Len Ziehm On Golf

Lake Forest’s Hopfinger is mounting a bid for a PGA Tour card

The Web.com Tour is billed as the pathway to the PGA Tour, and Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger is making progress on that journey.

Last fall Hopfinger regained his playing Web.com playing privileges with a gutty showing in two stages of the qualifying school. He survived Stage 2 with a 4-under-par final round to make it to the finals by one stroke.

In the finals Hopfinger covered those 72-holes in a solid 14-under-par – the exact number to earn playing privileges for the first eight tournaments of the Web.com season. No. 8 is coming up this weekend in the $550,000 North Mississippi Classic – a new event played in Oxford, Miss. It tees off on Thursday, and there’ll be a shuffling of players based on their money winnings after this tournament but it’s not a concern for Hopfinger.

“I had a fourth-place in the Bahamas and a top-20 in Mexico. I should have plenty of cash to play the rest of the year,’’ he said.

Actually, he long-term prognosis is better than that. He is No. 42 on the money list, and that makes him a contender to earn his PGA Tour card by the time the 27-tournament regular season ends in August.

“The goal is the top 25, so you can make the PGA Tour,’’ he said. “I feel a lot more prepared than I did two years ago when I lost my Web.com status.’’

Crack the top 25 in the regular season and Hopfinger will have status on the PGA Tour for the 2018-19 season. If he doesn’t make the top 25 he can still advance if he plays well in the four-tournament Web.com Playoffs in September. The top 25 there go to the PGA Tour as well.

Hopfinger, 28, is one of only eight players to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur (2011) and the Illinois Open (2014). He started playing at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park and has been coached by Jeff Mory, head professional at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, since he was 12.

He took his game to the collegiate ranks, playing at Kansas for one year and then transferring to Iowa for the final three. His teammates with the Hawkeyes included Deerfield’s Vince India, who won the Illinois State Amateur the year before Hopfinger did. India also made it to the Web.com Tour but lost his playing privileges. He would have regained them at last fall’s qualifying school but was one stroke behind Hopfinger.

So was Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr., also a former Illinois Open winner (2016).

That one swing difference has left India and Sainz struggling to get into tournaments while Hopfinger has been playing. Sainz got into five of the first seven tournaments, made the cut in three and had a tie for eighth in Colombia. He’s No. 64 on the money list and will also play this week in Mississippi, perhaps a good omen since he attended college at Mississippi State. Libertyville’s Michael Schachner made 10 birdies and posted a 65 in Monday’s qualifying round and will also compete in the North Mississippi Classic. India is 0-for-3 on making the cut in his Web.com appearances this season.

Hopfinger plans to play five weeks in row, ending the stretch at the Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe Club in June.

“It’s been a wild ride,’’ said Hopfinger. “We all want to get to the PGA faster, but it’s not always that easy. I’m just grateful to still be playing golf for a living. I haven’t set any firm deadlines. I just want to keep getting better.’’

NU, Illini women chase Big Ten title

Last year coach Emily Fletcher’s Northwestern women’s team went all the way to the title match of the NCAA finals at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. Starting on Friday the veteran squad begins another postseason at the Big Ten tournament at TPC Rivers Bend in Mainsville, Ohio. The NCAA regionals are two weeks after that.

The Wildcats, Big Ten champions in three of the last five years, are ranked 14th nationally and only Michigan State (12) is ranked higher among Big Ten teams. Coach Renee Slone’s Illinois team is peaking at the right time, though. The Illini take a No. 29 ranking into postseason play but have won their last two tournaments.

Here and there

Arlington Heights resident Doug Ghim, the low amateur in the Masters, plans to turn pro after competing in June’s U.S. Open. As was the case in the Masters, Ghim has an exemption into the Open at New York’s Shinnecock Hills course thanks to his runner-up finish in last year’s U.S. Amateur. He’s finishing his senior season at the University of Texas.

Kemper Lakes members have given a name to the final three holes of their Kildeer course. Following a membership vote they’re calling it The Gauntlet. It’s marked by a rock near the No. 16 tee now and more decorations will likely be added prior to the staging of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June.

Preparations for the KPMG event are well underway with tournament staffers headed by director Jackie Endsley and director of operations Eric Nuxhol operating out of a trailer in the club’s parking lot. Cristie Kerr is the first player to request time for a practice round before tournament week. She’ll get an early peek at the course in June.

Weather problems forced the Illinois PGA to cancel its Pro-Pro-Pro Scramble at Metamora Fields and reschedule its Pro-Assistants event. Next up is the Assistants Match Play Championship, which begins its three-day run on Monday at Ruth Lake in Hinsdale.

Hardy, Kelly get invites to Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe

Two of the very best amateurs in the Chicago ranks will play as professionals for the first time in this season’s first local pro tour event.

Tee-K Kelly, two-time Illinois State Amateur champion, and Nick Hardy, who whipped Kelly with a record-setting performance in their last meeting in the State Am, have accepted sponsor’s exemptions into the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship. It’ll return to Ivanhoe Club from June 4-10, shortly after Hardy wraps up a great collegiate career at Illinois.

“I’ve had a great college experience and have learned a lot from Coach (Mike) Small,’’ said Hardy. “I look forward to a strong finish with my teammates and then moving on to the next phase of my golf career. I know how valuable a sponsor exemption is, and I’m very appreciate to the Rust-Oleum Championship for giving me this opportunity.’’

Hardy, from Northbrook, had such an invite to the Rust-Oleum in 2016 and missed the 36-hole cut. He received another exemption into last year’s John Deere Classic prior to his senior season for the Illini and qualified for all 72 holes. Hardy also qualified for two U.S. Opens as an amateur but his most brilliant moment came in the 2016 Illinois State Amateur at St. Charles Country Club, when he was a record 24-under-par and beat runner-up Kelly by 10 strokes

Kelly, from Wheaton, won the Illinois Am in both 2013 and 2015. He played collegiately at Ohio State and won an NCAA Regional before turning pro. He spent last season on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour where he won the Puerto Plata Open in the Dominican Republic and had four other top-10 finishes. He didn’t earn promotion to the PGA’s satellite Web.com Tour, however, so he must either play his way into tournaments or get in via sponsor exemptions.

Rust-Oleum director Scott Cassin called Hardy and Kelly “two of the finest young players to come out of the state of Illinois in decades.’’

There’ll likely be at least two others looking for similar professional opportunities soon. Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim, the low amateur at last week’s Masters, and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, the first player to win both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year in 37 years, are also finishing up their college careers, Ghim at Texas and Flavin at Miami of Ohio.

All four are on strong college teams that are expected to earn berths in the NCAA regionals that begin on May 14 at various sites around the country. The finals are May 25-30 in Stillwater, Okla.

Ravinia Green to host Illinois Open

The Illinois PGA has decided on the alternate site for the finals of the 69th Illinois Open on Aug, 6-8. It’ll be Ravinia Green, in Riverwoods.

Ravinia will join The Glen Club, in Glenview, as the site for first- and second-round play in the 54-hole competition. The Glen, home of the IPGA offices and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, will host the third round, which will involve the low 50 and ties after the first 36 holes.

“Once again we feel we have two outstanding courses,’’ said IPGA executive director Carrie Williams. “Ravinia Green is a tighter-tree-lined layout and contrasts in style to The Glen Club. We’re also looking forward to showcasing the club’s recently updated amenities.’’

Ravinia Green has never hosted the Illinois Open, biggest event on the IPGA schedule. The club has 100 bunkers on its par-72 course, which measures 6,866 yards from the back tees, and water comes into play on 10 holes.

Heritage beckons Donald

Once the world’s No. 1-ranked player, former Northwestern star Luke Donald’s game has declined in recent years – but not at the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Classic. Donald has always been stellar in that event, which traditionally follows the Masters.

The 50th anniversary playing of the tournament at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., tess off on Thursday. Donald has been runner-up five times in the event and was in the top-3 in seven of the last nine years. He’s never won it, though. Last year he finished on stroke behind champion Wesley Bryan.

PGA Tour records became detailed in 1934, and only six players have been runner-up in one tournament five times, and just two have more runner-up finishes in the same event. Jack Nicklaus finished second in the Canadian Open seven times and Phil Mickelson was runner-up in the U.S. Open six times.

Nicklaus also made the list of six a second time with his five runner-up finishes in the Ford Championship at Doral – an event which is no longer held. Others with five runner-up finishes were Payne Stewart in the Honda Classic and Greg Norman in the BMW Championship.

Donald, who didn’t qualify for the Masters, missed the cut in five of his eight starts in the 2017-18 season. His best finish was a tie for 32nd.

Doug Ghim’s first Masters was something very special

Maybe a tie for 50th place doesn’t sound great – even if it came in golf’s hallowed Masters tournament. Maybe a 74-74 finish in the weekend rounds and an 8-over-par 296 score for the 72 holes wasn’t worthy of much wild cheering at Augusta National.

Make no mistake, though. What Doug Ghim did over four days in the first major golf championship of the year was something special — very special.

Very rarely do 21-year olds who are still in college get invited to the Masters. Ghim did via one of the last invitation criteria. He was the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera, a California course that has almost as rich in history as Augusta National.

Ghim lost the U.S. Amateur title to a younger Doc Redman in sudden death at Riviera. but Redman didn’t beat Ghim in the Masters. Neither did the other four amateurs in the field. Just getting to the Masters was a major accomplishment.

Only two other Illinois amateurs did it in the last 35 years and neither of them made the cut, much less contend for the coveted trophy given annually to the low amateur. Ghim departed Sunday with much more hardware than that. He also picked up crystal glasses for making three eagles. Every player who makes an eagle at the Masters gets a nice prize from the club. The most eagles made by one player in any Masters is four, and Ghim had his sites on that target entering Sunday’s final round.

He didn’t break the record, but he did have a spectacular finish, holing a bunker shot for birdie on his last whole of the tournament.

The rousing finish capped off a week in which Ghim finally earned the attention that was lacking during much of his amateur career. The low profile was partly Ghim’s fault. He played only one year of high school golf at Buffalo Grove and left Illinois for Texas for college golf. Most all of his pre-college tournaments were national junior events held around the country.

As a result, Ghim didn’t get the attention of pro tournament organizers when they were handing out sponsor exemptions to worthy amateurs. The Masters, in fact, was Ghim’s first PGA Tour event and he got through it without a veteran caddie’s guidance. His father (and swing coach) Jeff was on his bag.

Those unusual circumstances led to Golfweek magazine asking Ghim to write a daily blog off his experiences. While recounting the eagles was part of that writing exercise, the highlight was his third round pairing with Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters winner who has dominated the Champions Tour in recent years.

“I’ve played with so many nice people this week, and they really didn’t need to be,’’ said Ghim. “But Mr. Langer may have been the nicest guy that I’ve played with all week. He’s a very classy individual. He really appreciates good golf, and I could tell he appreciated my efforts as an amateur.’’

Langer even raked a bunker for Ghim.

“A Masters champion is raking your footprints. That was the funny highlight of the day,’’ said Ghim.

Ghim, who turns 22 next week, regretted missing the Western Intercollegiate college tournament to play in the Masters. His Longhorns’ teammates have their biggest events still ahead, however. That’s how he looked at it while accepting his trophy with overall champion Patrick Reed in the traditional presentation ceremony in Butler Cabin, which adjoins the Augusta National course.

“Now I’d like to help my team to a national championship, like Patrick Reed did twice (when he was attending Augusta State, a collegiate powerhouse located in the same Georgia town as Augusta National),’’ said Ghim.

Ghim figures to delay turning pro at least until after June’s U.S. Open. He has an exemption to that event off his U.S. Amateur showing as well.

Very soon after that Ghim will join the professional ranks where his chances of success seem very good. Matching the excitement of being low amateur in his first Masters, though, will be hard to beat.

“That is probably the most honorable thing that I’ve done as a golfer,’’ he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play on a Walker Cup team, a Palmer Cup team, on a national championship with my (Texas) team and finish second at the U.S. Amateur but to be (in the Masters) and play against the best players in the world is definitely a confidence boost moving forward.’’

WGF leader hopes for big industry boost from this Masters

The 82nd Masters tournament tees off on Thursday, and how it unfolds could have far-reaching effects within the golf industry. At least that’s how Steve Mona, executive director of the World Golf Foundation, sees it.

Mona will release his group’s most recent report on the U.S. Golf Economy at the National Press Club in Washington DC on National Golf Day, which is April 24. The last such report was issued in 2011, and Mona gave a sneak preview of the upcoming report exclusively to The Daily Herald with the Masters closing in.

In 2011, according to Mona, golf provides $68.8 billion to the U.S. economy and creates 2 million jobs. There has been a slow decline in the number of facilities, though. The U.S. peaked at 16,052 courses. Now there are barely 15,000.

Within the Chicago area 22 courses, 17 of them open to the public, closed since 2001 and only one has re-opened. Still, Mona is hopeful.

“There will be a larger amount of economic impact in the next report,’’ he said, adding that the size of the U.S. golf market has remained stable.

“Golf contributes more to the U.S. economy than the spectator sports and the performing arts,’’ said Mona. “People don’t realize how large it is.’’

The rise in Masters ticket prices should give an indication of that. Arguably the most difficult tickets in all of sports, the Masters’ average price of tickets sold this year tops at $1,870 for Thursday’s opening round. That’s the highest average ticket price for any tournament day in Masters history and up nearly $300 from a year ago. The average price of a Sunday ticket this year is $1,554, nearly $200 more than in 2017.

“The Masters is typically the No. 1-rated golf event in terms of TV ratings,’’ said Mona. “It sets the tone for the year in golf, so this could be an epic year for the golf industry if we get a compelling story line. If we get Tiger (Woods) or Phil Mickelson in contention, or Rory McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam or maybe Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, or Justin Thomas challenging, that would be fantastic. Golf at the highest level creates a lot of opportunities to drive interest in the game. We’re very hopeful for what could happen.’’

Streelman, Donald didn’t make it

Kevin Streelman and Luke Donald, the two most prominent PGA Tour players with Illinois backgrounds, have played in several Masters but didn’t make the 87-man field that will tee off at Augusta National on Thursday.

In addition to Doug Ghim, the Arlington Heights resident who qualified as the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Amateur, the starters include former University of Illinois standout Thomas Pieters; Matt Fitzpatrick, who briefly attended Northwestern; and Bryson DeChambeau, winner of both the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields and last year’s John Deere Classic.

Cook returns to Medinah

Medinah Country Club, which has hosted multiple U.S. Opens and PGA Championships as well as the 2012 Ryder Cup, has named a replacement for director of golf course operations Curtis Tyrrell. He’s Steve Cook who spent 20 years as director of agronomy at a course with a similar tournament resume – Oakland Hills in Michigan.

A University of Illinois graduate, Cook started his professional career with a three-year stint as superintendent for Medinah’s Nos. 1 and 3 courses in 1986.

Tyrrell ended a 10-year run at Medinah in January to take a similar position at Bonita Bay, in Naples, Fla. Bonita Bay has five 18-hole courses.

Here and there

More superintendents changes have Stephen Hope leaving well-regarded downstate Illinois course Canyata to take the head job at Crystal Tree in Orland Park and Steve Kuretsky moving up from superintendent to director of agronomy of Cantigny’s four courses in Wheaton. He replaces Scott Witte, who was named director of Cantigny Park Horticulture after spending 23 years in charge of Cantigny’s courses.

Ken Lapp has retired after spending 71 years with Jemsek Golf. Lapp started when he was 12 years old and was named superintendent at Fresh Meadows, in Westchester, when he was 19. He moved to a similar post at Cog Hill in Lemont in 1973 and worked there for the past 45 years. Lapp is moving to North Carolina to be closer to family members.

Northwestern’s Dylan Wu is among five finalists for the Byron Nelson Award as the Wildcats prepare for their next competition, Purdue’s Boilermaker Invitational on April 14-15.

The NU women, runners-up to Arizona in the NCAA finals last year at Rich Harvest Farms, upset No. 1-ranked UCLA in a match play event last month. The Wildcats, ranked 13th nationally, are in the Silvarado Showdown tournament in Napa, Calif., starting on Sunday.

Both the Illinois men’s and women’s teams are coming off tournament wins. The Illini men have won their last two events and the women captured the Mountain View Collegiate in Arizona last week. Both play in Ohio State-organized tournaments before the conference championships start. The women are in the Lady Buckeye Invitational April 14-15 and the men in the Kepler Intercollegiate April 21-22.

Next stop for Doug Ghim: The Masters

Every Masters golf tournament is special, but next week’s 82nd version will have even more so because Doug Ghim will be playing.

Ghim, from Arlington Heights, is a senior at the University of Texas who received a Masters invitation because he was the runner-up in last August’s U.S. Amateur. He’s one of six amateurs among the 88 invitees that emcompass the world’s best players.

Rarely has an Illinois amateur played in the Masters, first of the year’s four major championships. There were only two before Ghim. Bill Hoffer, a life-long amateur from Elgin, got into the field in 1983 after winning the previous year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships at Lake Forest’s Knollwood Club. Rockford’s Brad Benjamin was invited after his victory in the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament.

Benjamin wouldn’t get in via the same method now because the U.S. Golf Association discontinued its Public Links event. Like Hoffer, Benjamin didn’t come close to surviving the 36-hole cut in his appearance at Augusta National.

Ghim comes to Augusta during a solid senior season at Texas, a long-time collegiate powerhouse. He has the low stroke average for the Longhorns, 69.90 in seven tournaments. In October he won the Golf Club of Georgia tournament and last week, in his last start, he closed with a 67 for a sixth-place finish in the Valspar Invitational in Palm City, Fla.

Though he attended Buffalo Grove High School Ghim has played virtually all his competitive golf far from his home town. That was a decision Doug and his father, golf teacher and frequent caddie Jeff made long ago – after Ghim’s freshman year at Buffalo Grove. He finished third in the Illinois high school tournament that year and never played in another prep event.

The Ghims, still Arlington Heights residents, felt that Doug’s golf development would be best served by playing in top-level junior events around the country. They also felt it wouldn’t be fair to his high school team if he skipped many of its competitions.

Jeff Ghim got his son started in golf when he was 6 years old. Jeff had wanted to be a professional golfer, but three back surgeries ended that dream. He saw considerable promise in his son, however. Unable to afford the private clubs in the Chicago area, the Ghims played the more affordable public courses when twi-light rates were available. They weren’t above fishing golf balls out of water hazards at times, either,

“I’m sure there was financial stress, but I think more than anything he wanted to see if I actually loved the game,’’ said Doug. Obviously he wanted to stick with the game. That’s why he went to Texas in the first place.

“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.’’

During his senior season Ghim held the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings at one point. He was also able to play ultra-private Augusta National three times with his Texas teammates even before he earned his Masters invite. He’ll go into next week’s tournament far better prepared than Hoffer and Benjamin were when they got their chance.

Drive, Chip & Putt finalist

The finals of the PGA of America’s Drive, Chip & Putt competition provides an unofficial kickoff to Masters week and Naperville’s Andrew Lim, 13, is among the 80 finalists. He’ll compete for the title in the Boys 12-13 division on Sunday, the day before the invitees begin their practice rounds.

Andrew survived a local qualifier at Cantigny, in Wheaton, a sub-regional at Cog Hill in Lemont and a regional at The Honors course in Tennessee to earn his place in the nationally televised finals.

His family plays out of Naperville Country Club where Andrew carries an 8.2 handicap index. He has shot 33 for nine holes and 73 for 18.

Here and there

The usual shifts in the club professional ranks included one major one this year. Alex Mendez, long-time head man at Butterfield in Oak Brook, has taken over at Royal Fox, in St. Charles. Other new head pros include Carson Solien at Oak Park, Andrew Stevens at Stonebridge in Aurora, David Thompson at Crystal Lake, Matt Gebhardt at Calumet in Homewood and Brent Regis at Valley Lo in Glenview.

Most of the Chicago area public courses are open now, or will soon be accepting players. The major exception is Sunset Valley, in Highland Park. It’s undergoing a $7 million renovation of both its course and clubhouse and won’t be ready for play until late summer.

The Golf Scene, hosted by Steve Kashul on NBC Sports Chicago, is entering its 25th season and will soon be included in the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications. The museum calls Golf Scene the longest-airing golf television show in the U.S. and second-longest show currently on Chicago television.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biancalana’s return to golf centers on Illinois Senior Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medinah loses Tyrrell

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

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

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

Conway back on tournament calendar

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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

Carol McCue will be remembered as the First Lady of Chicago Golf

A memorial service has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 29 at Donnellan Funeral Home in Skokie to honor the memory of Carol McCue, a long-time leader in the Chicago golf community. She died on Saturday, Dec. 16, at the age of 94.

Long known as the First Lady of Chicago Golf, Miss McCue joined the fledgling Chicago District Golf Association in 1942 and retired as its executive director in 1982. While serving in that position she was named the first president of the International Association of Golf Administrators in 1968.

After retiring from the CDGA Miss McCue became the marketing director for Jemsek Golf, operator of several Chicago courses including long-time PGA Tour site Cog Hill in Lemont.

She was one of the first women in the golf industry to hold such a high-profile leadership role, and Dennis Davenport, who succeeded McCue as the CDGA executive director, called her “the gold standard for golf administrators.’’

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Carol’s passing,’’ said Robert Markionni, the current CDGA executive director. “She was a true pioneer and leader in golf administration, not only in Chicago but throughout the nation. Many of the programs that Carol initiated, such as public golf membership and computerized handicapping, revolutionized golf administration and set the stage for the innovative technology we use today. Her legacy will live on.’’

During her time with the CDGA Miss McCue was also instrumental in creating the Illinois Open, which made its debut in 1950 and is now conducted by the Illinois Section of the Professional Golfers Assn.

Prominent in Chicago golf in one capacity or another for over 70 years, Miss McCue was in the inaugural class when the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame was created in 1989.

Hensby provides explanation

Mark Hensby — a former Illinois Amateur, Illinois Open and John Deere Classic champion – has issued a statement on the one-year suspension he recently received for failing to provide a urine sample for a drug test required by the PGA Tour.

Hensby, 46, was asked to take the test after shooting a first-round 78 in the Sanderson Farms Championship in October. Feeling he could not produce a urine specimen at that time, he left the premises with the intention of taking the test before his second round the next day.

“I made a terrible decision to not stay around that event to take the urine test,’’ said Hensby in his statement. “Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don’t call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves.’’

Hensby received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring about why he didn’t provide the urine sample prior to the suspension announcement.

“I showed poor judgement in not responding,’’ Hensby said.

Here and there

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich is assured that his private club in Sugar Grove will remain a high-profile layout for tournament play. Rich Harvest had been selected to host the Western Junior Championship in 2019, the Big 10 Championship in 2020 and – most recently — the Palmer Cup in 2021. RHF previously hosted the Palmer Cup matches in 2015.

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman has signed a two-year contract extension with Wilson Sporting Goods. Streelman, who has $16 million in PGA Tour winnings, first signed with the Chicago-based equipment manufacturer in 2011. The new agreement will run through 2019.

Wisconsin’s Sand Valley, the latest golf resort created by Chicago’s Mike Keiser, has achieved an impressive double in its first season. Golf Magazine named it the “Best New Course You Can Play’’ and Golf Digest selected the facility as its “Best New of 2017.’’ Keiser plans to open two more courses at Sand Valley in May – the par-3 Sandbox, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and Mammoth Dunes, a David McLay Kidd design.

Q-Schools provide a boost for Hopfinger, Troyanovich

The lengthy, very demanding qualifying sessions to determine next year’s players on the PGA Tour, Ladies PGA Tour and PGA Champions circuit came to an end over the weekend with two Chicago hopefuls — Brad Hopfinger and Samantha Troyanovich — putting themselves in position to further their golfing careers in 2018.

Lake Forest’s Hopfinger, one of only seven players to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, is assured a spot in the first eight tournaments on the PGA’s satellite Web.com Tour next season. Troyanovich, who won the 2012 Illinois Women’s Open as an amateur, earned conditional status on the LPGA circuit.

Getting as far as they did wasn’t easy. The Q-Schools for both circuits are complicated, nail-biting affairs that span nearly four months. On the men’s side, there are three pre-qualifying tournaments that start in August in Texas, California and Nebraska. Those events determine who fills out fields in the Stage I eliminations, which were played at 11 sites around the country in October.

The survivors of Stage I played in one of the five Stage II events, each of which had about 80 players, and those survivors went to the final stage. Some players had exemptions through the early stages based on past performance, but Stage III started with 144 players and ended after 72 holes on Sunday in Chandler, Ariz., with Hopfinger finishing just one stroke better than two other prominent Chicago players – Deerfield’s Vince India and Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

That one stroke made a big difference, however. Hopfinger, by virtue of finishing at 14-under-par 274 and in a tie for 42nd place, is assured a spot in the first eight Web.com Tour events of 2018. Then there’ll be a re-shuffle of players.

Hopfinger played frequently on the Web.com in 2017, earning $30,904. While he will be in a better position to get into tournaments in 2018, he’ll have to get off to a good start to keep playing. Still, he’s in a much better position than India, his former college teammate at Iowa, and Sainz, the 2016 Illinois Open champion.

India, who was third overall in the Web.com qualifying in 2016 but didn’t earn enough money in 2017 to retain his card, shot 63 in the third round of the Q-School’s third stage on Saturday and Sainz, who spent much of this season on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour, had a solid 66-67 finish on the weekend.

That’s great golf, but both still finished at 13-under-par for the tournament and in a tie for 57th place. They will likely need to go through Monday qualifiers to get into next year’s tournaments. And that’s only to play on the PGA Tour’s satellite circuit. Make it to the PGA Tour proper has demands even more stringent than that.

Addison’s Tee-K Kelly, in his first season as a pro after a strong collegiate career at Ohio State, also made it to last week’s Stage III but an 80 in the first round doomed his chances at advancement. Kelly, though, had a promising rookie season. He won an event on the Latinoamerica circuit and had five top-10 finishes while finishing seventh on the circuit’s order of merit.

Troyanovich, who now resides in Michigan, also had to endure three stages to get her LPGA playing privileges. She tied for 38th of 144 players in Stage I, which was contested in California. The top 90 advanced, and she tied for 68th among 165 players in Stage II in Venice, FL., with the top 80 moving on to the final stage.

The final, played over 90 holes at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL., had 361 finalists. Troyanovich tied for 32nd place and that will be enough to get into at least a few 2018 tournaments without enduring a qualifying round.

Troyanovich has had only limited playing time on the LPGA circuit (three missed cuts in as many starts in 2017) and its satellite Symetra Tour. Next year she’ll be able to play more on both circuits.

One Chicago player, Lance Ten Broeck, was in the PGA Champions qualifying tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. A former PGA Tour regular, he finished in a tie for 23rd place and needed a top five finish to get fully exempt status on the 50-and-over circuit. He figures to return to his job as a caddie on the PGA circuit in 2018.

A first for the Illinois PGA; Rhoades gets highest honor

For the first time in 62 years the Illinois PGA’s most prestigious award has gone to a woman.

Carol Rhoades was named the IPGA’s Professional of the Year, an award presented annually since 1955 to the section member whose “total contributions to the game best exemplify the complete PGA Professional.’’

Rhoades works at Golf Channel Academy Chicago and also teaches at Cog Hill, in Lemont. Born in Pennsylvania, her previous Chicago connections included a stop at Olympia Fields Country Club and a stint as head women’s coach at Illinois-Chicago.

A past LPGA Professional of the Year and one of Golf Digest’s Top 50 Women Instructors, Rhoades captured three previous IPGA honors – the Bill Strausbaugh Award (2002), Player Development Award (2008) and Horton Smith Award (2010).

Two representatives from both Cantigny, in Wheaton, and Exmoor, in Highland Park, were also recipients of 2017 section honors. Patrick Lynch and Greg Barasel of Cantigny received the two Player Development Awards and Exmoor’s Dave Schmaltz (Merchandise of the Year-Private Facility) and Nick Cuca (Assistant Professional of the Year) were Exmoor’s honorees.

Todd Sones, from White Deer Run in Vernon Hills, received the Horton Smith teaching award for the third time in 14 years.

Going collegiate

The University of Illinois men’s team, which reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship last May at Rich Harvest Farms, finished fifth in the season-opening Olympia Fields-Fighting Illini Invitational last weekend and the Northwestern women’s team, which was the national runner-up at Rich Harvest to conclude the 2016-17 campaign, was second in its first tournament, the Dick McGuire Invitational in New Mexico, and fifth in its second — last week’s Mason Rudolph Championship in Nashville.

Olympia Field also provided the season debut for the Northwestern men’s team, which finished 13th. Playing without U.S. Amateur runner-up and Walker Cup star Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Texas finished eighth at Olympia Fields.

Northern Illinois opens its men’s season by hosting the 12-team Northern Intercollegiate at Rich Harvest Sunday and Monday. The tourney at Olympia is the only home event on the Illini schedule. The only home event for the Northwestern women is the Windy City Classic Oct. 2-3 at Northmoor, in Highland Park, and the lone home appearance for the NU men is the Oct. 8-9 Windon Memorial at Evanston Golf Club.

Here and there

One record, though unofficial, was set in the BMW Championship at Conway Farms on Sunday. Wesley Bryan played by himself in the final round in 1 hour 28 minutes, shooting a 69 in the process. The previous, unofficial, fastest round on the PGA Tour was Kevin Na’s 1 hour 59 minutes in last year’s Tour Championship.

The 2018 Chicago golf calendar will be almost as busy as this year’s but there’s one problem. The tournament organizers apparently didn’t talk to each. Exmoor will host the Constellation Senior Players Championship, a major event on the PGA Champions circuit, from July 12-15. The first-ever U.S. Women’s Senior Open will also be played on those same dates at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton and the John Deere Classic, Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event, is also scheduled at the same time at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

Chicago’s Mike Keiser has named the second course at his Sand Valley facility in Wisconsin. The David Kidd design will be called Mammoth Dunes. Keiser also said a unique par-3 course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, has been completed and will be available for play by next June 1.

Tom Kearfott, of El Paso, won the 31st Illinois Senior Amateur, dethroning two-time winner Tom Miler, of Kewanee, at Seneca’s Oak Ridge. Miler finished second, three shots back. Kearfott will also go into the final event in the Chicago District Golf Association season as the defending champion. He’ll partner with Tim Sheppard in the CDGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball at Itasca Country Club Oct. 2-5.

The Illinois Golf Hall of Fame’s next induction ceremony will be Oct. 27 at The Glen Club, in Glenview. Gary Groh, Gary Hallberg and Horton Smith, the first Masters champion, will be the honorees.

Billy Casper Golf has been selected to manage the Aberdeen course in Valparaiso, Ind..