Both PGA and LIV golf tours will visit Chicago this year

Top level men’s professional golf has been hard to find in the Chicago area in recent years. That won’t be the case this season.

The upstart LIV Golf League finally announced its schedule on Tuesday and it included a return to Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.  That means the top men’s players will be visiting twice in 2023.

The PGA Tour hasn’t had a tournament in the area since Medinah hosted the BMW Championship in 2019, though the sport’s premier circuit has had the annual John Deere Classic as a fixture in downstate Silvis.

This year, though, the PGA Tour will come back to the Chicago area with the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event, scheduled at Olympia Fields. Then that circuit won’t be back for any event until 2026 when Medinah hosts the President’s Cup team event.

LIV’s return to Rich Harvest wasn’t a surprise.  It hosted one of the controversial Saudi-backed circuit’s most successful events in its inaugural 2022 campaign with Australian Cameron Smith winning the title.  LIV held eight tournaments last year and will have 14, spread across the world, this year.

Tuesday’s announcement was delayed until a television contract was finalized, and that was accomplished when The CW Network agreed to terms last week.

There was also a question on Greg Norman’s status as LIV’s chief executive officer and commissioner.  PGA Tour leadership, notably Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, wanted Norman out but his role has been expanded instead after former managing director Majed Al-Sorour was dropped down to a member of the board of directors.

The Olympia Fields and Rich Harvest events will be a month apart, setting up a big fall climax to the Chicago season. The BMW is Aug. 14-20 and the LIV stop in Sugar Grove is taking a new date, Sept. 22-24.

Both are well clear of golf’s four major championships, the British Open being the last to wrap up on July 23.  The Rich Harvest event will be played opposite the PGA’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

One interesting scheduling issue surfaced with LIV’s announcement.  LIV has a new event, at Orange County National in Orlando, FL., on tap a week before the first major, April’s Masters. There will be LIV players competing in the Masters against PGA Tour stars.  Orange County National has been the regular host of the Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show and was in that position when the show teed off on Tuesday.

LIV again has three of its events scheduled at courses owned by Donald Trump, but that third – a climax to the 2022 season – has been scaled down to a regular event instead of the team championship, which will now be played Nov. 3-5 in Saudia Arabia.

Obviously LIV isn’t going away any time soon and its court battle with the PGA Tour figures to become an increasingly heated one.

The first LIV event of the year will be Feb. 24-26 at Mexico’s Mayakoba Resort. The stars that bolted the PGA Tour for the big money offered by LIV – notably Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia – return to the LIV roster and more stars need to be added since the team competition has been expanded for the second season.

 

 

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Henderson gets the LPGA season off to a good start

Oh, Canada! Brooke Henderson dominated the LPGA’s Tournament of Champions.

ORLANDO, FL. — Funny thing about the LPGA.  The premier women’s tour in golf ended its 2022 season and started its 2023 campaign with Florida tournaments that were marred by some discontent.

The sponsor of last November’s CME Championship wasn’t happy that all the players competing for the biggest first-prize in women’s golf didn’t show up for the tournament’s gala banquet.  The players weren’t happy when they arrived at Lake Nona Country Club last week for the season-opening Tournament of Champions and found out that they weren’t provided with lockers in the clubhouse and that their time on the practice range would be limited.

Still, the show — featuring 29 LPGA players who had won tournaments in the last two years and a concurrent co-ed celebrity event, conducted with a Stableford point format for 56 players from the sports and entertainment world — had to go on, and it turned out a good one.

Especially for Canadian Brooke Henderson, who led wire to wire in winning the LPGA event with a 16-under par score of 272 for the 72 holes and earned $225,000. She had a four-stroke advantage on England’s Charley Hull and Sweden’s Maja Stark, neither of whom were disappointed.

“It was a great way to start the season,’’ said Hull.  “When I got here I didn’t know where my swing was at. Now I’ve got three weeks off (the next tournament is in Thailand next month).’’

“This wasn’t a normal competition, but if I keep going like this it could be my best year yet,’’ said Stark.

Henderson was the runner-up to Danielle Kang in last year’s Tournament of Champions. On Sunday she claimed her 13th LPGA title in her first tournament after switching to TaylorMade clubs.

“I’m really happy I made the switch,’’ said Henderson.  “I’m super-excited.  This was a dream start, and I love this championship because it’s so unique.’’

The celebrity event was won by Mardy Fish, a former tennis star who had captained the U.S. Davis Cup team. Fish was also the celebrity champion in 2021.

This time that division turned into a unique sideshow because it featured a load of Chicago athletic stars, past and present. Jeremy Roenick, the former Blackhawks’ great, did the best of that lot.  Paired with legendary golfer and Lake Nona member Annika Sorenstam, Roenick finished fifth – one point behind Sorenstam.  Brian Urlacher, the ex-Bears’ star, tied for ninth. Baseballers Ian Happ, Jon Lester, Greg Maddux and A.J. Pierzynski were also in the celebrity field.

 

 

 

PGA Show triggers some big news by Chicago area golf companies

The par-3 seventh on the Blue Course is one of the most memorable holes at Streamsong. a unique Florida resort that just underwent an ownership change.

 

 

ORLANDO, FL. — The biggest week so far in the 2023 golf season is on tap, and – though the Ladies PGA Tour’s season-opening Tournament of Champions is being played nearby – the focus will be on the 70th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

The show has been the industry’s biggest event, having regularly drawn 40,000 visitors in pre-pandemic times.  Attendance has been meager by comparison the last two years but most all the major manufacturers — there will be 450 companies and 800 brands represented — will return next week, and the event always triggers big news from throughout the golf industry.

This year one of the biggest developments has already been announced, and by  Northbrook-based KemperSports to boot.  The company, founded in 1978, just announced the purchase of Streamsong, one of the nation’s premier golf resorts.

Kemper had managed the three-course operation since the resort’s opening in 2012 and took over full management duties for owner Mosaic, a mining company, two years ago.  Mosaic sold Streamsong, located in the town of Bowling Green near Lakeland, FL., to  Lone Windmill LLC, an affiliate of KemperSports  supported by Kemper’s equity members, for $160 million.

Kemper executive director Steve Skinner arrived early for next  week’s show to check in at Streamsong – a 50-mile drive from Orlando — and he’ll be around for the start of the PGA Merchandise Show, which starts a busy three-day run on Tuesday. Kemper will present a survey “Teeing up the Future of Golf,’’ to show attendees in the aftermath of the Streamsong purchase.

“We’re very excited,’’ said Skinner, who has been with Kemper since 1998 and was involved in the creation of Streamsong since its opening in 2012. The purchase includes the three championship courses, two clubhouses, a lodge and other amenities on a 7,000-acre property.  Only 2,000 acres are in use now so there’s plenty of room for growth.

Skinner said that construction will begin in March on The Chain, a 19-hole short course designed by the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw architectural team, and a two-acre putting course.

“Down the road we’d like to build some cottages and then, if the demand requires it, a fourth big course,’’ said Skinner. “Golf has been the beneficiary of a new lifestyle coming out of the pandemic. We’ve seen a great demand, and there’s no place like Streamsong in the winter golf season.’’

Kemper has 140 properties on its management portfolio, owns 15 of those facilities and leases another 12.  The company owns The Glen Club, in  Glenview; and Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove; and Hawthorn Woods in the Chicago area.  Streamsong is its fourth acquisition in Florida.

Mike Scully, who had been director of golf at Medinah when that club hosted the 2012 Ryder Cup matches, is in his second year as director of golf at Streamsong.

Other Chicago companies will have prominent roles when the Merchandise Show kicks off with 400 companies and 800 brands participating.  Most interesting is  Oakbrook Terrace’s Zero Friction. President  John Iaconno came out with new tees, gloves, rangefinders  and balls at previous shows, but now his featured product is more cutting edge models of golf bags and trolleys.

Iacono introduced his first bag at last January’s PGA Show, launching the Wheel Pro — a pushcart model that has removable wheels and weighs only 10 pounds. That makes it great for traveling but the launch didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

“We had a delay in getting them out,’’ Iacono said.  “They were supposed to arrive in April but didn’t until late August.  Supply issues.’’

Iacono is more optimistic about the model that he will unveil next week. Called the Wheel Pro Stride, it’s an electric golf bag that includes a battery life of 36 to 45 holes and weighs 15 pounds.

“It is like having your own private caddy that can essentially travel anywhere in the world with you,’’ said Iacono.  “It even follows you around the golf course.’’

Chicago’s Wilson Sporting Goods just introduced a new line of clubs that is a throwback to the 1950s.  The Dynapower equipment line, which made its debut in 1956, will be re-launched with adjustable drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

“Dynapower changed the game of golf seven decades ago, and it’s time for Wilson to do it again,’’ said Tim Clarke, president of Wilson Golf.  “These powerful irons and adjustable drivers are built with our legendary history in mind as we continue to innovate and deliver top-of-the-line products that raise the confidence of golfers at all skill levels.’’

Wilson also adjusted its large professional advisory staff leading into the show, adding Kevin Kisner and Trey Mullinax after 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland switched to Cobra.  Mullinax won the PGA’s Barbasol Championship last season while Kisner compiled five top-10 finishes and played on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hardy will be more colorful when PGA Tour season resumes

Hardy brings a new putter, clubhead headcovers into the 2023 tournaments.

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy will be a more colorful player when he begins the 2023 portion of his second season on the PGA Tour at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. It’s  the circuit’s first full-field event of 2023.

The 26-year old University of Illinois alum signed last week as the PGA Tour ambassador for Swag Golf, a five-year old company that produces putters and club headcovers. Its headquarters are also in Northbrook.

Swag has named the hand-crafted putter that Hardy tested in the final months of 2022 as the  “Hardy Prototype.’’  It apparently works, as Hardy made eight straight birdies with it (one off the PGA Tour record)  in his second tournament with the new blade at Mexico’s Mayakoba course in November.

His new clubhead covers, though, will be more noticeable when Hardy arrives at the first tee this week. Hardy has collected headcovers for years, now having about 60 over multiple brands. His new ones will be among the most colorful on tour and could be the most coveted among collectors.

Hardy will be rotating headcovers each week, and the first set will have an Hawaiian theme. Hardy’s favorite cover is one featuring former Bears’ coach Mike Ditka.

Swag’s founder, Nick Venson, focused on creating putters at first.  He was a Scotty Cameron enthusiast before working at putter manufacturer Bettinardi. The headcovers, though, were an immediate hit when U.S. captain Steve Stricker ordered some for his winning team at last year’s Ryder Cup.

“I don’t switch things,’’ said Hardy.  “I have the same driver shaft, same iron shaft and had the same putter for eight years before this one. Their putters are already great, and we’ve dialed in something I love even more. They make the best covers I’ve ever seen, and I want to make more of a collection.’’

Hardy needed a strong showing in a three-tournament, season-ending playoff series to retain his PGA Tour card, then made cuts in the first five events of the wrap-around 2022-23 campaign before missing in the final event.

 

HERE AND THERE

Jaravee Boonchant, the Thailand golfer who won this year’s Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood by seven shots, has earned her LPGA card.  The Duke University player earned her spot on the premier women’s circuit by finishing in the top 45 at the recent Qualifying School.

Jeff Sluman, a long-time Hinsdale resident and six-time winner on both the PGA  Tour and PGA Tour Champions, has been nominated for a three-year term on the U.S. Golf Association’s Executive Committee. He’ll join Chicago’s Tony Anderson, who is in the process of serving his second term.

The Winnetka Park District has named Northbrook-based KemperSports to manage its nine and 18-hole courses, both of which will be closed in 2023 to facilitate an extensive renovation led by Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson. Both courses will re-open in 2024.

The Chicago District Golf Association has announced an 89-event schedule for 2023.  The key dates are for the 92nd Illinois State Amateur, July 18-20 at Bloomington Country Club, and the 103rd CDGA Amateur, June 26-29 at Lake Shore in Glencoe.

Eagle Ridge Resort, in Galena, has announced that it’s all new Stonedrift Spa is now open at a new location, where the General Store had been located.

 

 

 

Flavin, India will be busy when Korn Ferry Tour returns

Patrick Flavin’s attempt at earning his PGA Tour card through a year’s worth of Monday qualifiers made for a captivating story throughout the 2022 season.

The Highwood resident, who won the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in 2017, came up a bit short in the final day of his long season of traveling in September, but the year ended with a nice consolation prize last week when Flavin finished in the Top 40 of the Korn Ferry Tour’s Qualifying Tournament for the 2023 season in Savannah, Ga.

Both Flavin and Deerfield’s Vince India tied for 24th in the last of the four-tournament series.  That meant both are assured eight early season starts when the PGA’s alternative circuit begins play in January.

India has played on the Korn Ferry Tour since 2015.  That’s been his main tour home since he was the Big Ten Player of the Year for Iowa in 2011. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, India’s teammate at Iowa, will also be back for another Korn Ferry season, but he isn’t assured the starts that Flavin and India earned in the Qualifying Tournament.

Neither are Illinois alums Michael Feagles and Brian Campbell, but they also secured another year of Korn Ferry membership.

HARDY START:  Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, who had to go to the Korn Ferry Finals to retain his PGA Tour membership, responded with the pressure on in that three-tourney series in August and September and he hasn’t cooled off since.

Hardy made the cut in the first five PGA Tour events after retaining his card, finishing a career-best tie for fifth in the Sanderson Championship. The PGA Tour season has two events remaining, and Hardy isn’t in the field for this week’s Houston Open.

TAMPA-BASED:  Elizabeth Szokol, the only Chicago-connected player on the LPGA Tour, has taken residence in Florida.  Her place in Tampa is a 40-minute drive from the Pelican course, site of this week’s last event on the circuit’s regular season.

Szokol, in her third LPGA season, grew up in Winnetka and played two seasons at Northwestern. Her swing coach, Justin Sheehan, is the head professional at Pelican but Szokol calls nearby Avila her home club.

“I’m from Chicago so needed a warmer place,’’ said Szokol.

She had a great second season on the circuit in 2021, making it into her tour’s top 60 to qualify for the season-ending CME Group Championship, in Naples. Its $2 million first prize is the largest winner’s check in the history of women’s golf.

Szokol played in only 12 events this year, though, and stands No. 105 in the CME standings going into next week’s season climax.

Big things are coming down the road for The Pelican.  “The Match’’ – this time featuring Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy vs. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth – is a 12-hole under-the-light event coming in Dec. 10 and next year’s LPGA event there  will be rebranded as The Annika in honor new host Annika Sorenstam.

HERE AND THERE:  Coach Mike Small’s next recruiting class at Illinois includes Max Herendeen, of Bellevue, Wash., who won the Junior PGA Championship at Cog Hill in August, and Ethan Wilson, who helped Team Canada capture the Junior World Cup in Japan.

Chuck Kletcke will become the first Golf Pro Emeritus in the 112-year history of Edgewood Valley Country Club in Burr Ridge when he ends his 25 seasons as head  professional at the end of the year.

The Downers Grove Park District’s nine-hole course, site of the original Chicago Golf Club in 1893, will be rebranded next year as the Belmont Golf Club. That was  its name after Chicago Golf moved to its present 18-hole location in Wheaton in the 1890s.

Prolific Aurora architect Greg Martin is making plans to renovate 27-hole Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

The Winnetka Park District’s 18-holer won’t re-open in 2023 to accommodate the village’s stormwater management project.

 

 

Peterson will leave JDC post on a record high

Clair Peterson’s last Birdies for Charity announcement was a big one for the John Deere Classic.

 

The tournament director of Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event will be leaving his post on a record high.

Clair Peterson, who officially ends his 20-year stint leading the John Deere Classic, announced on Monday that this year’s Birdies for Charity program  raised a record $13,908,668 for 481 participating charities in the Moline area.  That total is $89,514 more than the previous record set in 2019

The Birdies for Charity program was established in 1971 and 98 percent of its $159.57 charity total was raised since John Deere assumed title sponsorship in 1998.  Peterson is a 45-year John Deere employe.

“The annual charity announcement is the reason we exist – to help raise money for our local charities,’’ said Peterson.  This year’s $13.9 million total works out to approximately $37 for each of the Quad Cities’ 375,000 residents, again making the tournament No. 1 in per capita contributions on the regular PGA Tour.  The JDC has held that honor for more than a decade and Peterson’s role has been widely recognized.

“Clair is green and yellow (John Deere’s colors) though and through,’’ said Zach Johnson, the tournament’s 2012 champion and long-time board member as well as the current U.S. Ryder Cup captain.  “His leadership and wisdom have taken the JDC to phenomenal levels.’’

J.T. Poston won this year’s tournament with a 21-under-par performance at TPC Deere Run, in Silvis, in July.  He’s expected to defend his title from July 3-9, 2023.

BIANCALANA’S BIG FINISH: No one was better than veteran teaching professional Roy Biancalana during the climax to the Illinois PGA’s tournament season. Playing out of The Hawk Country Club in St. Charles, Biancalana won the IPGA’s Errie Ball Senior Player of the Year Award for the fourth time in five years.

Biancalana won two of the section’s four senior majors, repeating as the winner of the Match Play event.  Though Kishwaukee’s David Paeglow took a wire-to-wire victory in the season-ending Senior Players Championship it was Biancalana who has the most to look forward to in 2023.

He’ll be the only IPGA player in the field for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship on May 25-28.  That’ll be special, since it’ll be the first major championship to be contested at PGA Frisco – the new Texas home of the PGA of America. Biancalana earned his spot by finishing in the top 35 at the Senior PGA Professional Championship.

IWO’S RISING STAR: Jaravee Boonchant, playing without a practice round only hours after arriving from her native Thailand, won July’s Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood, in Romeoville, by seven strokes in and she didn’t stop there.

Earlier this month Boonchant won the LPGA’s Epson Tour Championship, posting a record 23-under-par for 72 holes on the LPGA’s International Course in Florida.

HERE AND THERE: The University of Illinois men’s team held a No. 9 national ranking in the college polls after concluding its fall season with a third-place finish in the Isleworth Collegiate in Florida.

Chadd Slutzky, of Deer Park and Royal Fox Country Club in St. Charles, is the Chicago District Golf Association’s Player of the Year and Tim Sheppard, of East Peoria and Pekin Country Club, is the CDGA’s Senior Player of the Year.  Sheppard became a three-time winner of that award.

Illinois’ representative in the PGA Junior League’s national championship again came out of Cog Hill, and this time the team made a strong run at the title in the 12- team finals in Scottsdale, Ariz.  Led by Cog Hill teaching pro Kevin Weeks, the Illinois squad earned the No. 1 seed in match play before losing a tense semifinal match to Team California.  Florida defeated the Illinoisans in the third-place match.

Winnetka native Brit Stenson has been elected president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and Lake in the Hills architect Mike Benkusky is a new member of the board of directors.

 

 

 

Carroll is the Illinois PGA’s Player of the Year

Brian Carroll, head professional at The Hawk Country Club in St. Charles, is the Illinois PGA Player of the Year.

Carroll, who led the Bernardi point standings most of the season, clinched the title with a tie for seventh in the IPGA Players Championship last week at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe.  That was the final event of the IPGA tournament season.

“I’ve been close to winning this honor a number of times,’’ said Carroll.  “There was one time where I was leading in the points race for most of the year going into the last event and got edged out.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I’ts nice to finally get it done.’’

Carroll won the IPGA Professional Championship — his first ever win in one of the section’s four major tourneys — and was runner-up in the IPGA Match Play Championship.

Kevin Flack, from Mauh-Nah-Tee-See, in Rockford, won The Players event with a 1-under-par 141 for the 36 holes at Lake Shore. He played in only three of the majors, having not gained Class A membership in the section until June.  He had successfully defended his title in the IPGA Assistants Professional Championship earlier in the season.

LIV REVISITED: Jerry Rich, owner of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, couldn’t be more pleased with the controversial LIV Tour’s tournament held on his course.

“The weather was beautiful, the turnout was outstanding and the competition was top-notch,’’ said Rich.  “Since I’ve always wanted to host the best professional men’s golfers in the world, the LIV Golf Invitational Chicago was a dream come true.’’

The LIV circuit competes in Bangkok, Thailand, starting on Friday and has an Oct. 14-16 tournament in Saudi Arabia before concluding its first season at Trump Doral in Miami Oct. 28-30.  Next year’s schedule, which is to include a Chicago stop, will be announced in Miam

DRIVE, CHIP & PUTT: Medinah hosted a regional for the Drive, Chip & Putt again and four local players earned spots in the national finals at Georgia’s  Augusta National next April.  Heading the qualifiers was Northbrook’s Martha Kuwahara, who repeated as the regional champion in the Girls 14-15 division.  She had a 268-yard drive and three chips within two feet in winning the regional.

Other locals advancing to Augusta National were Emory Munoz, of Lockport, in the Boys 7-9 division; William Comiskey, of Hinsdale, in the Boys 10-11; and  North Aurora’s Ben Patel, in the Boys 12-13.

.HERE AND THERE: Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, in the second tournament of his second PGA Tour season, tied for fifth in last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi and earned $280,943.  Thomas Detry, another Illinois alum, tied for ninth and Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman tied for 24th. All three, plus Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim, will compete in the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas this week.

The University of Illinois men’s team won the Folds of Honor tournament in Michigan by 15 shots last week and has climbed to No. 5 in the Golf Coaches Association national rankings.

Tom Kearfott, of El Paso, and Tim Sheppard, of East Peoria, won the Chicago District Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Crystal Lake Country Club.  It was their fifth title in the event’s seven-year history.

Naperville’s John Perna, founder of The Players Service in Downers Grove, has been named Illinois Junior Golf Association Person of the Year.

Cog Hill Ravines, of Lemont and guided by professional Kevin Weeks, is in the PGA Junior League national  championship this week in Arizona.

Zero Friction, Oakbrook Terrace-based golf products manufacturer, has named Tom Cismoski its senior vice president of U.S. sales.

 

 

 

 

 

Could the Women’s Western Open be returning?

Sure, last week’s LIV Tour Invitational at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, may have been the high profile golf event of this Chicago golf season but the biggest news may have been made a day earlier at the Women’s Western Golf Association’s annual Women of Distinction ceremonies at the Glen View Club.

That’s when the award recipient, Judy Rankin, told the well-attended gathering that the Women’s Western Open may finally be coming back. Held 38 times from 1930 to 1967, it was one of the Ladies PGA major championships prior to its folding after Kathy Whitworth won the final staging at downstate Pekin Country Club.

“I hope one of these days soon, and I’ve heard a lot about it, that the Women’s Western Open will be reinvented.  That would be great,’’ Rankin said.

The Women’s Western Golf Association continued to run Amateur and Junior tournaments after its Open was discontinued but WWGA leaders have talked about bringing back the professional event, especially after joining forces with the Western Golf Association in recent years.

Working with the men has facilitated the WWGA’s continuation of the Amateur and Junior.   The WGA – which has put on the BMW Championship on the PGA Tour and created a stop on the Korn Ferry Tour in addition to staging its own Amateur and Junior events for men — has been receptive to elevating the women’s game.

Neither the WGA nor WWGA have commented on the possible revival of the Women’s Western Open but an investigation of potential sponsors has been ongoing.

The WGA conducted the popular Western for men until opting to convert it into a FedEx Cup Playoff event in 2007.  As the BMW Championship it has been moved around the country and the establishment of a major tourney for women would help fill a tournament void in the Chicago area.

The Women’s Western Open, the first major in women’s golf, was first held 20 years before the LPGA was created.  The Open was a match play event from 1930 to 1953 and a 72-hole stroke play event after that.

Patty Berg won the title four times at match play and three  in stroke play.  Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias were also among its champions.  Beverly Country Club was the only Chicago site for the stroke play events but 10 other were used in the match play days.

Rankin, a 26-time winner as an LPGA player, stopped competing after suffering back problems in 1983.  She has been the premier TV analyst for the women’s game for the past 39 years.  She played in the Women’s Western Open only four times, her best finish being a tie for fourth in 1964.

HERE AND THERE: Brian Carroll, of The Hawk in St. Charles, will try to protect his lead in the Illinois PGA’s Bernardi Point of the Year  race in the section’s last of four major events.  The IPGA Players Championship, featuring the top 35 players in the point race, runs Monday-Tuesday (SEPT 26-27) at Lake Shore, in Glencoe.  Carroll won the IPGA Championship and was the runner-up in the IPGA Match Play Championship.

The First Tee of Greater Chicago opened its Waveland Youth Facility, which is next to Chicago’s Marovitz course.  The facility features a 1,250 square foot clubhouse and outdoor putting and short game area designed by Todd Quitno in consultation with PGA Tour player Luke Donald and Northwestern director of golf Pat Goss.

The University of Illinois men’s team had Adrien Dumont de Chassart (tie for 2nd) and Tommy Kuhl (fifth) among the top five individuals but the Illini finished second to Stanford in the school’s annual tournament at Olympia Fields.

The PGA Tour has awarded the Western Golf Association $125,000 for its Caddie Academy as the first beneficiary of the inaugural PGA Tour Charity Challenge.

Bob Malpede and Kevin Fitzgerald were the honorees in Monday’s rain-delayed Illinois PGA Masters at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.

 

 

Rich Harvest tourney will show how different the LIV Tour is

Rich Harvest Farms is all decked out for the LIV Tour’s arrival. (Rory Spears Photo)

The LIV Golf Tour, which comes to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove this week, is – at the very least – different.

After only four tournaments over the last three months, the jury is still out on the controversial circuit put together by legendary player Greg Norman with extraordinary financial backing from the Saudi government.

The Saudis have a horrible record on human rights issues, but its fledgling golf tour has made an immediate impact with Norman’s signing of top stars that include  Americans Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson De Chambeau.

LIV tournaments so far have been called everything from refreshing to silly. Their prize money is eye-catching, though — $25 million per tourney. We’ll see how it’s received by a Chicago audience when play tees off on Thursday with a pro-am.  Three tournaments rounds follow that.

Chicago PGA Tour players Kevin Streelman and Nick Hardy clearly have no interest in going the LIV route, Streelman even declaring “What’s trying to happen is the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen in the game of golf.’’

As players they are turned off by LIV’s departure from the game’s longstanding traditions.  Instead of the 72 holes played in a PGA Tour event LIV’s events are 54 holes with a shotgun start to each round. Players begin play at the same time but  tee off at different holes.

That’s not a big deal.  PGA Tour Champions, the Ladies PGA Tour and most of the top college tournaments are played at 54 holes and the shotgun start is commonplace at most social or charitable events because it enables players to finish at roughly the same time.

I’ve watched – via either YouTube or Facebook – at least part of all four of the previous LIV tourneys to get a feel for what’ll be involved at Rich Harvest. You won’t get what you do at a PGA Tour event.

Spectators — and their numbers seemed to grow significantly with each LIV tournament – enter the playing venue into a giant fan experience that features a food court, putting and video games and a disc jockey playing music.

It’s unfathomable that Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, would arrive at a tournament via parachute, but that’s what Norman did for the last stop in Boston.

On the second day of that tournament Norman announced that players could wear shorts, and many did.  PGA Tour players are allowed to wear shorts only in pro-ams.

Broadcast coverage is different, too.  The graphics are more extensive than what you get from any of the networks at a PGA Tour event and the shotgun starts make for more fast-paced telecasts.   The on-air talent is – with the exception of David Feherty – unfamiliar to U.S. viewers. Bubba Watson, who will be playing on the LIV Tour once he’s healthy again, was pressed into service as a commentator in Boston.

LIV tournaments have 48 players, and there’s no 36-hole cut.  There’s also a team competition going on simultaneously with the individual play. That led to LIV detractors calling the tournaments “just exhibitions.’’

“Exhibitions’’ don’t offer $25 million prize money, though, and the LIV schedule will be expanded from eight to 14 tournaments in 2023. LIV will also be involved with events on the Asian Tour and its season prize money will be $405 million next year.

LIV isn’t going to go away, and Chicago is on the tentative 2023 schedule for a September tournament at a venue to be determined.

While LIV has its top stars, more are still needed.  This year’s regulars include Koepka’s brother Chase, who had been working his way through the ranks on the European circuits.

And Chase has a more recognizable golf name that Shergo Al Kurdi, Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, Adrian Otaegui, Turk Pettit, Shaun Norris and Wade Ormsby.  They’re hardly household names in golf but all finished ahead of Korean-born and California-raised Sihwan Kim in Boston.

Kim, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, picked up the $120,000 last-place check in Boston despite having the most eye-catching scorecard (87-63) in the first two rounds.

LIV fields have improved with each tournament but Rich Harvest’s will be much like Boston’s – with one exception.  Sweden’s Henrik Stenson returns after stilling out in Boston with a minor health problem.

Stenson was the European Ryder Cup captain until he signed with LIV. The European Tour then dropped him from his Ryder Cup duties and Stenson responded by winning in his first LIV start in New Jersey.

The big prize money offered isn’t enough to sway every PGA Tour star, however.  The social pressure against joining LIV is still a factor, and Harold Varner III – one who made the jump from the PGA Tour in Boston – admitted “I hate to be hated.’’

To help improve its image the new tour has pledged $100 million to its LIV to Give platform that supports social and environmental efforts in its tournament communities.  The Kids Golf Foundation, based at Rich Harvest since 1998, has received “a major donation.’’

“Golf is a force for good,’’ said Norman, “and we’re proud to support efforts that build stronger communities.’’

While I’m not anti-LIV I remain skeptical about the circuit’s future. LIV has disrupted the men’s tournament scene, and that’ll be even more obvious over the next few months when both LIV and the PGA Tour revamp their plans for 2023

 

 

LIV INVITATIONAL CHICAGO

 

SITE: Rich Harvest Farms, Sugar Grove.

SCHEDULE: Pro-am on Thursday and tournament rounds Friday-Sunday.  Parking lots open at 8 a.m., gates open at 9 a.m. and shotgun starts to competition are at 12:15 p.m. on tournament days.  Apres Golf events start at 5:30 p.m.

ADMISSION: Ground passes are $49.  For other ticket information check LIVGolf.com.

LIVE COVERAGE:  LIVGolf.com and YouTube.

INDIVIDUAL WINNERS:  London —Charl Schwartzel; Portland – Branden Grace; Bedminster, N.J. – Henrik Stenson; Boston – Dustin Johnson.

EVENTS AFTER RICH HARVEST: Oct. 7-9 – Bangkok, Thailand; Oct. 14-16 — Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Oct. 27-30 – Miami (team championship at Trump Doral).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich Harvest is next up on LIV Tour’s schedule

Rich Harvest Farms is all decked out for the LIV Tour’s arrival. (Rory Spears Photo)

Now it’s Chicago’s turn to see what the LIV Golf Tour has to offer.  Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, will host the fifth of eight LIV tournaments on Sept. 16-18 with a pro-am the day before the tournament rounds.

Rich Harvest will host another $25 million 54-hole tournament that offers individual and a team competition running simultaneously.

The LIV fields have gotten stronger with each event, and last week’s action-packed thriller in Boston was the best yet. It produced the circuit’s first American champion in Dustin Johnson, who took the title with a 60-foot eagle putt on the first hole of a Sunday playoff.

Johnson, the first big-name player to leave the PGA Tour for the Saudi-backed circuit, won out over two LIV newcomers – Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and India’s Anirban Lahiri – with his dramatic putt and Johnson’s Four Aces also won the team title for the third straight time.

Now Rich Harvest owner Jerry Rich will open his private club to a men’s professional tournament for the first time after welcoming the Ladies PGA Tour’s Solheim Cup and a flock of big amateur events over the years.

“We couldn’t be more excited with this opportunity to bring professional golf, and these big-name players,’’ said Rich Harvest vice president Alex Kline-Wedeen. “The tour will be amazing, and the excitement will be incredible.’’

It will at least be the most high profile golf event in the Chicago area this year.  The PGA Tour skipped Chicago for the second straight year and next year’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields will mark the circuit’s only tournament visit in a five-year span.

A team event, the President’s Cup, will come to Medinah in 2026 and the next PGA Tour stop in Chicago isn’t on the calendar after Olympia Fields, 2023.  PGA Tour Champions, the LPGA, the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America have all bypassed Chicago since Chicago Golf Club hosted the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018.

The drought won’t likely be so long with the LIV Tour.  The circuit released a tentative schedule for 14 events next year and Chicago is on it, though the course for a September tournament hasn’t been determined. It could be Rich Harvest again.

“It’s been disappointing to not having professional golf here,’’ said Kline-Wedeen.  “From youth to adult everybody deserves a chance to have these players on a big stage here every single year. That’s one of reasons behind our hosting this year.’’

Rich Harvest has already announced that LIV Golf has pledged “a major donation’’ to the Kids Golf Foundation that will allow the non-profit organization to expand its programs inside elementary schools.

HARDY BACK ON PGA TOUR:  Northbrook’s Nick Hardy couldn’t retain PGA Tour playing privileges off his performance during his rookie season but he responded with a 10th place showing in the Korn Ferry Tour’s three tournament Finals and he’ll be back on the premier circuit in the 2022-23 season.

Among the others cracking the top 25 in the Korn Ferry Finals to  make it to the PGA Tour were Belgium’s Thomas Detry, like Hardy a University of Illinois alum, and 41-year old Scott Harrington, who played collegiately at Northwestern.  Detry was 17th and Harrington 18th in the Korn Ferry Finals.

HERE AND THERE:  Biltmore’s Doug Bauman won the Illinois  Super Senior Open at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein, and joined Roy Biancalana, Jim Sobb and Mike Harrigan as two-time winners of the event.

Chadd Slutzky, of Deer Park, won the 30th Illinois Mid-Amateur championship at Evanston Golf Club, then qualified for this month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills five days later.

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, Chicago’s only LPGA Tour player, has played in only eight tournaments this season but she made the cut in five including the last two.