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Len Ziehm On Golf

Streelman is only Chicago player still alive in FedEx Cup Playoffs

The FedEx Cup has provided a much-needed climax to the PGA Tour season. Big money is on the line at all four of the FedEx playoff tournaments and the $10 million bonus that will go to the eventual champion is a payday that receives attention beyond the golfing world.

Still, the FedEx Cup concept has its confusing aspects as well.

Consider what happened to the three qualified players with Chicago connections at the The Northern Trust, first event of the series that concluded in New York on Sunday.

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman had a horrible start to golf’s postseason, shooting 74-80 and missing the 36-hole cut. He managed to beat only one other player who completed 36 holes. Streelman, though, will playing in the second of the $8.475,000 tournaments in Boston this week while both D.A. Points and Luke Donald will be on the outside looking in.

Donald and Points both survived the 36-hole cut in the Northern Trust, Donald finishing in a tie for 49th place with – among others – U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Points had a dismal weekend, shooting 74-74 to tie for 54th.

For Donald The Northern Trust brought an end to a string of eight straight missed cuts on the PGA Tour. The slump followed his best finish of the season, second at the Heritage Classic the week after April’s Masters.

“My season’s done, a very disappointing year but my optimism never waivers,’’ said Donald via Twitter.

Donald and Points bowed out of the playoffs because they couldn’t attain a place in the top 100 on the FedEx Cup point standings. Streelman – even with his missed cut – could. Points finished 104th in the FedEx point race and Donald was 105th.

Streelman had a much better regular season than Points or Donald and — even with the poor showing in New York — still stands No. 87 in the standings. He’ll have to step up his play dramatically in the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, though, if he’s to make the field for his hometown PGA Tour event.

The Dell tourney runs Friday through Monday, rather than the usual Thursday start, to take advantage of more available holiday time for spectators. There’ll be a week off after the Boston stop ends on Labor Day and the BMW Championship, which runs from Sept.14-17 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.

The field in Boston has 100 players, but only 70 will move on to the BMW Championship. The survivors will be reduced to 30 at Conway Farms. Only that number will move on to The Tour Championship, last of the $8,475,000 events that wrap up the 2016-17 season.

Donald may not be playing at Conway Farms, but he’ll be there on behalf of a worthy cause. His annual Taste of the First Tee fundraiser will be held on Sept. 12 at Conway Farms with Sergio Garcia also attending as a special guest.

Here and there

The Illinois men and Northwestern women are in the select field at the East Lake Collegiate Match Play Championship, to be held Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 in Atlanta. East Lake is the annual site of The Tour Championship.

Casey Brozek, former Illinois PGA president, has left his post as director of golf at Crystal Lake Country Club to take a similar post at a 36-hole facility in Naples, FL.

Kemper Lakes’ Jim Billiter bounced back from a tough final round in the Illinois PGA Championship to share honors in Monday’s IPGA stroke play event at Calumet Country Club in Homewood. Billiter, the leader in the IPGA Player of the Year race, shot 67 and shared honors with Chris French of Aldeen, in Rockford, and Brian Carroll, of Royal Hawk, in St. Charles.

KemperSports has added another Illinois course to its management portfolio – Lincolnshire Fields in Champaign.

Over 3,000 — myself included — set to tee off in Myrtle Beach World Amateur

Golfers packed the rafters at the House of Blues for the World Amateur welcoming party.


MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – For 50 years now Myrtle Beach has been one of America’s foremost golf meccas for one major reason. The owners of its nearly 90 courses know how to work together.

That’ll be underscored shortly when Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday puts on the biggest tournament in golf – at least when it comes to the number of participants. The 34th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship will begin its five-day run on Aug. 28 with over 3,200 players – and I’ll be one of them.

Players from all 50 states and 30 countries will be among the participants. Fifty-five of the players are from Illinois and one most notable one is from just over the Illinois line. Paul Ciancanelli, of Demotte, Ind., has played in all of the previous 33 World Ams. Only six other golf fanatics have done that, and all were honored at Sunday night’s welcoming party at the local House of Blues.

The event has grown steadily over the years, and this year 52 courses will be used for the 72-hole portion involving all the entries. Players will be placed in flights according to gender, age and handicaps. There’ll be 9 a.m. shotgun starts for the first four 18-hole rounds, then the various flight winners will advance to a playoff at The Dye Club course on Sept. 1 to determine the overall champion.

I’m quickly coming to realize what a big deal the World Amateur Handicap Championship really is.


There’s a welcome reception at the local House of Blues on Aug. 27, the day before the competition begins, and the World’s Largest 19th Hole – a three-hour gathering after each day of play – will be held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The whole project is a massive undertaking, and this year’s version will be special as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, the sport’s largest non-profit marketing consortium.

Back in 1967 Myrtle Beach was by no means the golf mecca that it is today. It had only nine courses then. Now Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday lists about 90 within the 60-mile Grand Strand from Pawley’s Island to just across the South Carolina state line into Brunswick County, N.C., among its members. The list includes every relevant public course in the area.

Seven of the nine original Golf Holiday courses are still around — Pine Lakes, The Dunes Club, Conway Golf Club, Surf Golf & Beach Club, Whispering Pines, Pines Hills course at Myrtlewood and Litchfield Country Club.

“It’s amazing what those first owners created,’’ said Bill Golden, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. He joined up 19 years ago after working for Golf Digest magazine and never regretted it.

This is the trophy the next World Am champion will receive Friday.


“In golf space we’re very unique,’’ said Golden. “Golf has been so important here, and people have been supportive. The owners are competitive on one level, but if they didn’t work together this wouldn’t have worked out. They’ve taken the attitude that if it’s better for everybody, let’s do it. That’s refreshing, and it’s been a great lesson to learn.’’

Golden readily admits that “it’s never been easy…the golf industry has gotten so complicated.’’

But, in Myrtle Beach, it’s still become big business. The Myrtle Beach area attracts nearly 1 million golfers every year and Golden reports that the area courses together have 3.3 million rounds annually. That’s a lot of rounds.

Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has a staff of seven headed by Golden, a former collegiate player at Villanova. Four members of the staff focus on tournaments with Jeff Monday directing that group.

The World Am is their biggest event but the staff stages six others and helps with some put on by other groups. The Holiday events started as early as February this year, when the Preseason Classic drew 200 players from 22 states. The March Championship has drawn over 70,000 players in its 32-year history.

Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday also hosts the Palmetto Championship, the nation’s largest high school tournament, and the Dustin Johnson World Junior, which is played at TPC Myrtle Beach – where the world’s recent No. 1-ranked golfer has many of his trophies on display.

First course in the area was Pine Lakes, which opened in 1927 to complement the Ocean Forest Hotel, which catered to that era’s rich and famous. Pine Lakes is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2017 and it’s also known, for obvious reasons, as The Granddaddy.

Of all the Myrtle Beach courses Pine Lakes is the richest in history. The original holes were designed by Robert White, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, who was also the first president of the PGA of America.

The Dunes Club – the second course to open in 1948 — has hosted tournaments on all the major tours as well as many top amateur events. This year it was the site of the U.S. Golf Association Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Caledonia, True Blue and Tidewater are my personal favorites among Myrtle Beach’s courses, but the area offers an embarrassment of riches for all golfers. Twelve of its courses have been ranked on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and more than half of the Golf Holiday member facilities have been given 4-star or better rankings in that publication’s Best Places to Play Guide.

Indian Hill’s Schumacher finds Medinah No. 1 to his liking in IPGA tourney

Indian Hill’s Adam Schumacher lags close on the final green to clinch his first Illinois PGA title.


The Illinois PGA Championship has brought together the area’s top club professionals for 95 years, and Wednesday’s wrapup to the latest 54-hole gest was one of the strangest. Only one player seemed to want to win it.

Adam Schumacher, in his fourth season as an assistant pro at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, went on a hot streak on the back nine of Medinah Country Club’s No. 1 course and that propelled him to a three-stroke victory over playing partner Brett Walker, of Conway Farms in Lake Forest.

Schumacher started the final round six strokes behind leader Jim Billiter, the head pro at Kemper Lakes. Billiter and one of his playing partners, Dakun Chang, battled with Schumacher for the lead until Schumacher took charge.

Illinois PGA president Mark Labiak hands over the Jim Kemper Cup to Adam Schumacher.


After a water ball at No. 10 led to a bogey he went on a birdie-birdie-par-birdie burst and no one challenged him again. The birdies at Nos. 11 and 12, from 10 feet and five feet respectively, made the water ball a bad memory and the final one, off a 15-foot putt at No. 14, sealed the deal.

“Everyone was struggling, I kept grinding and it paid off,’’ said Schumacher, who earned $11,700 and also led the top 10 finishers into next year’s Professional Players National Championship.

“I was just hoping to make the top 10 again and get to nationals,’’ said Schumacher, who qualified for the PPNC for the third time. “I didn’t know I could win the tournament until I signed by scorecard.’’

The hole which broke the tournament open was a hole that didn’t produce a birdie for Schumacher — the 295-yard 13th. Such short par-4s seldom impact a tournament like this one did on Wednesday. Schumacher and Chang were tied when Schumacher reached the tee for that hole. He hit his drive far right, into the adjoining No. 12 fairway, but was able to get on the green with his second shot and salvage par.

Chang, an assistant at Twin Orchard in Long Grove, wasn’t as fortunate after putting his tee shot in the same area. He needed four approaches to find the putting surface and wound up with a horrendous seven.

“I love that hole,’’ said Schumacher – and for obvious reasons. He made a birdie two on it in the first round on Monday.

Schumacher shows the form of a champion on the back nine at Medinah No. 1.


Doug Bauman, the 60-year old veteran from Biltmore in Barrington who played with Schumacher, made a rare birdie on the tricky 13th and that spurred him into a tie for third with Chang. Billiter made his first birdie at 13 after struggling mightily on the front nine.

“My birdie at 13 was a miracle and I made another one at 14 to get into the top 10,’’ he said. “Otherwise I’d be going home crying.’’

Billiter, despite shooting an 80, finished solo fifth and retained his lead in the IPGA Player of the Year standings with three of the year’s four majors now in the books. The final one is the IPGA Player Championship at Eagle Ridge, in Galena, in October. Billiter played in the last group with Chang and Walker, and they finished nearly two holes behind the Schumacher-Bauman group.

“We were very slow,’’ admitted Billiter. “Brett played slow but was playing great, and we didn’t want to rush him.’’ Walker walked his round while Billiter and Chang, both known as fast players, rode carts.

Schumacher posted a 69, one off the day’s best round by Glen View’s Chris Green, and posted a 4-under par 209 for the 54 holes. Walker shot 73 and was the only other player under par for the tournament.

Twelve-time champion Mike Small, the University of Illinois coach, tied for sixth with Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow, who was one of five pros from the host club to survive the 36-hole cut. Among the others playing on Wednesday was Katie Pius, the only woman in the field. One of Bauman’s assistants at Biltmore, she tied for 35th.

Streelman, Points, Donald are in FedEx Cup Playoffs — but for how long?

The busiest Chicago golf season in at least twenty years is approaching its climax. The BMW Championship is headed back to Conway Farms, in Lake Forest, next month and the Western Golf Association called on England’s Paul Casey to be the focal point of last week’s preview to the FedEx Cup Playoff event.

As per usual, the field at Conway Farms will be only 70 players and they won’t be determined until after the first two FedEx Cup tournaments. The series begins on Thursday with The Northern Trust, the new name for the New York stop. It’ll have the top 125 in the season-long FedEx point race, and the field includes three players with Chicago connects.

That trio – Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points and Luke Donald – will have to play well to stay in the competition after the first tournament. Streelman is No. 83, Points 104 and Donald 107. The top 100 in the standings after the New York event advance to the Dell Technology Championship Sept. 1-4 at TPC Boston and the top 70 after that tournament are eligible to play at Conway Farms from Sept. 14-17.

The 30-player Tour Championship concludes the series at East Lake in Atlanta from Sept. 21-24.

While Casey isn’t guaranteed a spot at Conway Farms, there’s a good chance he’ll be there. His game has thrived in both the Playoffs and the BMW Championship. Last year he finished in the top five in all four FedEx tournaments and he’s been runner-up to Dustin Johnson twice in BMW Championships – at Cog Hill, in Lemont, in 2010 and at Crooked Stick, in Indiana, last year.

“If you could make sure that (Johnson) is not in the field, that would be great,’’ deadpanned Johnson. “But I’m really excited. This (FedEx Playoffs) has built through the years. It’s a great time of the season to get hot, and I typically do.’’

Each of the four Playoff events offers a purse of $8,750,000, and then there’s a $10 million bonus to the overall champion after the Atlanta stop.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs started in 2007 and the BMW Championship is an outgrowth of the Western Golf Association’s Western Open. With fall dates it took a while for the series to catch on, and Casey still rates the four-tournament climax to the season in importance behind the four major championships and The Players Championship.

“The system is still being tweaked’’ said Casey, “but the players really enjoy (the Playoffs). It is now something which is really etched in our minds all season long and is very, very exciting for us.’’

And it’ll stay around for a while, since FedEx recently renewed its financial commitment to the series.

“That’s massive for us,’’ said Casey. “It shows what place it has within the golfing community with the professionals. It’s now very, very important to us.’’

The BMW Championship is just as important to the Western Golf Association, which uses the tournament as a major way to fund its Evans Scholarship program. The last time the BMW Championship was played at Conway Farms, in 2015, it raised $2 million for the charity.

This year’s tourney ends Conway Farm’s three-year run as tourney host. Medinah will be the site in 2019 after Aronimink, in the Philadelphia area, hosts next year.

Vince Pellegrino, the WGA’s senior vice president for tournaments, announced some new features for this year’s BMW Championship. Reserved seating will be available beside the 18th green for the first time. Visitors will also be able to participate in the Top Golf Crush experience, the first time it’s been held at a PGA Tour event. Fans can compete for prizes in a five-ball challenge on the Conway practice range during the championship.

Here and there

The 95th playing of the Illinois PGA Championship concludes on Wednesday on Medinah’s No. 1 course.

Doug Ghim received a consolation prize after his loss to Doc Redman in the dramatic U.S. Amateur final on Sunday. The Arlington Heights resident was named to the U.S. Walker Cup team, which will take on a European contingent at Los Angeles Country Club next month. University of Illinois golfer Dylan Meyer is the third alternate for the 10-man U.S. squad.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct the 25th Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship Monday and Tuesday (AUG 28-29) at Exmoor, in Highland Park.

Reaching U.S. Amateur final underscoreshow far Doug Ghim has come

Doug Ghim gets interviewed by Fox TV’s Holly Sonders after advancing in the U.S. Amateur.

Doug Ghim is already one of golf’s most inspiring players, no matter how his 36-hole championship match in the U.S. Amateur turns out on Sunday.

Ghim, who grew up in Arlington Heights and ranked No. 5 academically in his graduating class at Buffalo Grove High School, was a 2 and 1 winner in his semifinal match with Theo Humphreys, a Vanderbilt University golfer, at famed Riviera Country Club in the Los Angeles area on Saturday. His opponent on Sunday is Doc Redman, the runner-up in the Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club two weeks ago.

Redman, from Raleigh, N.C., is a sophomore-to-be at Clemson. He defeated another collegian, Mark Lawrence of Virginia Tech, 1-up in his semifinal.

Both Ghim and Redman will elevate their profiles dramatically through their nationally televised duel (Fox Sports, 3:30 p.m.) in California. U.S. Amateur finalists traditionally get invitations to the Masters tournament and U.S. Open as well as other choice competitions.

That underscores how Ghim’s career in golf’s big-time golf is just beginning, and the way he got to this point is a story well worth telling.

Ghim’s father Jeff got him started in golf when he was six years old. Back then it was all about practicing, not scoring. Jeff had wanted to be a professional golfer himself, but three back surgeries ended that dream. He did, though, see considerable promise in his only son.

An invitation to play in the 2018 Masters is expected to be in Doug Ghim’s future.


The Ghims couldn’t afford the private clubs in the area. Instead father and son played the more affordable public courses, especially the Arboretum layout when twi-light rates were available. They weren’t above fishing golf balls out of water hazards at times, either. Jeff has been Doug’s only swing instructor and is his caddie at Riviera.

“I’m sure there was financial stress, but I think more than anything he wanted to see if I actually loved the game,’’ Doug told the assembled media after his semifinal victory on Saturday.

The answer was a resounding “Yes!’’ Doug loved the game and worked to get better throughout his high school years. He didn’t play for the school team after his freshman year because the Ghims felt there were better growth options in national junior tournaments.

He didn’t take the usual path to the pros by making a mark in the two biggest state events – the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open – either, but he still earned enough notoriety to land at a college with a top golf program. Though nearby Illinois and Northwestern also had strong programs, Ghim wound up at Texas a year after Jordan Spieth departed that school for the pro ranks after one college season.

Jeff was giving golf lessons at the since closed Golf Nation indoor facility in Palatine then and Doug’s signing announcement with the Longhorns was held there. Only two media members showed up. I know. I was one of them.

“I always felt pretty underrated,’’ said Ghim. “My decision to go to Texas was because I was going to be associating with incredible golfers. I knew every day I’d have to put my name and game up against theirs.’’

With Spieth gone, the main teammate to look up to for two years was Beau Hossler. In previous years Texas had such stars as Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. Now Ghim, at 21, is the man. Before his strong showing at Riviera he won the Pacific Coast Amateur so his game is peaking at a good time.

His final collegiate season may be delayed a few days because the U.S. Amateur champion gets an automatic berth on the U.S. Walker Cup team, and the U.S. Golf Association will pick nine others to play against the European team next month. Ghim looms as a good bet to make that team one way or another.

If he does win today he’ll be part of collegiate golf history. Another Texas student, Sophia Schubert, won the U.S. Women’s Amateur this year and no school has ever swept both the men’s and women’s titles at the national championship.

Ghim’s headgear at Riviera is also noteworthy. He wore a Masters cap during his semifinal match and will wear a Cubs’ cap in the final.

“I don’t take lightly how significant it is to be playing out there tomorrow and having a chance at being in the history books,’’ Ghim said. “ The great champions of this game all started here.’’

Now it’s his turn.

Ghim is only Illinois golfer to reach match play in U.S. Amateur

Nick Hardy, coming off playing the Western Amateur and Illinois Open back-to-back, was understandably tired last week – but not too worn out for one (or maybe two) more big events before he returns to the University of Illinois.

This week’s 117th U.S. Amateur in California presented a huge opportunity for both the Illini senior-to-be from Northbrook as well as Doug Ghim, an Arlington Heights resident about to enter his senior season at Texas.

If either or both played well in the U.S. Am they could be playing for the U.S. in the biennial Walker Cup matches before their final collegiate seasons tee off. The Walker Cup is the most prestigious event in amateur golf, and 10 players will be named to the U.S. team by captain John “Spider’’ Miller after the U.S. Amateur concludes on Sunday at the famed Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles.

Ghim played well in the tourney’s 36-hole stroke play qualifying, finishing in a tie for eighth, and advanced to match play. Hardy didn’t, and his Walker Cup hopes are solely in Miller’s hands.

The Walker Cup matches against a team from Great Britain and Ireland will be held Sept. 9-10 at Los Angeles Country Club and both Hardy and Ghim are serious contenders for selection. They were among 16 players invited by Miller to play the Walker Cup course four straight days in December. Neither were guaranteed spots on the team, though, so their play in the U.S. Am will likely decide whether they make the team or not.

Hardy played the busier summer schedule. Both were in the Western Amateur two weeks ago at Skokie Country Club. Hardy made the Sweet 16 match play qualifiers for the third straight year while Ghim didn’t. Hardy also tied for second in the Illinois Open, which started two days after the Western ended. Ghim skipped that event at The Glen Club and Briarwood Country Club.

“I’ve played a lot of golf, but I’ll be ready for the U.S. Amateur,’’ said Hardy. “Then, hopefully, there’ll be the Walker Cup. It’s definitely hard to get that out of your mind, to not think about it. Do I think I’m one of the top 10 amateurs in the country? Sure, but there’s a lot of great players with a chance to make the team. It’s out of my control.’’

Both were among the 312 finalists who had to survive 36 holes of stroke play competition on Monday and Tuesday to get into the 64-man match play competition that started Wednesday. Ghim was a shoo-in after shooting a 67 on Monday. Hardy, after opening with a 73, was eliminated after shooting a 76 in the second round and didn’t reach the stroke play portion of the tournament.

Neither did any of the other eight Illinois players in the field. It took a 4-over-par score to qualify for match play. Wheeling’s Brian Ohr missed a playoff for the final spots by one stroke, Blaine Buente of downstate Troy was plus-8 and Hardy, at plus-9, was five off the cut mark.

Geneva’s Tyler Isenhart, Chicago’s Charles Waddell, Plainfield’s Derek Mason, Elmhurst’s Jordan Less and Rockford’s Kyle Slattery were at least six strokes behind Hardy and Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell was disqualified after posting a first-round 67 because he failed to sign his scorecard. The match play qualifiers, though, did include Dylan Wu — a collegiate star at Northwestern.

The tourney drew 7,149 entrants and most were eliminated in nation-wide qualifying rounds last month. The 36-hole champions match will be played on Sunday.

Billiter’s in the driver’s seat

Just getting to play in the Illinois Open could finally get Jim Billiter the Illinois PGA Player of the Year Award. He missed out in 2015 despite winning two of the section’s four major events – the IPGA Match Play and IPGA Championship – because club duties as an assistant pro at the Merit Club prevented him playing in the biggest event, the Illinois Open.

Billiter became head pro at Kemper Lakes this year and was low IPGA pro at this year’s Illinois Open with a tie for 13th last week. Already the IPGA Match Play champion again, Billiter opened a big lead in the Bernardi point race and the next major – the IPGA Championship, which tees off on Monday on Medinah No. 1. Billiter won the IPGA Championship the last time it was played there, in 2015.

“My boss (general manager John Hosteland) has been super supportive,’’ said Billiter. “Others have had to step up when I’m gone. I hadn’t played in the Illinois Open in 10 years, and I was glad to be back.’’

Here and there

The first round of the U.S. Amateur produced a shocker among the seven Illinois players in the field. Two-time Illinois State Amateur champion Todd Mitchell of Bloomington shot a 67, then left without signing his scorecard and was disqualified. Mitchell took the blame for his mistake via Twitter on Monday night.

David Inglis, the Northwestern men’s head coach since 2014, has signed a contract extension through the 2021 season.

WGN’s Dan Roan, always the king of Chicago media golfers, outdid himself last week. He shot 63 at Chicago Highlands in a round that included a hole-in-one.
PGA Champions veteran Chip Beck has appearances scheduled on Sunday at Ruffled Feathers, in Lemont, and Monday, at Eagle Brook in Geneva on behalf on behalf of Arcic Golf.

John Ramsey and Chadd Slutzky won the Chicago District Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Wynstone, in North Barrington, even though they had to overcome holes-in-one by their opponents in both semifinal and final matches.

Flavin joins Ogrin in a prominent place in Illinois Open history

Patrick Flavin belts his tee shot on No. 1 at The Glen Club as ace photographer Nick Novelli zeroes in.


Patrick Flavin was hoping that his six-stroke lead going into Wednesday’s final round of the 68th Illinois Open at The Glen Club, in Glenview, would be enough to get him through the final 18. It wasn’t.

Flavin wasn’t as sharp as he was in the first two days, when he shot a pair of 64s, but he regrouped in the final three holes and took advantage of one bad swing by playing partner Brandon Holtz to become the first player in 37 years to win the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year.

David Ogrin, who grew up in Waukegan, managed that feat in 1980 and went on to a solid career on the PGA Tour. Flavin, who grew up not too far away in Highwood, knew nothing about Ogrin but was glad to share a place in history with him.

“Walking off that final green was awesome,’’ said Flavin, about to enter his season year at Miami of Ohio. “I knew I was playing good golf, but to win both tournaments in the same year is far above my expectations.’’

Patrick Flavin adds the Illinois Open trophy to the one he captured at the Illinois State Amateur.


Only seven players have won titles in both of the major tournaments for Illinois residents. Just Ogrin and Flavin did it in the same year, and the only other amateur to win both at one time or another was Bill Hoffer, who never entered the professional ranks. Others to win both titles, but not in the same year, were Gary Hallberg, Gary Pinns and Mark Hensby, all of whom spent at least one season on the PGA Tour, and Brad Hopfinger, who finished in sixth place on Wednesday.

Flavin took the Amateur at Calumet Country Club last month when he edged Jordan Hahn, a University of Wisconsin golfer from Sugar Grove, by one stroke. That tournament was a two-man duel. Flavin had more competition in the Open, which draws the best club professionals and a smattering of pro tour players in addition to the leading amateurs.

The three-way tie for second included two amateurs getting ready for college — Matt Murlick of Marquette and Nick Hardy of Illinois – and Brandon Holtz, a former Illinois State basketball player turned mini-tour golfer.

That trio finished one stroke behind Flavin’s 13-under-par 202 total for the 54 holes. Murlick made a charge early, holing a bunker shot for birdie on the first hole and 155-yard 9-iron second shot at No. 2 for eagle. Hardy made a belated charge after a disappointing bogey at the short par-5 fourteenth, making three birdies on the last four holes.

Holtz was the most serious challenger. He made birdies on five of the first six holes of the back nine to wipe out Flavin’s big lead from the start of the day.

“Once it got tied up that kicked me in the butt,’’ said Flavin. “That gave me a sense of urgency, to stop playing defense and just go get it.’’

Flavin didn’t exactly get offensive, but his game steadied and three finishing pars was enough after Holtz hit a horrible tee shot at the par-3 seventeenth. It landed in deep rough, and Holtz was lucky to make bogey.

“I had gotten some momentum, but on that tee shot we were fortunate to find that ball,’’ said Holtz, who was the surprise of the tournament though he did finish in a tie for 16th last year.

“I always thought I could play,’’ said Holtz, who sells football helmets to youth groups for his regular job and has played golf for money only four years. “I know I can play, and I had a blast. I have no regrets.’’

With Flavin still an amateur, Holtz, from Bloomington, took the first-place check of $13,886 from a total purse of $95,000. Defending champion Carlos Sainz Jr. finished in fifth place, two strokes behind Flavin.

No Illinois Open for Small; he’s back in the PGA Championship

Mike Small has been prominent on the Illinois golf scene for years, either as a player or as the coach of the University of Illinois’ powerhouse men’s team.

This week it’s as a player – even though he’s not making his usual run at an Illinois Open title. Small has won that event four times and needs another to tie Gary Pinns’ record of five tournament titles. This year presented a good chance to get No. 5, too. The tourney, which concludes today (WEDNESDAY) at The Glen Club in Glenview, is on the same course that Small captured his previous four titles.

Small believes it’s his first Illinois Open absence since 2000, when an elbow injury prevented his participation. He has a good reason for being a no-show, though.

On Thursday Small tees off in the year’s final major, the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina. He understandably opted for the three days of preparation at Quail Hollow while the Illinois Open was in progress

“My first PGA since Oak Hill (2013),’’ said Small. “I’m looking forward to playing well.’’

No reason he shouldn’t. Small, 51, has been in eight previous PGA Championships and was the low club pro in 2007 at Southern Hills, in Oklahoma, and again in 2011, at Atlanta Athletic Club. This year’s appearance, though, is something special. It’ll be Small’s first appearance in the event as a senior.

Small will be paired with PGA Tour regular Jason Kokrak and Satoshi Kodaira, a four-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, in the first two rounds at Quail Hollow.

In his 17h season coaching the Illini, Small has the rare ability to blend playing with coaching. This year he played in three PGA Tour Champions events and tied for 43rd in the U.S. Senior Open. He got into the field at Quail Hollow by tying for third in the Professional Players National Championship in Oregon, an event he won three times between 2005 and 2010.

In a final tuneup for the PGA Small won the 36-hole Illinois PGA Senior Championship by six shots at Merit Club in Libertyville. That won’t be his last tournament locally, though. He will go after his 13th title in 17 years in the Illinois PGA Championship Aug. 21-23 on Medinah’s No. 1 course. Five days later classes begin in Champaign, and Small will focus on coaching again.

U.S. Amateur up next

Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy, the stars of Small’s current Illini team, will be in the field at next week’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera in Los Angeles. That event tees off on Monday with a big Chicago contingent among the entries.

Like Meyer and Hardy, Arlington Heights resident and Texas standout Doug Ghim figures to be among the leading contenders for the title. All are in the top 50 in the world amateur rankings.

Six others from the Chicago area survived qualifying tournaments. Wheeling’s Brian Ohr was medalist at a session at Midlane, in Wadsworth. Northwestern’s Dylan Wu, Derek Mason of Plainfield and Tyler Isenhart of Geneva advanced through an elimination at Village Links of Glen Ellyn; and Elmhurst’s Jordan Less and Chicago’s Charles Waddell went out of the area to earn their berths.

Ogrin could get company in Illinois Open record books

This could be really big.

Just six players have won titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, and only David Ogrin swept both tournaments in the same year. That was 37 years ago.

Today Ogrin, who continued on to a solid career on the PGA Tour, could get some company. Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, a senior to be at Miami of Ohio, takes a six-shot lead into the final round of the 68th Illinois Open at The Glen Club in Glenview.

Flavin is well aware of the importance of playing one more great round. He checked out Ogrin’s feat on the Illinois PGA’s website on Monday night “to entertain myself.’’ That came after he shot a 7-under-par 64 on the Briarwood course in Deerfield, the companion course for this year’s championship, in the first round. He matched that score on the tougher Glen Club layout, in Glenview, on Tuesday to open his big lead.

The 264-player starting field for the Illinois Open finals were cut to the low 51 after the first 36 holes, and the survivors will start teeing off at 8 a.m. today at The Glen, where all eyes will be on Flavin.

“I know there’ll be pressure, but I’m playing real well and having a lot of fun,’’ said Flavin. “It’s awesome to be in this position.’’

Flavin’s performance in the Illinois State Amateur suggests he’ll be tough team beat, even though the competition will be stiffer. He birdied his first five holes en route to a 63 in the Amateur at Calumet Country Club, in Homewood, before losing the lead in Round 2 when Jordan Hahn shot a course record 61. Flavin then came from four shots behind to beat Hahn playing head-to-head in the final 18.

“I learned a lot from the State Am as far as the pressure,’’ said Flavin. “I know I can handle the pressure.’’

The win at Calumet got Flavin into last week’s Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club, but he failed to make it into the Sweet 16 match play qualifiers who battled it out for the championship. Flavin didn’t have his best game at Skokie, but he did as soon as the Illinois Open teed off two days later.

Last year he tied for 12th when the Illinois Open finals were held at Royal Fox and Royal Hawk, two St. Charles courses. With the tourney’s move to two layouts much closer to his home Flavin accumulated 15 birdies in 36 holes without making a bogey.

His biggest problem going into the final round at The Glen may be in choosing his caddie. His older brother Connor was on the bag at Calumet but wasn’t available at Briarwood on Monday so Flavin’s girlfriend, Emily Young, took on caddie duties. A college player at Amherst, she had a job commitment on Tuesday so Connor took over.

Flavin isn’t sure who will be on the bag when he goes after the Illinois Open crown against a field that includes the state’s best club professionals and a smattering of younger players on the brink of making it on the pro tours.

One of those, Wilmette’s Eric Mierdierks, was Flavin’s playing partner in the first two rounds when Flavin posted a 36-hole score of 15-under-par 128.

“He’s making his putts. It’s been fun to watch,’’ said Mierdierks, who won the Illinois Open in 2010 and is currently on a brief break from the Web.com Tour.

Mierdierks and Bloomington’s Brandon Holtz, a former Illinois State basketball player who didn’t play collegiate golf, are tied for second at 9-under 134. Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr., the defending champion, overcame a water ball on the last hole to shoot 65. His playing partner, Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, made 10 birdies and will play with Sainz again in the final round. They’re tied for fourth, seven strokes behind Flavin.

Tuesday’s play also included a rare albatross by Dakun Chang, a pro at Twin Orchard in Long Grove. He holed a 5-iron second shot from 205 yards at the par-5 14th but failed to survive the 36-hole cut.

Wisconsin’s Grand Geneva Resort is approaching two milestones

Not many resorts have courses as colorful as The Brute and Highlands at Grand Geneva.


With the big tournaments held recently at Erin Hills and Whistling Straits and the opening of Sand Valley, it may seem that luster could be off the Wisconsin golf destination that started all those good things. Don’t you believe it, though. Grand Geneva is doing just fine, thank you.

Dave Hallenbeck, director of golf at the Lake Geneva resort, has seen it all in his four decades there. He’s impressed with what’s gone on in golf throughout Wisconsin as well as what’s gone on at his home base.

“Blackwolf Run (Kohler), The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (a Jack Nicklaus design in Sheboygan Falls), Erin Hills, Sand Valley. These are world-class golf properties that I never would have expected in Wisconsin. Geneva National has been very successful. They have a wonderful facility over there,’’ said Hallenbeck. “Keeping up was our biggest challenge.’’

But Grand Geneva has more than kept up with what’s been going on around the Badger State, and that goes for neighboring Illinois as well. The resort is an easy drive from all parts of the Chicago area and its courses are well-known to players from that area.

Coming up in 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the resort and the 25th anniversary of its ownership by Marcus Corporation. Both milestones are meaningful, because no Wisconsin destination has the history that Grand Geneva has, and that’s all been beautifully chronicled in a coffee table book, “A Grand Tale: The History of Grand Geneva Resort,’’ published by Nei-Turner Media Group.

Grand Geneva director of golf Dave Hallenbeck has a prize possession — one of the original golf bags from the resort’s days as the Playboy Club.


The building of the Playboy Club-Hotel started it all. It was completed in 1968 and brought visitors by the droves to Lake Geneva. Hugh Hefner was, of course, the man behind that.

Hallenbeck arrived during the Playboy days – for the first time. At age 19 he was a lifeguard at the Playboy Club’s swimming pool – one of the first heated outdoor pools anywhere.

Now 63, he returned after college to work as an assistant under the late head golf professional Ken Judd 40 years ago. Golf wasn’t part of the equation when Hefner started the Playboy Club. Skiing was available when the resort opened. Golf arrived shortly thereafter when architect Robert Bruce Harris designed The Brute – a course way ahead of its time when it opened.

“At the time it was massive, and that’s what Playboy wanted,’’ recalled Hallenbeck. “Big greens, big bunkers, one of the longest courses at 7,300 yards from the tips. In the 1960s that was unheard of.’’

There’s still a mystique about The Brute. It’s always been very near the top of my frequently changing list of favorite courses. The most amazing thing about it now is the fact that the course still operates with its original greens. That’s unheard of. Even Hallenbeck admits that something will have to be done at some point.

“Over 50 years the greens have settled, and we’ll have to address those issues,’’ he said. “We’ve got to tear them up, but that’s a whole year project, and that’s hard to do when you’re packed every day. Overall The Brute has withstood the tests of time, which is amazing.’’

The Brute may be approaching 50 years, but that doesn’t detract from its beauty.


The Brute was built after the resort was under Playboy Club ownership. Playboy departed in 1981, selling the resort to Chicago-basked Americana Hotels Corporation. The resort endured two foreclosures before Chicago’s JMB Realty Corporation took ownership in 1988 and present owner Marcus came on in 1993.

Marcus took a resort that had fallen on hard times and revitalized it with golf a big part of the process.

Grand Geneva’s other course is more historically significant than even The Brute. It opened as the Briar Patch, a joint design effort by legendary designer Pete Dye with a then young Jack Nicklaus functioning as a consultant. Nicklaus was at the height of his storied playing career, having won the 1965 and 1966 Masters tournaments before being brought to the resort before the Briar Patch’s completion in 1967.

The Briar Patch was Nicklaus’ introduction to golf architecture, but won’t go down as one of his premier architectural efforts. Architect Bob Cupp was brought in for a 1996 renovation.

“He redid the whole course,’’ said Hallenbeck. “From a playability standpoint it’s a very nice golf course.’’

The course was renamed The Highlands after Cupp completed his work, which included the development of fescue fields. The end result is a beautiful course, one different from The Brute, with exceptional greens. Both are popular with visitors, many of whom don’t share my clear preference for the older course.

Just what this sculpture is remains a mystery, but it’s a landmark at No. 16 on The Brute.


Unlike Blackwolf, Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, the Grand Geneva courses haven’t made a splash hosting big tournaments. They won’t, either. Instead of being a tournament venue, The Brute and Highlands are popular destinations for charity events, and that’s been great for Hallenbeck.

“My goal was to raise $1 million for charities in my career,’’ he said. “That was my goal 40 years ago. At the end of this year we will have raised $25 million.

Grand Geneva hosts about 25 charity events each year. The Easter Seals Golf Classic and National Italian Invitational celebrated their 40th anniversaries this year. Juvenile Diabetes, United Way, Make-A-Wish – they’ve all benefitted from hosting tournaments at Grand Geneva.

Fescue fields, created by architect Bob Cupp, greatly enhanced the renovated Highlands course.


“I’ve been on up to 20 charity boards,’’ said Hallenbeck. “When I started on them I was the kid. Now I’m the senior member, and I’m working with the grand kids of some of the people I had worked with on some of these charity committees.’’

He calls children’s charities “my passion,’’ and worries that there’ll be no one ready to pick up those projects when he retires in about two years. That’s a concern for later on, plus – with his two children getting married this fall and already settled in the area – Hallenbeck doesn’t plan on straying very far.

For now the immediate issue is what will happen at Grand Geneva as it heads into its second 50 years.

“I suspect the newest thing will be just trying to be as competitive as we are with everything,’’ said Hallenbeck. “Marcus is so good at doing what they do. They’ve already expanded the villas.’’

Grand Geneva also offers more activities and dining opportunities than most Midwest golf destinations, and the views are stunning throughout. That suggests the second 50 years could be even better than the first.

Fountains beside the fairway spice up the finishing hole on The Brute course.