.

Bryant Gaynes will take over as golf operations director at Prairie Landing, in West Chicago, He had been the club’s outing coordinator.

Chris French, of Aldeen in Rockford, won the Illinois PGA Assistants Match Play title, beating Butler National’s Bret Burgmeier 6 and 4 in the final at The Grove in Long Grove.

Weather problems caused Monday’s qualifying round for the Chicago District Mid-Amateur at Maple Meadows, in Wood Dale, to be rescheduled for May 9.

Next on tap

First of the area’s U.S. Open local qualifiers is today (WEDNESDAY) at Cog Hill, in Lemont. The U.S. Women’s Open qualifier is Monday (MAY 6) at Elgin Country Club, and the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship – first of the section’s four majors – begins ifs four-day run on Monday (MAY 6) at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove.

Medinah hosts a last qualifier for the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open

A highlight of last year’s Chicago golf season was the playing of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. It was a rousing success – a feel-good story capped off by Laura Davies’ 10-stroke victory on America’s first 18-hole course.

“It doubled our expectations from the crowd standpoint, and we learned a lot,’’ said Katherine Thigpen, the tournament manager for the U.S. Golf Association. “Everything was extremely positive. We heard how special it was from volunteers, fans, staff and players.’’

This year’s second staging will be at Pine Needles, in Southern Pines, N.C., next month but the last of the 17 nation-wide qualifying rounds will be at another special Chicago course. Medinah’s No. 2 course will be the site of the first significant competition of the Chicago season next Tuesday.

Medinah No. 2 had been unofficially designated the club’s “women’s course’’ while No. 3 hosted major championships like the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and – most recently – the 2012 Ryder Cup matches. The No. 1 course has hosted two Illinois PGA Championships since architect Tom Doak re-designed the layout.

Though No. 3 will be back in the spotlight in August as the site of the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, now is the time for No. 2 to get the attention. Rees Jones was the architect in a $3 million renovation of that layout in 2017. Like the other Medinah layouts, it was a Tom Bendelow design from the 1920s.

No. 2 had been a tournament after-thought, but no more. The University of Illinois women’s team hosted a tournament there last fall and that event will return for three more years. Next week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier is another step in the right direction.

The Senior Women’s Open qualifier will have 15 players from the 50-and=over set competing for three spots in the 120-player field at Pine Needles May 16-19. Regardless of what happens at Medinah, there’ll be one Chicago player competing at Pine Needles. Jamie Fischer, a teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, earned a place by finishing in the top 20 at Chicago Golf Club.

Fischer was third in last year’s qualifier, played on her home course, and then finished in an impressive tie for 12th in the finals.

The Medinah field is headed by veteran touring pro Elaine Crosby, the first-round leader at Chicago Golf who faded into a tie for 23rd and Medinah member Blue Kelly. Fifty-five of the Pine Needles starters are exempt off past performances, and they include Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon – former LPGA stars who didn’t compete in the event last year.

Tour Talk

Last weekend was almost unheard of for the players with Chicago connections on the pro tours. Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman had his second straight sixth-place finish on the PGA Tour, this one at the RBC Heritage Classic in South Carolina, and Luke Donald continued on the comeback trail with a tie for 33rd.

Jeff Sluman had his best finish of the season on PGA Tour Champions — a tie for sixth in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Georgia — and Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, an LPGA rookie, earned her biggest check on the premier women’s circuit — $,6,623 for a tie for 50th in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.

Additionally, the three players on the PGA’s Web.com Tour cashed at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Championship in Alabama as did the two on the PGA Latinoamerica circuit in Argentina. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger tied for 18th, Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim tied for 29th and Deerfield’s Vince India tied for 35th in the Web.com stop and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin tied for 16th and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly tied for 50th in the Latinoamerica event in Argentina.

Here and there

The Chicago District Golf Association, which will conduct the qualifier at Medinah, will also host qualifiers for two of its local competitions. The CDGA Senior Amateur elimination will be today (APRIL 24) on Silver Lake’s North course in Orland Park, and Maple Meadows, in Wood Dale, will host the CDGA Mid-Amateur qualifier on Monday.

A format change has been announced for the 25th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, coming up in July at Mistwood, in Romeville. It’ll be a three-day event with the championship still decided over 54 holes, but the first day will be a pro-am and the field will play 36 holes on the second day, after which a cut will be made to decide the final round field. Andy Mickelson, Mistwood’s director of golf, said the change was made to increase the amateur players in the pro-am. “We also wanted to keep the tournament at 54 holes with the finish on Wednesday,’’ he said.

The Illinois PGA Assistants Match Play Championship concludes today at The Grove in Long Grove and the section’s first stroke play event for full members is Monday at Bloomington Country Club. The latter will have a weakened field with the top four players on last year’s Player-of-the-Year point standings – Medinah’s Travis Johns, Royal Hawks’ Brian Carroll, Twin Orchard’s Dakun Chang and Glen View’s Chris Green – all competing in the PGA Professionals Championship in South Carolina instead.

Masters memories still give rookie pro Ghim good vibes

The golf world gets back to normal this week following the tumultuous week created by Tiger Woods’ victory in the Masters. None of the American tours had tournaments during Masters week but Doug Ghim was invited by the PGA Tour to look back on his experiences at Augusta National.

Ghim was the low amateur in the 2018 Masters and made three eagles in the tournament with his father Jeff working as his caddie. Each eagle earned him a crystal goblet.

Though Ghim has established Las Vegas as his base as a tour player, those goblets are back in the family home in Arlington Heights. Ghim’s roommate in Las Vegas is fellow Web.com Tour member Maverick McNealy, and Ghim didn’t think the goblets should be kept in Las Vegas.

“Chicago is still home,’’ said Ghim. That’s where I came from so I kept them there. I just didn’t want them to get wrecked.’’

Ghim won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top male collegiate golfer and turned pro prior to last year’s Travelers Championship. In addition to playing in four PGA Tour events Ghim earned membership on the Web.com Tour with a tie for third in the qualifying school.

Going into this week’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship in Alabama Ghim stands No. 30 on the Web.com point list. Former University of Iowa teammates Brad Hopfinger, of Lake Forest, and Vince India, of Deerfield, will join Ghim in the field in Alabama.

Hopfinger is No. 56 on the tour point list and India, the reigning Illinois Open champion, is 65th. The top 25 at season’s end get PGA Tour cards and the top 75 earn spots in the Web.com Tour Finals.

Those numbers are more important to Ghim now, but the Masters experience hasn’t been forgotten.

“I went off in the pro shop and bought like $600 worth of hats alone,’’ he said. “I still wear them to this day. I bought a lot of stuff, but the silver cup (as low amateur) and the eagle goblets were awesome to bring home because they were the only things that I didn’t have to pay for, so that was nice.’’

Streelman, Donald in Heritage

The PGA Tour tees off at the RBC Heritage Classic on Thursday at the Harbour Town course in Hilton Head Island, S.C. That layout has been especially good to Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star who is on the comeback trail after two years of back problems.

A former world No. 1 with two top-five finishes in the Masters, Donald has been consistently good at the Heritage. He has four runner-up finishes and two thirds in the event.

Like Donald, Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman didn’t qualify for this year’s Masters but will play in the Heritage. A former winner of the Masters Par-3 Contest, Streelman is coming off his best finish of the 2018-19 season – sixth at the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago.

Tour reports

Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, the last player to win the Illinois Open and Illinois State Amateur in the same year (2017), is doing the best of the three Illinois players with membership on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour.

Flavin won the Brazil qualifier to get him tour membership and is 25th on the money list after two tournaments, having tied for 14th in Panama and tied for 40th in Argentina. The circuit stops in Chile this week. Glen Ellyn’s Kyle Kochevar and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly are also on the circuit.

PGA Tour Champions resumes its season this week at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Georgia. The only local player on the circuit, Jeff Sluman, is coming off his best showing of the season – a tie for 11th in the Rapsian Systems Championship in Mississippi three weeks ago.

The LPGA resumes its campaign this week at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii. Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, in her rookie LPGA season, has made the cut in two of her four tournaments and has winnings of $8,510.

Here and there

Pat Goss, Donald’s putting and short game coach since 1997, is now taking registration for his Short Game/Putting Schools. They begin on May 4 at the Luke Donald Practice Facility at The Glen Club in Glenview. Goss has also worked with PGA Tour players Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland, Trevor Immelman, Nick Watney and Patrick Cantlay.

Troy Newport, who has worked most recently with Troon Golf facilities in Wisconsin, will replace Nick Mokelke as general manager at Cog Hill. Mokelke, who will retire later this year, has been with Jemsek Golf for 56 years including 39 at Cog Hill.

Antioch Golf Club has undergone an ownership and name change. The facility is now called Valley Ridge Golf Club.

Tiger’s win in the Masters was big — but it won’t be his biggest

Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I was on hand at the Brown Deer public course in Milwaukee for Tiger Woods’ first professional tournament.

Of course it wasn’t yesterday. It was 23 years ago, and the event he was playing in was the Greater Milwaukee Open – a PGA Tour stop that ended its 42-year run in 2009 when its sponsor failed to renew and a replacement couldn’t be found.

Woods announced he was turning pro on the Tuesday before that tournament, saying to a packed press conference `Hello, world.’ Woods had won his third straight U.S. Amateur four days earlier and he already had signed endorsement deals worth $40 million. Still, Woods needed to borrow $100 from swing coach Butch Harmon to pay the tourney entry fee. Woods was just 20 at the time.

Though Loren Roberts won the Milwaukee tournament in a playoff with Wisconsin favorite Jerry Kelly the story of the week was Tiger Woods. He shot 67 in his first round as a pro and made a hole-in-one in Sunday’s final 18 of the tournament. His finish wasn’t impressive – a tie for 60th place – and he earned just $2,544. Still, he was off and running on a pro career that everyone even remotely connected to golf suspected would reach great heights.

It did. His first PGA win came at Las Vegas a month later and victories came fast and furious after that.

A favorite Woods moment? Most every golfer has them, but mine has nothing to do with his 15 wins in golf’s majors. In my 51st year reporting on golf for a variety of publications, I was on hand for many of Woods’ victories. My favorite came at the 1997 Motorola Western Open at Cog Hill in Lemont.

Woods had won his first Masters earlier that year by a whopping 12 strokes and his popularity soared after that. At the ’97 Western he had a comfortable lead on eventual runner-up Frank Nobilo (now one of the sport’s premier TV analysts) as he walked down the final fairway. The gallery swarmed in behind Woods in celebration long before he reached the green. That’s a sight you see in the British Open but it was basically unheard of on the PGA Tour until then.

And now we come to Woods’ latest victory, the drama-filled nail-biter in the Masters at Augusta National on Sunday. A feel good story, no doubt about it, and this world needs much more of those.

I’m one who felt the media – golf and otherwise — gave too much attention to Woods during most of his comeback attempts in recent years. There were a lot of failures along the way as Woods coped with marital problems, health issues and related personal matters. Focusing on Woods then certainly wasn’t fair to the other players.

Now, though, things have changed. Whatever Tiger does now should and will be scrutinized. Yes, he’s back – but Sunday wasn’t the end-all.

I’m afraid I’ll risk being a spoil-sport. Sunday’s win was exhilarating and may be Woods’ finest golf moment so far. Recovering from the multitude of problems he had is impressive, even inspirational.

However – despite the hyperbole voiced world-wide since his last putt dropped at Augusta – his wasn’t the greatest win in the history of the Masters. That still belongs to Jack Nicklaus. I was there, squeezed into the back row of a Quonset hut that served as the Media Center then, when Nicklaus won his record sixth Masters in 1986 at the age of 46. That was my first of 12 Masters, and Nicklaus became the tourney’s oldest champion.

I’ve been blessed to cover tons of great sports moments over the years, not all of them in golf. I haven’t experienced the electricity that Nicklaus’ back nine charge created that day before or since.

As for Woods, I’m convinced his best day is yet to come. Maybe it’ll come when he breaks Sam Snead’s record for most PGA Tour victories. Snead won 82 times, Woods 81.

Ideally, though, Woods’ greatest moment will come when he tops Nicklaus for most wins in golf’s major championships. Woods needs three wins to match Nicklaus’ record of 18. That’s been Woods’ ultimate target since the day he striped his first drive down the fairway in Milwaukee 23 years agos. No. 19 is within range now, and I believe Woods will get it.

TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: Sea Pines’ best courses will host new Lighthouse Invitational

THE DUNES CLUB was closed for three months last summer for a bunker renovation and drainage project supervised by architect Rees Jones. Jones’ father, Robert Trent Jones Sr., designed the Myrtle Beach, S.C. course. The golf shop was also remodeled and these scenes show The Dunes is as photogenic as ever. The club hosted the Hackler Championship, one of the nation’s premier collegiate events, in March with five teams ranked in the top 25 competing. North Florida won the title.

The Sea Pines Resort welcomes the PGA Tour this week for the RBC Heritage Classic and a big new amateur event will be coming in the fall.

A two-person team competition, the 54-hole Lighthouse Invitational, will have divisions for both men and women amateurs. Dates for the tournament on Hilton Head Island, S.C., are Sept. 12-15. It’ll be a showcase for Sea Pines’ top-ranked courses.

The tourney will have rounds on Harbour Town, Atlantic Dunes and Heron Point. Harbour Town is the long-time home of the PGA Tour’s Heritage event, the latest staging of which tees off on Thursday.

Atlantic Dunes, a Davis Love III design, was last year’s National Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association. Heron Point is a Pete Dye creation. Registration options are $1,299 for a single golfer, $1,849 for a single golfer and non-golfing partner and $2,598 for two golfers.

Tournament participants are required to stay in the resort, and each will receive a preferred rate of $279 per night for lodging at either The Inn & Club at Harbour Town or a two-bedroom deluxe villa.

In addition to the golf, the tournament package includes an opening night reception and dinner at the Harbour Town Clubhouse, a putting contest, daily breakfast and box lunches, unlimited range privileges with available practice rounds, a tee gift package valued at more than $500 and an awards ceremony with vacation prizes to resort destinations.

Two unexpected visitors joined us on our round at the Willbrook Plantation course in Myrtle Beach.

MYRTLE BEACH HEADLINER: One of the nation’s biggest high school tournaments, the Palmetto Championship, will tee off at Caledonia and True Blue – two of Myrtle Beach’s best layouts – this week.

The Palmetto has 29 teams from six states in the 54-hole college-style competition. Registration is Wednesday with a qualifying round on Thursday at True Blue and Friday and Saturday competition at both True Blue and neighboring Caledonaia. Caledonia was recently selected as the region’s best in the biennial list put out by the South Carolinia Golf Course Ratings Panel.

True Blue recently completed an extensive tree removal and trimming project. The course also has a new 7,000 square foot putting green.

MYRTLE BEACH MILESTONES: Both Beachwood and Possum Trot celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2018 and Meadowlands celebrated its 20th. Meadowlands was also named the Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year by the MB Golf Course Owners Association.

The anniversary celebration had mixed reactions at Possum Trot. The course with the catchiest name in Myrtle Beach will close in December.

Willbrook Plantation isn’t one of Myrtle Beach’s most famous courses but we found it delightful.

ANOTHER PINEHURST INNOVATION: Pinehurst has long been a golf trend-setter and this year’s 119th U.S. Amateur underscores that. The North Carolina golf mecca will stage the first U.S. Amateur final played on two courses.

The 36-hole climax to the event will be played on both the resort’s Nos. 2 and 4 courses. The 36-hole stroke play qualifying session will also use both layouts but the first five rounds of matches will be strictly on No. 2.

LARGEST OUTING: The annual World’s Largest Golf Outing has been set for Aug. 5. Registration will open for the event, conceived by Billy Casper Golf chief executive officer Peter Hill, on May 1.

The national fundraiser for military charities has drawn over 6,200 men, women, junior and senior participants since its start in 2011. With courses in 34 states being used, the Outing has raised $4.1 million. Fisher House Foundation will be the selected charity for the fourth straight year.

STRANTZ DESIGN RE-OPENS: Virginia’s Royal New Trent Golf Club has re-opened. The layout, designed by the late Mike Strantz, was purchased by Wingfield Golf Management Services of Greenville, S.C. last year. The facility then underwent a total overhaul of the entire complex.

UNVEILING SET: Braemar, in Edina, Minn., had been a 27-hole facility. It’lt re-open on May 15 as the first 18-hole municipal course built in Minnesota since 2003.

Georgia’s Jekyll Island is a golf destination that has had two lives

Jekyll Island has kept up with the times to remain a golf destination for over 120 years.

JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia – Georgia is a state rich in golf resorts. It has 24 of them and is also boasts Augusta National, the home of the Masters, and East Lake, the home of the PGA’s Tour Championship. At least 20 PGA Tour pros live on Sea Island.

And yet, the biggest public golf facility in Georgia is a state park. Jekyll Island, with 63 holes now, is a golf destination that has had two distinct lives.

From the late 1800s until 1942 in was a private playground for the rich and famous. In 1948, after a period of decay during World War II, it was opened to the public.

History-wise, Jekyll Island stands tall from what went on there many decades ago. As a retreat for America’s wealthiest — people with last names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer and Astor either lived or hung out their regularly – Jekyll Island was one of America’s first golf destination.

The Jekyll Island Golf Club was the 36th club to gain a charter with the U.S. Golf Association in 1886, though the members didn’t open a course until 1898. Scotsman Willie Dunn, runner-up in the first U.S. Open in 1895, designed an 18-holer and Horace Rawlins, the man who beat him in 1895 at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, was Jekyll’s first head professional beginning in 1899.

The Walter Travis-designed Great Dunes has provided ocean views for 93 years.

Rawlins won the inaugural U.S. Open with rounds of 91-82, two strokes better than Dunn. The Open, only a one-day affair back then, was played the day after the three-day U.S. Amateur.

Just how long Rawlings hung around Jekyll Island is uncertain, but the second head pro was also a notable player and stayed much longer. Karl Keffer won the Canadian Open in 1909 and 1914. In between those wins (in 1910) Keffer was hired as Jekyll’s second head pro. Only one Canadian golfer, Pat Fletcher in 1954, has won the Canadian Open since Keffer last did it.

Keffler was Jekyll’s head pro until 1942 and during his time on the job the club got serious about golf. The members wanted a better course than the original one and a second course was started in 1910 with legendary Donald Ross the architect. It was built on the grounds of what is now the Oleander course — toughest of Jekyll’s three 18-holers — but Ross doesn’t have his name on it.

Some say Ross was fired during the construction process, which was hampered by drainage problems.

“My understanding,’’ said present director of golf Spencer Brookman, “was that he was hired to build the course and got it started, then he was either terminated or they couldn’t get the course dry enough.’’

Architect Dick Wilson made water a problem on the No. 9 hole at the Pine Lakes course

That course wasn’t open long before the members lured Walter Travis to design another one. Travis’ hiring was a big deal as he was the first three-time U.S. Amateur champion (1900, 1901 and 1903) and the first non-Brit to win the British Amateur in 1904. He was also a prolific writer and course architect, and Great Dunes was one of his last creations. It opened in 1928, a year after his death.

Fourteen years later the wealthy left, many feeling the Island was too vulnerable to enemy air attacks with World War II looming. There were no workers to keep the place afloat anyway, and in 1947 the state of Georgia took it over and named it Jekyll Island State Park. That ended the first phase of Jekyll Island’s life as a golf destination and started the second, which continues to this day.

When Jekyll Island State Park opened to the public for the first time on March 1, 1948, golf was not an option. Neither the Oceanside Course, now Great Dunes, nor the Club Golf Course that Ross designed was playable. Both were overgrown, and it took years to get the sport re-established on the Island.

The Jekyll courses were all walk-able, but the GPS system in the carts was outstanding.

The state turned over what had been Ross’ design to architect Dick Wilson and he created what is now the Oleander course. It opened in 1964. Pine Lakes, the most family-friendly course on the Island, opened in 1968 after a combined design effort by Wilson and Joe Lee. Indian Mound, a Lee creation, was constructed in 1975.

Lee and Wilson would later collaborate on the Dubsdread course at the Cog Hill complex in the Chicago area. That layout would host a major PGA Tour event – first called the Western Open and then the BMW Championship – for 20 straight years (1991-2011).

Great Dunes was reduced to nine holes in 1955 when the Island was undergoing difficult financial times.

“That course has become more and more popular since we redid the greens and re-routed Nos. 1 and 9 toward the ocean,’’ said Brookman. That project was completed last September.

There were lots of unusually-shaped trees at Jekyll — especially this one at Great Dunes.

With all 63 holes up and running the Island became a tourist destination and some of the scenes in the golf-themed movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance,’’ were shot there.

“Oleander is more of a shot-makers course with more doglegs,’’ said Brookman. “It plays a lot longer than it looks. Pine Lakes is a little easier but still hard since it was redone in 2005 (by architect Clyde Johnston).’’

The courses are in the spotlight of amateur golf two weeks every year when – on consecutive weekends – they host a U.S. Kids Regional, which draws 320 youngsters, and the biggest of college tournaments. The Jekyll Island Intercollegiate, hosted by Atlanta’s Ogelthorpe University, brings together 64 men’s and women’s teams from the NCAA Division III ranks.

The three 18-hole courses are player-friendly and reasonably priced. The terrain is relatively flat, so walking is an option for those who want the exercise, and the power carts have a state-of-the-art GPS system. Lodging and dining options on the Island are more than ample.

Once the state purchased the Island there was definitely a push to rebuild,’’ said Brookman. “Now you can park your car, play 54 holes and never have to get back in your car. That sets us apart from other places.’’

Keeping golf from being the focal point at Jekyll Island is the fact that Jekyll offers numerous other attractions. Driftwood Beach is the best non-golf feature and wildlife abounds everywhere. You can also take a fishing tour, paddle in a kayak or bike through the forest. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an educational diversion, and the Historic District offers a glimpse into the Island’s rich past with its array of mansions. Horton House, oldest of the Island’s landmarks, has been standing since 1743.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel and eerie Driftwood Beach are both memorable sites away from the golf.

Sultan’s Run

Location: Jasper, Indiana

Architect: Tim Liddy, a Pete Dye disciple.

Opened: 1992.

Par: 72

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees – 6,859, 73.5, 143; Gold – 6,429, 71.5, 138; Silver – 5,762, 68.8. 129; Green – 4,911, 69.1, 129.

Saturday morning green fee: $69. (The course is closed for the season but may re-open when weather permits. It’s scheduled to open for the 2019 season on March 1.

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: No.

Fairways: zoysia.

Greens: bentgrass.


For starters…This is an extension of the French Lick Resort, which is 20 miles away. Sultan’s Run is owned by Jasper resident Steve Braun whose brother Mike has recently elected to a U.S. Senate seat. French Lick, which has hosted the Senior LPGA Championship the last two years, has three courses – the Pete Dye Course, the Donald Ross Course and Valley Links, a nine-hole course designed as a tribute to old-time architect Tom Bendelow – on its property and Sultan’s Run is another option.

Play because…: Sultan’s Run, designated as “affiliated’’ with French Lick, provides a fun layout for players looking for another place to play in the area, plus Jasper is a bigger community with more dining and retail options than French Lick has. The Pete Dye Course and Donald Ross Course are among the very best in Indiana. Sultan’s Run is more on the sporty side.

Takeaway: Alvin C. Ruxer, who donated the land for the course, was into show horses and one of his best was named Supreme Sultan. The golf course derived its name from that and each of the holes is named after one of Ruxer’s horses. Head professional Jeff Howerton has been on the job for seven seasons during which the course hosted the 2016 Indiana Senior Open and qualifiers for a Web.com Tour event at nearby Victoria National. The Indiana Golf Course of the Year in 2015, Sultan’s Run is a worthy, more economical partner course for the French Lick layouts.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)


Food/beverage 8.0

Pro shop: 8.0

Clubhouse 8.5

Difficulty: 9.0

Pace of Play: 8.5


Best Par-5: No. 13 (574 yards from the back tees, 538, 481, 407. Located near the entry to the course, both the tee and green are elevated on this hole.

Best Par-4: No. 9 (412 yards from the tips, 393,280, 271). A very picturesque hole, you can’t see the green from the tee on this dogleg left that also features a big ravine.

Best Par-3: No. 12 (209 from the back tee, 191, 145, 128). A nice-looking short hole, there’s water behind the green that features a fountain.


Phone: 812-482-1009

Website: www. SultansRun.com

Facebook: @Sultan’s Run Golf Club

Twitter: @SultansRunGC

Instagram: #sultansrun

Could Reynolds Lake Oconee be the next Georgia site for a big tournament?

Lake Oconee, spread over 119 acres, impacts most every hole on the Reynolds courses.

GREENSBORO, Georgia – Georgia is already considered a big-time golf destination. How could it not be when the Masters is played annually in Augusta and the PGA’s Tour Championship in Atlanta?

Don’t be surprised if another biggie is coming soon, either. Recent developments at Reynolds Lake Oconee, which is located roughly midway between Atlanta and Augusta, suggest that’s a distinct possibility.

First, consider the recent arrival of Mike Scully as the resort’s general manager. Scully knows all about big golf events. As director of golf at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago for more than a decade he played a lead organizational role in the staging of the 2012 Ryder Cup matches there.

Two weeks after that devastating American loss to the Europeans in that competition Scully was in Arizona starting a job as director of golf at Desert Mountain, a resort with five courses. Desert Mountain was to host the Charles Schwab Cup, a climax to the PGA Tour Champions season, three weeks later.

General manager Mike Scully is no stranger to hosting big golf events.

“As soon as I got there I was in a meeting with our board of directors and they were freaking out about putting four tents behind the 18th green,’’ said Scully. “To me that was like a member-guest at Medinah. We had 87 tents at Medinah for the Ryder Cup, so I told them we could figure it out.’’

Figure it out they did, and Scully stayed on at Desert Mountain for another six years. Earlier this year he moved to Reynolds Lake Oconee where he was entrusted with the broader duties of general manager.

A star football player who was a member of the University of Illinois’ 1984 Rose Bowl team, Scully moved to this beautiful multi-course resort that was already a popular golf destination. It has 3,700 members and a Ritz Carlton Hotel in the middle of the property, and last year there were 140,000 rounds of golf played there

Reynolds Lake Oconee has taken on some ambitious projects since Scully’s arrival. The entire teaching staff was changed at the TaylorMade Kingdom facility. TaylorMade had exclusive rights with Reynolds’ members and guests until its contract expired recently. The facility is still there but Scully opened the pro shop to other equipment companies. That big change was introduced during Masters week when 60 vendors were on the premises.

The biggest change may be yet to come. Jack Nicklaus has been on the property during the renovation of the Reynolds’ championship course, Great Waters. It’ll re-open in the fall, and Nicklaus has already promised the new look will be “spectacular.’’

The Landing is the oldest of the Reynolds courses but it remains challenging for even the best players.

During the renovation the course was opened up to permit more views of the 119-acre Lake Oconee and the course was lengthened to 7,800 yards. That makes it more attractive as a major tournament site.

“Great Waters would be a great for the Charles Schwab Cup, given its field size and hotel requirements, or a women’s event,’’ said Scully, who has found happiness in a hurry in the South.

It’s not like Reynolds Lake Oconee, with its 117 golf holes, hasn’t welcomed championship events before –. but it’s been awhile.

Great Waters hosted the Andersen Consulting World Championship from 1995-97 and just before the Nicklaus renovation it hosted two big American Junior Golf Association events – the Rolex Tournament of Champions in 2016 and the Justin Rose Junior All-Star Invitational in 2017.

Bob Cupp designed two of the Reynolds courses. This hole has a jagged shoreline to the green.

It’ll be a whole new ball game once Great Waters re-opens, and Scully has the background to deal with the biggest of the big events based on where he’s been in the golf world.

“Medinah, on the private side, was the best of the best,’’ he said. “My time in the desert was training time to do this job and get into the GM side. Now this is home. The two things I love here is southern hospitality and that it comes with a strong Midwest feel. I didn’t have that in Arizona. That West Coast vibe just wasn’t me.’’

Even in spring weather the conditioning of all the Reynolds courses was excellent.

Great Waters may be the resort’s championship layout but the others are good, too. Here’s what they’re all about:

THE LANDING – The first course built on Lake Oconee in 1986, it’s a Bob Cupp design. Originally known as Port Armor Golf Club, Reynolds acquired it in 2005 and it’s filled with stunning elevation changes and is a serious challenge for even the most talented players. A top college event, the Linger Longer Invitational, was played there from 2006-2017 and the Georgia Open was contested there in 2006.

THE PRESERVE – Cupp also was the designer of this one, which opened in 1988, and he had PGA Tour regulars Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller available as consultants. It was a smash hit immediately, being named Best New Resort Course of 1988 by Golf Digest magazine.

THE NATIONAL – Architect Tom Fazio unveiled the first of this 27-hole project in 1997 when the Ridge and Bluff nines were ready. The Cove opened in 2000. These nines wind through a forest and feature large, undulating greens.

THE OCONEE: Rees Jones, known as the “Open Doctor’’ for his re-designs of seven U.S. Open venues, five PGA Championship courses and three layouts that have hosted Ryder Cup matches, had this course ready for a 2002 opening. Water comes into play on nine holes, but the feature of this layout is its stunning par-3s. The Oconee’s biggest year was 2007 when the NCAA Mach Play Championship and PGA Cup matches were played there.

THE CREEK CLUB: Jim Engh became Golf Digest’s first Architect of the Year in part for his work on this members-only course. He was brought in in 2007 to create something different from the resort’s other courses and he delivered. Through the use of four sets of tees the Creek Club can be altered by as much as 160 yards from one playing to the next. The back nine is also unusual in that it has three par-3s, three par-4s and three par-5s.

With a Ritz Carlton Hotel on the property, there are many other eye-catching sites at Reynolds Lake Oconee away from the resort’s golf courses. Here are some of them.