Heritage Oaks, Oak Meadows projects show major progress

Two of the biggest golf projects in the history of the Chicago area reach milestones this week.

The Northbrook Park District’s new Heritage Oaks course holds its dedication ceremony on Thursday while the DuPage Forest Preserve District’s Preserve at Oak Meadows, in Addison, has announced the opening of its new clubhouse.

Both were a long time coming.  Heritage Oaks is the new name for Sportsman’s, a 27-hole facility that has been in operation since 1931. Sportsman’s was closed for the 2020 season as Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson conducted a complete renovation of the courses and range. A new clubhouse was also  part of the massive project. While there’ll be some limited play over the weekend, the courses open for public play on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Preserve of Oak Meadows is on the brink of completing an overhaul that started in 2009 when the old clubhouse was destroyed in a lightning attack and the course was beset with major flooding issues. Oak Meadows was a more lengthy process than Heritage Oaks because of that until Aurora architect Greg Martin supervised a lengthy renovation of the property.

That was a $16 million project, and the results have been well-received, but the construction of the new clubhouse wasn’t  started until the course work was done. Now director of golf Ed Stevenson is ready to declare the clubhouse open, though full-service dining is still in limbo.

“We very quietly opened our doors in the middle of the night`and transferred the old pro shop to the new clubhouse,’’ said Stevenson.

Head professional Jamie Nieto now has his office there and golf merchandise is on sale.

Crunch time for Streelman, Ghim

This week’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina concludes the PGA Tour’s regular season and Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim are both in the field with berths in the lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs already assured.

The top 125 in the FedEx Cup point standings are in The Northern Trust  next week at Liberty National in New Jersey. Streelman in No. 56 and Ghim No. 80. The top 70 after that tournament will advance to the BMW Championship, played this year at Cave’s Valley in Maryland. Streelman appears a safe bet to make it there but Ghim needs a strong showing over the next two weeks to cash in big-time.

HERE AND THERE: Only three Chicago area players teed off Monday in this week’s 312-player field in the  U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, in Pennsylvania – Charlie Nikitas of Glenview, University of Illinois player Brendan OJ’Reilly of Hinsdale and Kenilworth veteran Charles Waddell, the Glen View Club champion….Nikitas, who played collegiately at Miami of Ohio, will take advantage of an extra year of eligibility and will play next season at Alabama.  He made the move after his coach at Miami, Zac Zedrick, was named associate head job at Notre Dame by head man John Handrigan…..Mistwood teaching pro Nicole Jeray was assured after her strong showing in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open that she will have a spot in the Senior LPGA Championship.  The other major championship for senior women will conclude its three-year run at Indiana’s French Lick Resort later this month….The Chicago District Four-Ball Championship concludes Wednesday (TODAY) at Flossmoor Golf Club.

 

Stonebridge fits Tee-K Kelly’s golf game to a tee

Tee-K Kelly’s victory in the Illinois Open was cause for a family celebration.

Tee-K Kelly was the whole show at the 72nd Illinois Open, no question about that.

The Wheaton resident, Ohio State alum and Medinah Country Club member led wire-to-wire in winning the biggest event for Illinois resident.  He was a record-tying 17-under-par, posting a 54-hole score of 199 at Stonebridge Country Club in Aurora.

His rounds of 66, 65 and 68 gave Kelly a three-stroke victory over Luke Gannon, a former Southern Illinois golfer from Mahomet, and made him only the 10th player to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. The last to do it was Vince India, a regular on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour. He won the Amateur in 2010 and the Open in 2018.

Kelly compiled one of the best amateur records by a Chicago area player, winning the State Am twice and finishing second once before turning professional after a college career at Ohio State. He had three top-10 finishes in the Illinois Open in the previous four years including a tie for third in 2020 before his breakthrough this week.

“It feels amazing,’’ said Kelly.  I’d put myself in contention in this tournament a fair bit, but it sure is a lot of fun when you pull it out.’’

The first player to claim the Illinois Amateur and Open titles was Gary Hallberg, who went on to a solid career in the professional ranks. He won the Open in 1977 and the Amateur in 1978 and 1979.

“It was absolutely a goal of mine (to win both titles),’’ said Kelly.  “It was really cool because I played a lot of golf with Gary son Eric, and with him as well.’’

Others to own titles in both are Gary Pinns, David Ogrin, Bill Hoffer, Roy Biancalana, Mark Hensby, Brad Hopfinger and Patrick Flavin. All turned pro with the exception of Hoffer, a life-long amateur.

There wasn’t much suspense in Wednesday’s final round, played on a course that hosted the Senior PGA Tour for five years in the 1990s and the LPGA circuit three times from 2002-04.  Stonebridge had not hosted a big tournament since then until it landed the Illinois Open.

Kelly started the day with a four-stroke lead on pro Luke Gannon of Mahomet. Gannon got within three shots twice on the front nine got that close a third time when Kelly hit his tee shot out of bounds at No. 14.

“In the past that would have shaken me up a bit,’’ said Kelly, “but – having my brother Will CHECK on the bag – it didn’t affect me very much.  I just hit a bad shot and wasn’t going to hit another one.  I wasn’t going to lie down and let that affect me.’’

It didn’t.  Kelly made birdies on the next two holes and cruised the rest of the way to a $20,000 first place prize.

Kelly, who stands 6-4, and his caddie-brother Will (6-7) have formed an imposing duo in their six times working together this year.  Kelly came into the Illinois Open off a tie for third in a Forme (formerly Canadian) Tour event and he’ll stay on that circuit with Will on his bag until Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school begins this fall.

BITS: Daniel Hudson, a former Kansas golfer who lives in Chicago, tied the Stonebridge course record with a 62 in the final round.  The 10-under-par mark was set by Babe Hiskey in the 1992 Ameritech Senior Open and tied by  Annika Sorenstam and Rosie Jones in 2003 when the LPGA’s Kellogg Keebler Classic was played at Stonebridge. Hudson climbed into a tie for third place with the hot round that included 10 birdies, an eagle and two bogeys…..Hinsdale’s Mac McClear, who was the Big Ten Conference’s individual champion for Iowa, finished in a tie for fifth and was the low amateur…..Crystal Lake’s Ethan Farnam, who won the last two Illinois State Amateur titles, finished tied for ninth in his bid to become only the third golfer to win both state titles in the same year.

 

Illinois Open has put Stonebridge back on the golf tournament scene

 

Stonebridge Country Club, which is hosting the 72nd Illinois Open this week, has an interesting history.

The Aurora private club opened in 1989 with a course designed by the well-respected Tom Fazio. His other Illinois creations include The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Conway Farms, in Lake Forest.   The latter two have been frequent sites of the biggest Chicago tournaments in recent years, but not Stonebridge.

Stonebridge came on like gangbusters immediately after it opened. The Senior PGA Tour (now PGA Tour Champions) had its stars on the layout barely two years after its opening, and the Ameritech Senior Open made a home there from 1991-95.

Champions during that run were Mike Hill, Dale Douglas, George Archer, John Paul Cain and – saving the best for last – Hale Irwin, who would also win a Western Open and a U.S. Open at Chicago courses.

Those tournaments didn’t even produce the most notable day of golf during those five years.  That one came in a pro-am, when Arnold Palmer and Michael Jordan were paired together and fans turned out in droves to follow those legends around the course.

Stonebridge wasn’t idle for long after the senior stars moved on.  The LPGA brought its Kellogg-Keebler Classic to Stonebridge in 2002, and the first winner was another legend, Annika Sorenstam.  She won the next year as well and Australian Karrie Webb, who had captured the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open at Merit Club in Libertyville, won the third and last visit from the best women players.

That stretch of tournament golf was virtually unheard of for a course as young as Stonebridge was then. After that blitz of tournaments – and with the homesites around the course pretty much all sold – the club was bought by the members from a developer.  Holding tournaments was no longer a priority.

That mindset changed in 2018 when the club’s 30th anniversary was approaching. An upgrade of the course was in order, and – rather than bring back the Fazio team – the greens committee interviewed four local architects before hiring Mike Benkusky, of Lake in the Hills. He was to get the course ready for the 2020 Illinois Open, when Stonebridge was scheduled to co-host with Naperville neighbor White Eagle.

Stonebridge happened to have a former Illinois Open champion as its greens chairman.  Joe Emerich was a Palatine amateur when he won the 2008 Illinois Open at Hawthorn Woods. He turned pro shortly after that, and three years later he was a regular on the Canadian PGA Tour.

“I learned how good I wasn’t,’’ said Emerich, who became a Stonebridge member in 2018 and has been heavily involved in course projects while transitioning to a job in the commercial insurance brokerage business.

“The course is certainly different,’’ he said.  “The renovation added 400 yards. We were very excited to co-host with White Eagle in hopes that we’d be the main site eventually.’’

Pandemic concerns changed everything.  The Illinois PGA opted to reduce the number of players and  drop its two-course format for the tournament finals.  White Eagle was the sole host in 2020 but Stonebridge was selected for that prestigious role this year.  This week marked the first time the club had hosted a big event in 17 years.

The pre-renovation yardage was fine for senior and women’s tournaments, but not for the young PGA Tour wannabes.  Now it measures 7,168 yards from the championship tees and was tested in qualifiers for the Illinois State Mid-Amateur and U.S. Amateur before landing the Illinois Open.

Benkusky also emerged in a changing world.  His work had been almost entirely on Midwest courses, but this year he landed a job in Florida for the “re-imagining’’ of a Dick Wilson design at Palm-Aire Country Club in Sarasota. Rarely do Illinois-based designers venture so far south, but Benkusky’s knowledge of the work of Wilson and Joe Lee, who designed the other 18-holer at Palm-Aire, helped land him the job.  Wilson and Lee had co-designed the famed Dubsdread course at Cog Hill in Palos Park.

Now, with another Illinois Open wrapping up, the future of Stonebridge as a tournament site is up for grabs. Available roads and parking areas nearby might make it attractive for bigger events again.

“Championship golf is something Chicagoland yearns for,’’ said Emerich. “Stonebridge came out of nowhere to host its first big events.  If we could do that once, we’re capable of doing it again.’’

 

 

 

 

 

DiscoverGolf teaching program is going from Illinois to Desert Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Here’s how the Illinois PGA events have changed

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ownership change triggers big changes at Illinois’ Eagle Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streelman looks for a bounce-back at the British Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Glover bucks the trend in winning the John Deere Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glover had his own game plan.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glover had his own game plan.

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

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

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

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