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Len Ziehm On Golf

Illinois PGA moves its championship to Ruth Lake next week

Play in next week’s Illinois PGA Championship won’t resemble the birdie blitz that was witnessed by visitors to the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship at Medinah last week, but this IPGA has been conducting the event since 1922 and the golf is plenty good.

Since 2001 the IPGA Championship has been dominated by University of Illinois coach Mike Small, who has won the event 12 times. Small won the Illinois PGA Senior Championship for the third straight year last week by a nine-stroke margin at Merit Club in Libertyville, but he’s had trouble getting into PGA Tour Champions events this year and has had – for him – a quiet season.

Several factors suggest the 54-hole IPGA tourney could be in for a changing of the guard this year. Small didn’t win the event the last two years and had a sub-par Illinois Open, tying for 40th place. Add to that the fact that the IPGA Championship will be played at a new site, Ruth Lake in Hinsdale beginning on Monday. (AUGUST 26)

Ruth Lake is replacing Olympia Fields’ South in the three-course rotation used for the IPGA Championship. The switch doesn’t help Small. He’s an Olympia honorary member and won three of his IPGA titles there. Ruth Lake, home base of immediate past IPGA president Mark Labiak, doesn’t have the same tournament history but it’s been used for smaller IPGA events and U.S. Golf Association qualifiers.

While Dakun Chang, of Twin Orchard in Long Grove, is the defending champion, the player to watch next week could be Frank Hohenadel. The head professional at Mistwood, in Romeoville, finished a solid third in the Illinois Open – an event in which the state’s club professionals have had only limited success in recent years.

Hohenadel has an historic win in the IPGA Championship. In 2011 he snapped Small’s eight tournament winning streak on Medinah’s No. 1 course.

“That was eight years ago now, and it feels longer to me,’’ said Hohenadel, who was encouraged by his strong showing in the Illinois Open. That tourney was played earlier this month at usual site The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Chicago’s Ridgemoor, which was used as the alternate site for the finals.

“I’d never contended in the Illinois Open, and it felt awesome,’’ he said. “I had been having trouble playing in it. I had no luck . I played too safe to compete.’’

Hohenadel’s colleagues – particularly those on the teaching staff at Mistwood – urged him to use his driver more often.

“I’d been hearing it from everybody that `You’ve just got to hit it if you want to compete with these guys.’ ‘’ said Hohenadel. “I’ve become a little more confident with it and getting rid of the demons from the past.’’

Slowly Hohenadel became a believer. The driver came out much more at the Illinois Open.

“I used to be the longest hitter by far,’’ he said. “Now I’m in the middle of the pack. I’m getting outdriven by kids 15 years younger than me.’’

If his good play continues at Ruth Lake Hohenadel will be in the hunt for IPGA Player of the Year honors and could also earn a spot in the Professional Players National Championship. The IPGA Championship doubles as a qualifier for the club pros’ national tournament.

Hohenadel is second, behind Skokie director of instruction Garrett Chaussard, in the Player of the Year race with only one major event remaining after the IPGA Championship. Chaussard won the IPGA Match Play title in May. Hohenadel was the best section pro at the Illinois Open. The final major is the IPGA Players Championship at Eagle Ridge, in Galena, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.

Here and there

Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim is in position to earn his PGA Tour card after the first of three Korn Ferry Tour Playoff events. He tied for 23rd in the first one on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. The top 25 at the end of the series get PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season. This week’s playoff event is the Albertson’s Boise Open, and the series concludes with the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National in Indiana.

Three Illinois players are in the field for the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, on Aug. 24-29 at Cedar Rapids Country Club in Iowa. fMaureen Sheehan of Grayslake, Hui Chong Doffelemyer of Belvisdere and Jessica Lederhausen of Chicago survived a qualifying session at the Glenview Park course. The Illinois State Senior Women’s Amateur is Sept. 10-12 at Bolinbrook Golf Club.

The 27th Illinois State Mid-Amateur ends Wednesday at Stonebridge, in Aurora.

WGA reaches a milestone in caddie scholarships

No matter what happens in the BMW Championship at Medinah the week will have been a success as far as John Kaczkowski, the Western Golf Association president and executive director, is concerned.

“We’re thrilled to announce that we have achieved our goal of having a record 1,000 caddies enrolled in college,’’ Kaczkowski told a gathering at the Caddies to College celebration a few hours before Medinah opened its gates for tournament spectators on Tuesday.

The WGA had targeted 1,000 as a goal for the last five years, and this year the number hit 1,010 spread around 18 universities.

“At a time when more families are struggling to send their child to college we’re meeting the need of providing Evans Scholarships to young caddies who show strong records of academic, leadership and financial need,’’ said Kaczkowski.

Since the first two scholarships were awarded in 1930 the WGA has accumulated over 11,000 alumni scholars.

Formed in 1899, the WGA gets its scholarship money from over 32,000 donors nationwide and the proceeds from its tournaments. The BMW Championship is the biggest of those. Others are the Evans Scholars Invitational, a new event on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, and four prestigious amateur events.

The WGA accomplishment was not lost on Justin Rose, winner of the Fed Ex Cup’s $10 million bonus last year and the BMW champion in 2011 at Cog Hill. He’s one of the game’s top stars now, but had a rough start as a touring pro when he missed his first 21 cuts. Plenty of players would have questioned their career choice after that and moved on to something else.

“I had no other option,’’ said Rose. “I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have an Evans Scholar education behind me. I needed to figure it out.’’

He eventually did, but it wasn’t easy.

“I still loved the game. I still had a passion for it,’’ he said. “Most importantly I loved to practice. I loved striving to get better, and I still believed in myself for the most part.’’

That made all the difference. Rose may not repeat as FedEx Cup champion this year, since he goes into the BMW in 12th place in the FedEx standings. Still, he’s earned $4.3 million on the tour this year and $53.5 million in his career, so it’s not like he needs another $10 million.

Mountain climber

Harold Varner III may be the biggest surprise in the 70-man field that will tee off on Thursday. Until Tuesday he had never been to Chicago.

“I can’t say why or why not,’’ said Varner. “I’m just not a big tourist person. No one knows who I really am.’’

Varner is No. 29 in the FedEx standings after a tie for third in the first playoff event, The Northern Trust in New York, on Sunday. He went into that tournament at No. 102 but climbed the leaderboard fast.

His goal when the playoffs started was to make it into the top 30 players who will conclude the season at The Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta. That hasn’t changed.

“Last week was just a lot of fun,’’ he said. “Now that we’re in Chicago, the end goal is to make it to East Lake. I just need to play good golf and the rest will take care of itself.’’

Heartbreaker for India

Deerfield’s Vince India was on the brink of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs on Sunday, and that meant a PGA Tour berth for next season was more than a remote possibility. The top 25 after that circuit’s three playoff events get PGA Tour cards.

What happened to India was devastating. He led the circuit’s Portland stop through 36 holes and was in contention to win midway through the final round. Then a double bogey on the last hole dropped him from third to a tie for fifth. Third would have put him in the Korn Ferry’s postseason events, which begin next week. Fifth meant a return to two stages of qualifying school to regain his playing privileges for next season.

“If you told me I played well enough at Portland to salvage a crappy year and head back to the final stage I’d be ecstatic,’’ India said. “I played my heart out and was a little unlucky at the end.’’

India was in a green-side bunker with his second shot at the finishing par-5, then his sand shot rolled over the green into a collection area. His first chip was short and rolled back to his feet. That about did it for the former champion of both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open.

Here and there

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol had her best finish as a rookie on the LPGA Tour when she tied for sixth in the Scottish Open and earned $39,035.

Ryan Brown, formerly at Boyne Highlands in Michigan, is the new director of golf at Eagle Ridge in Galena.

Illinois senior-to-be Tristyn Nowlin will compete in the LPGA qualifying school before her final collegiate season begins and Grace Park, one of her former Illini teammates, has been named assistant coach at the University of Toledo.

This Illinois Open field is filled with proven competitors

The 70th Illinois Open, always the premier event of the season for local players, tees off next week with a field that resembles a walk down memory lane.

There’ll be seven past champions among the 156 starters, and they have combined to win 11 titles. The last two amateurs to win the coveted title – Patrick Flavin (2017) and David Cooke (2015) — are among those seven, though both have since turned pro.

Flavin, already a winner on the PGA Tour’s Latinoamerica circuit, shares the record for the tourney’s low 18-hole round. He shot 64 twice when he won his title and became only the second player to win the Open and Illinois State Amateur in the same year.

As good as Flavin was that year, Carlos Sainz Jr. retains the record for best score in the 54-hole championship – a 17-under-par 197 in 2016. Cooke’s 16-under in 2016 is the second best, and his five-stroke victory margin is the largest by an amateur in tournament history.

And then there’s the University of Illinois influence, which will be bigger than ever when the first ball is struck at both The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club on Monday. There are a combined eight current and former Illini in the field headed by current men’s head coach Mike Small, a four-time Illinois Open champion.

Only Gary Pinns, who won the last of his five Illinois Opens in 1990, has won the tournament more times than Small. Other former winners trying to capture the magic again are Roy Biancalana (1987 and 2001), Phillip Arouca (2011) and Eric Meierdierks (2010).

Small won his titles between 2003 and 2007 and was the runner-up three other times. Five of his current players – Luke Armbrust, Bryan Baumgarten, Varun Chopra, Tommy Kuhl and Brendan O’Reilly – are also in the field as are Illini alums Garrett Chaussard and Nick Hardy, who are both now in the professional ranks.

Chaussard, now director of instruction at Skokie Country Club, won the Illinois PGA’s Match Play title this year. Hardy, runner-up in the Illinois Open in 2017, hopes to become the 10th player to own titles in both the Open and Illinois State Amateur. He won the Amateur in a record 28-under-par 260 at St. Charles Country Club in 2016.

Also not to be forgotten is Brandon Holtz, the former Illinois State University basketball player who was the runner-up in the last two Illinois Opens.

The one notable absentee – though it’s no surprise – is Vince India. One of only nine players to own titles in both the Illinois Open and Illinois State Amateur, India chose not to defend his Open title. He’s a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, which provides a direct pathway to the PGA Tour for its best players each year.

Finalists in the tournament will be completed today (WEDNESDAY) after the Last Chance Qualifier concludes at Willow Crest in Oak Brook. There were seven previous state-wide qualifying rounds to determine the finalists. The survivors will play 18 holes at The Glen Club and Ridgemoor on Monday and Tuesday and the low 50 and ties will decide the champion in a final 18 at The Glen on Wednesday, Aug. 7

Here and there

The Western Golf Association’s Western Amateur championship concludes on Saturday at Point O’Woods in Benton Harbor, MI. Then the WGA will turn its focus on the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event that runs at Medinah from Aug. 13-18.

Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson, despite being a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, has gotten into only three events this season. He missed the cut in the first two and made the cut in last week’s Barracuda Championship only to be disqualified before the final round for using an improperly-sized greens book. Wilson self-reported the violation, in effect disqualifying himself.

The Illinois PGA team had no trouble beating the Chicago District Golf Association’s amateur team in the 58th Radix Cup matches, which were rescheduled for last week after weather problems caused an earlier postponement. The IPGA’s 14 ½-3 ½ margin gave the pros a 36-20-2 edge in the series.

Oak Park Country Club, in River Grove, hosted the Radix Cup matches and the CDGA’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will conclude its three-day run there today (JULY 31). The CDGA will also conduct a qualifying round for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur today at the Glenview Park course.

Illinois high school champion Lauren Beaudreau, of Lemont, reached the quarterfinals of last week’s U.S. Junior Girls Championship at Wisconsin’s SentryWorld before being eliminated by eventual runner-up Jillian Bourdage, of Tamarac, FL.

New look will soon be unveiled at the Weibring course at ISU

D.A. Weibring is certainly well known as a player within the Illinois ranks. He won the John Deere Classic three times and scored an unusual victory in the 1987 Western Open, a tournament that was split between two courses, Butler National and Oak Brook Golf Club, after flooding left Butler with only nine holes playable.

Now, though, Weibring is more prominent as a course architect and his projects in Illinois have been as noteworthy as his playing accomplishments. He designed TPC Deere Run, which has hosted the John Deere Classic the last 20 years, and Metamora Fields in the central part of the state.

And now there’s more.

He’s about to complete work on a course that bears his name and just beginning on a project that could help save a once well-regarded public course in Peoria.

Weibring played collegiately at Illinois State, in Normal, and launched a successful PGA Tour career after his graduation in 1975.

The course that Weibring played his college golf on was a Robert Bruce Harris design that opened in 1964. After establishing himself as a touring pro Weibring created a golf architectural firm in Dallas and one of its projects was the renovation of that ISU course.

Over the years he turned it into a 6,915-yard par-71 layout that is the home for the Redbirds’ men’s and women’s teams and has been used for many of the Illinois high school championships as well as a variety of fund-raisers. Its Mounier Golf Training Center is considered one of the top practice facilities in collegiate golf.

The course was renamed the Weibring Course at Illinois State in 2007 after another renovation in honor of Weibring’s support of both the school and its golf programs. He helped to raise $14 million for the golf teams and now he’s stepped up his efforts again. A massive bunker renovation project was conducted without the need of closing the course and it’s scheduled for completing on Aug. 2.

Lauding the efforts of superintendent Travis Williams, Weibring supervised a major change in what the course will look like for both the high school and college events that are played there. This renovation also involved members of the ISU teams, who pitched in to move sod during the reconstruction.

“We’ve eliminated all those bunkers and changed the personality of the course,’’ he said. Now he wants to get ISU alumni out to check out the new look and stimulate more fund-raising for the program. There’ll be some fun-raising outings there in September.

Weibring’s efforts for golf in Illinois don’t end there, either.

Weibring has also taken on a renovation project at Weaver Ridge, a Peoria public facility with some nice elevation changes. It was recently purchased by the Ring family who created Metamora Fields. They’ve called on Weibring to bring back the course.

“Weaver Ridge needs repair. Its bunkers have not been touched in years,’’ said Weibring.

Radix Cup rescheduled

The annual Radix Cup matches between the top players in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Association is on again. Called off by inclement weather early in the season, the two golf groups settled on a rescheduled match for Thursday at Oak Park Country Club. It’ll tee off at 12:45 p.m.

Oak Park will remain a busy place, with the CDGA bringing its Amateur Four-Ball Championship there for a three-day run beginning on Monday.

Here and there

The University of Illinois women’s team has added Reena Sulkar to its list of recruits. She’ll join the team as a graduate student. A high schools star at Barrington Sulkar finished her undergraduate work at Illinois-Chicago while playing her goal in amateur tournaments. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2018 and was the Chicago Women’s District Golf Association champion in 2017.

Weather concerns led to the shortening of two big events last week. The Women’s Western Amateur, at Royal Mebourne in Long Grove, and the Illinois State Amateur, at Cantigny in Wheaton, both deviated from the planned format. The Women’s Western Am cut the championship match from the traditional 36 holes to 18 and the Illinois State Amateur, which was scheduled for a 36-hole final cut, reduced it to 18 to make it a 54-hole event. Sarah Shipley, a University of Kentucky senior from Hastings, MI., captured the Women’s Western Am and Ethan Farnam of Crystal Lake won the State Am. Farnam, who spent his freshman year in college at Northwestern, is about to enter his junior season at St. Mary’s in California.

Women’s Western Amateur, IWO go head-to-head

This is the most recent instance for unfortunate tournament scheduling. The two biggest women’s tournaments of the Chicago season are going head-to-head this week.

The 119th playing of the Women’s Western Amateur began Tuesday at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove, and the Illinois Women’s Open began its 25th anniversary celebration on the same day at Mistwood, in Romeoville. The IWO ends Wednesday, the Women’s Western on Saturday.

These are both prestigious competitions, and it’s unfortunate that players had to choose one over the other.

At least this year’s schedule conflict isn’t as bad as the one last year, when golf attention was spread among the Women’s Western at Mistwood; the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton; and the Senior Players Championship, one of the majors on PGA Tour Champions, at Exmoor in Highland Park. The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, near Moline, was also played that week.

Mistwood hosted both the IWO and the Women’s Western last year and Tristyn Nowlin, a University of Illinois standout, finished second in both.

Nowlin, who is from Richmond, Ky., and is entering her senior year with the Illini, has opted for the Women’s Western this year. She’ll be part of a field that is unusually rich in Chicago area talent.

Rarely have Chicago players been a factor in the Western Am, but this time there are three top-tier Chicago hopefuls. Two of them, Megan Furtney of South Elgin and Sarah Arnold of St. Charles, were teammates on St. Charles North’s Illinois high school championship team. Another, Lauren Beaudreau, was the individual state champion. She lives off the Ruffled Feathers course in Lemont.

All three have done big things since the high school season ended, too. Furtney was a winner in the U.S. Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. Arnold won the Illinois Women’s State Amateur title in her first appearance in the event and also qualified for next week’s U.S. Girls Junior Championship at SentryWorld, in Wisconsin.

Beaudreau qualified for both the U.S. Girls finals and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Those two events are still on her summer schedule. Arnold also will play in the Illinois State Junior and Kentucky Open before the college season starts.

While Arnold admitted to having “swing issues’’ during Monday’s practice round at Royal Melbourne, Beaudreau went in with confidence. She shot 67 and was the medalist in a U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier in Tennessee. The Western begins with 36 holes of stroke play qualifying before the top 32 determine the title in match play,

Then it’s on to their freshman year in college — Beaudreau at Notre Dame, Arnold at Western Kentucky and Furtney at Duke. While their records to this point are impressive, winning the Western Am would take them to a new level. Its past champions include Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn.

Cut coming at Cantigny

The 89th Illinois State Amateur started with 132 players, and most will be gone after today’s (WEDNESDAY’S) second round. The survivors play 36 holes on Thursday to decide the champion at Cantigny, in Wheaton.

This year’s State Am drew 497 entries, with 103 earning berths in the finals through eight state-wide qualifying rounds. The other 29 were exempt on past performance. Quinlan Prchal was the only past champion in the field. Oldest of the finalists was Tom Fox (59) and the youngest – for the second straight year – was Jack Inabnot (15).

The Chicago District Golf Association also announced that Wynstone, in Barrington, will host the finals in 2020, Mistwood will take the honors in 2021 and Westmoreland, in Wilmette, in 2022.

Here and there

Eagle Ridge, Illinois’ premier golf resort in Galena, has a new owner. Mark Klausner, a 20-year resident of the Galena Territory, is the first local owner in the resort’s history.

Head coach Mike Small has a new assistant at Illinois. He’s Justin Bardgett, who was an assistant at Army when the Black Knights won the Patriot League title and went to the NCAA tournament last year. Bardgett played collegiately at Colorado and played on various pro tours for seven years before entering the coaching ranks. He replaces Zach Barlow, now the head coach at Michigan.

The Women’s Western Amateur will stay in the Chicago area for at least two more years. Prestwick, in Frankfort, will host in 2020 and Park Ridge Country Club in 2021.

D.A. Weibring, who the John Deere Classic three times and also was a Western Open champion, has been hired to oversee the renovation of Weaver Ridge, in Peoria.

Frittelli looks like a Spieth replica in winning his first JDC

Dylan Frittelli has won twice in Europe. Now he has his first win on the PGA Tour.


SILVIS, IL. – Jordan Spieth was one of the most popular champions in the history of the John Deere Classic. Spieth won ii in 2013 when he was just 19 and took the title again two years later.

Spieth has never been back, but one of his teammates on the University of Texas’ national championship team in 2012 made it to the event this year and did just fine. Dylan Frittelli used a final-round 64 to claim a two-stroke victory at TPC Deere Run.

Frittelli, 29, is a lot different player than Spieth. Spieth grew up in Texas, Frittelli in South Africa. Now Spieth lives in Dallas, Frittelli in Austin. They have lunch together frequently and play some practice rounds together as well, but Frittelli didn’t seek any advice from Spieth – winner of three major championships — as he prepared for his first visit to the JDC

They do share a great memory, though. Frittelli rolled in the winning putt for Texas in the NCAA Championships his senior season. Spieth was a freshman on that team and turned professional rather than return to Texas. He made the John Deere Classic his first professional victory the next year, and Sunday’s win was Frittelli’s first on the circuit. Frittelli said they’re “still good buddies.’’

“Jordan came in as the most highly recruited player. He had a chip on his shoulder,’’ said Frittelli. “We pushed each other. I beat him in more tournaments than he beat me at the college level.’’

As touring pros that hasn’t been the case. Frittelli has divided time between the European and PGA Tours and was worried that he could retain his membership in both. Sunday’s win quelled that fear. On Sunday night he was off on the tournament-sponsored jet to next week’s British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

Frittelli will be making his third straight appearance in The Open and he’s played in seven major championships.

But he’s no Spieth – yet.

“Jordan is the antithesis of me,’’ said Frittelli. “He has a burning desire to win at everything. I’d beat him four straight games in Ping Pong and he’d insist we play another one. I’m more methodical and thoughtful than him.’’

The connection with Spieth notwithstanding, Frittelli is different than most every player on the PGA Tour – not just Spieth. Frittelli is not afraid to wear long sleeves in steamy conditions, like he did in Sunday’s 90-degree plus conditions. He disdains contact lenses, and wears prescription glasses instead. He also prefers to leave the flagstick in on most every putt.

Until Sunday Frittelli’s unique status wasn’t so noticeable. His previous best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for 18th at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic in March.

The John Deere Classic was its usual wide-open affair on Sunday with 11 players within three shots of 54-hole co-leaders Andrew Landry and Cameron Tringale. Frittelli was two shots back in a tie for fifth.

Russell Henley made the only serious move among the players who teed off early – and his was an eye-catcher. Henley posted a sizzling 9-under-par 61 – the best round of the week – as Frittelli was walking to the No. 10 tee. Henley and Frittelli were tied for the lead at that time, and Frittelli took the lead – for good, as it turned out – with a birdie at No. 11.

His work wasn’t done, though. He drove the green on the 361-yard par-4 fourteenth but missed both his eagle and birdie putts. He missed a makeable birdie putt at No. 15, too, and the one-stroke lead was maintained through the par-3 sixteenth when Frittelli two-putted from 40 feet for another par.

Frittelli expanded his lead by two shots when he got up and down from a green-side bunker at No. 17, holing his birdie putt from 11 feet. He didn’t look at a leaderboard until he was lining up that putt.

No. 18 was a routine par – a drive in the fairway, an approach to the front of the green and two putts for the par. He finished at 21-under-par 263, two ahead of Henley and three in front of Landry.

Luke Donald, the lone player with Chicago connections in the field, faded on the weekend with rounds of 70-71. He fell 17 spots on Sunday and finished in a tie for 56th.

Dylan Meyer gets into this JDC thanks to a hot round in qualifier

Dylan Meyer, the former University of Illinois star, has been basically mediocre since turning professional at the 2018 U.S. Open. He took a big step forward on Monday, however, when he shot a 7-under-par 65 to survive the qualifying round for the John Deere Classic, this week’s PGA Tour stop at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis, IL

Meyer made a big splash in his first pro event, tying for 20th in the 2018 U.S. Open. He also finished seventh and earned $119,114 in the Sanderson Farms tournament in Mississippi at the end of the 2018 PGA Tour season.

His first full season as a touring pro hasn’t been encouraging, however. He missed the 36-hole cut at the Valspar Championship in Florida in March and made only one cut in 14 starts on the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour – the PGA’s alternate circuit.

Monday was different, however. Meyer finished fourth in the JDC qualifier at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan and will tee it up with the PGA Tour regulars when the tourney begins its 72-hole run on Thursday. The top four in Monday’s second stage of JDC qualifying advanced to the main event.

The Western Amateur champion in 2016, Meyer played in the JDC last two years on sponsor exemptions. Last year he played all four rounds, finishing in a tie for 43rd place.

Stricker opts for Champions’ major

JDC tournament director Clair Peterson came up 0-for-2 on popular players becoming last-minute entries into his field. Three-time winner Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth, who won the tournament twice, both told Peterson they were “50-50’’ on coming to TPC Deere Run last week but neither entered.

Stricker, coming off a six-stroke victory in the U.S. Senior Open in South Bend, opted to stay on the 50-and-over circuit. He’ll play in one of that tour’s major events — the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship this week in Akron, Ohio.

“The John Deere Classic will always, always have a special place in my heart,’’ Stricker said via Twitter. “It was a tough decision.’’

Milestone IWO starts with format change

The Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open will celebrate its 25th anniversary next week, and it’ll also undergo a change in format. Instead of being contested over three days the 54-hole competition will be played over just two at Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville.

In the past the tourney’s pro-am had been on a Sunday. This time it’s on Monday. The tournament calls for 36 holes on Tuesday with an 18-hole climax on Wednesday, July 17, for those who survive the 36-hole cut.

The IWO will highlight a big week for the top women players. The 119th Women’s Western Amateur will also be played next week at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove. The Western Golf Association will take over management of the tourney for the first time, and there’ll be a 120-player field of the nation’s top amateurs.

There’ll be stroke play rounds for the entire field on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16, to determine 32 qualifiers for the three-day match play portion of the tournament. Sarah Arnold of St. Charles, who won the Illinois Women’s State Amateur last month, and Megan Furtney, an 18-year old who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, head the local players in the field at Royal Melbourne.

Past champions include Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn

Big week for Szokol

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol enjoyed her best week yet in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour. Shooting a 65 on Sunday she tied for 26th place in the Thornberry Creek Classic in Oneida, Wis., and earned $17,341.

The LPGA competes in the Marathon Classic in Ohio this week and its developmental Symetra Tour has the Donald Ross Classic in French Lick, Ind. Both tee off on Thursday.

State Amateur returns to Cantigny

Cantigny, in Wheaton, has hosted the Illinois State Amateur four times in the last 22 years and will be the site for the tourney’s 89th staging next week. The format calls for 18 holes on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 17, and a 36-hole finale for those surviving the cut on Thursday, July 18.

The State Am figures to be a wide-open affair with recent stars Tee-K Kelly, Nick Hardy and Patrick Flavin now in the professional ranks and Spring Grove’s Jordan Hahn, the winner in 2018 at Bloomington Country Club, not among the entries.

Hahn, a tower of strength at 6-foot-8, shot a tournament record 61 while finishing second to Flavin at Calumet Country Club, in Homewood, in 2017 before getting the victory a year later. He completed a solid collegiate career at Wisconsin in June.

Defending JDC champion hopes to end streak of missed cuts

The PGA Tour returns to Illinois next week and will stage two tournaments in the state in a six-week span.

The 49th John Deere Classic is up first. Pre-tournament festivities begin Monday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, on the outskirts of Moline. Then the final BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event, comes to Medinah Country Club from Aug. 15-18.

It’ll be Medinah’s first PGA event since the 2012 Ryder Cup and it’ll also be the end of BMW’s run as the tournament sponsor. The Western Golf Association expects to have a new sponsor in place when the tournament moves to Olympia Fields in 2020.

As for the John Deere Classic, it’ll put the spotlight on a most unusual defending champion. Michael Kim, born in South Korea and raised in California, didn’t just notch his first win on the PGA Tour at last year’s JDC. He did it in extraordinary fashion.

Calling it “obviously the best golf I’ve ever played for a week,’’ Kim strung rounds of 63, 64, 64 and 66 at TPC Deere Run and his 27-under-par performance for the 72 holes smashed the tournament scoring record set by three-time winner Steve Stricker. Kim won that week by eight strokes over Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who would win the British Open the following week.

Kim’s big win came just a month after he named James Tillery his swing coach. The win assured Kim a two-year exemption into PGA Tour events and put him in a comfort zone that may not have been a good thing.

In the 2019 portion of the tour’s split season Kim has made just one 36-hole cut, and his tie for 32nd in January’s Tournament of Champions. He goes into this week’s 3M Classic in Minnesota with 17 straight missed cuts. Last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the new Detroit stop on the circuit, Kim shot 75-76 and didn’t come close to reaching the weekend rounds.

So what is going on?

“The win allowed me to make (swing) changes that we thought were needed,’’ he said. “There are definitely some growing pains. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped or wished. Obviously I’d like to play better, but I’m excited to see where my game will be.’’

Kim sounded optimistic during a pre-tournaments promotional event at TPC Deere Run in May, but the missed cut streak continued. Still, JDC tournament director Clair Peterson didn’t see signs of discouragement when he visited with Kim during the Memorial tournament in Ohio two weeks later.

“His spirits weren’t down at all,’’ said Peterson. “His psyche was totally upbeat. He felt there were things he needed to work on, and that freed him up to work hard. Whether or not that’s the case we’ll find out.’’

Peterson is still hoping for late entries from Stricker, who won the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday, and Jordan Spieth. Both have told him they’re “50-50’’ on coming to TPC Deere Run.

“Still, we have 59 players who have won PGA Tour events, 29 coming in the last two years,’’ said Peterson. “Five have won major championship, one (Bill Haas) won the FedEx Cup and another (Luke Donald) is a former world No. 1.’’

Super summer for Arnold

Sarah Arnold is making the most of her final months before starting college at Western Kentucky. A recent graduate of St. Charles North High School, Arnold made the Illinois State Women’s Amateur her latest success story at Illini Country Club in Springfield.

Prior to that victory Arnold reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Western Junior (after finishing second in stroke play qualifying) and qualified for the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur. She also has three wins and a runner-up finish on the Mid-American Junior Golf Tour this season.

Here and there

The Women’s Western Golf Association will honor former LPGA star and U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel with its Woman of Distinction award at the group’s annual meeting on Oct. 3 at Glen View Club in Golf.

Jordan Less, of Elmhurst, outlasted defending champion David Perkins, of East Peoria, to win the 100th Chicago District Amateur at Glen View. Less, a senior at Northern Illinois, took the title in 37 holes. Perkins, a senior-to-be at Illinois State, was bidding to be the tourney’s first repeat winner since Joe Affrunti in 2000-01. Perkins notched 10 birdies in the match’s final 22 holes, including four straight from holes 22-2,3 but it wasn’t enough.

Reagan Davis, director of golf at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena since 2013, is leaving that post to return to his native Texas.

Nicklaus (Gary, not Jack) spices up the field in U.S. Senior Open

The U.S. Golf Association doesn’t bring nearly as many of its championships to the Chicago area as it once did. That’s why this week’s U.S. Senior Open is worth savoring. It’ll begin its four-day run on Thursday at Notre Dame’s Warren course in South Bend.

Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago regular on PGA Tour Champions, is paired with Vijay Singh and Shaun Micheel in an 8:58 tee time in Thursday’s round. In the group ahead will be Scott McCarron, who has dominated PGA Tour Championship this season, and the threesome behind includes David Toms, the defending champion.

There’s another Chicago player in the field. Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow got in the field by winning his sectional qualifier and will begin play at 1:10 p.m.

This Senior Open has a special twist, however. Gary Nicklaus, the 50-year old son of the legendary Jack Nicklaus, was also a sectional qualifier. He did it in dramatic fashion at the Bear’s Club, his home course in Jupiter, FL. Gary Nicklaus birdied the final two holes of regulation play to get into a three-man playoff for one spot in the finals with Lance Ten Broeck, the former PGA Tour player and caddie who grew up in Chicago, and Don Bell.

Nicklaus survived on the third extra hole with his son as his caddie and his parents and friends in the gallery. Gary played several unsuccessful seasons on the PGA Tour before regaining his amateur status. Then he opted to go pro again and has been getting into PGA Tour Champions events occasionally.

Playing in the U.S. Senior Open has a more special special meaning, however. His father, who won a record 18 major titles, won the Senior Open in 1991 and 1993 but didn’t play in as many USGA national finals as Gary will once he tees off in South Bend.

“I always enjoyed USGA championships and I’ve had the opportunity to play in the U.S. Junior, U.S. Amateur, the Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Open,’’ said Nicklaus. “Getting in the Senior Open in the first year of being eligible has me super excited. I’ve been thinking about this tournament all year.’’

Jack Nicklaus played in only four of the USGA championships. The Mid-Amateur never fit the schedule.

“I know I’m not breaking any records, but it’s nice thought to do something my Dad didn’t do,’’ said Gary.

Like Jack, Gary played collegiately at Ohio State and was in a position to win on the PGA Tour when he lost the Atlanta Classic title in a playoff. He dropped off the circuit to enter his family’s other business ventures shortly thereafter.

“Hopefully I can carry the momentum (from the sectional qualifier) over to the championship at Notre Dame,’’ he said. “I never thought a Buckeye from Ohio State would be this happy about going to Notre Dame.’’

First pro win for Hardy

After a solid collegiate career at Illinois Northbrook’s Nick Hardy has no status on either the newly-named Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour or PGA Tour. While he’s had to go through Monday qualifiers or seek sponsor exemptions to play on those circuits he did post a rousing win on the APT (All Pro Tour) in the $110,000 Supreme Lending Classic in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Hardy put together rounds of 66, 62, 68 and 69 for a 23-under-par 265. It was good enough for a three-stroke victory and $20,000 payday.

Here and there

The 100th playing of the Chicago District Amateur concludes on Thursday at Glen View Club. Meanwhile, the CDGA Foundation has kicked off its 75-year anniversary festivities with an exhibition by newly-honored World Golf Hall of Famer Dennis Walters at Midwest Golf House in Lemont.

The Western Golf Association held its Junior tournaments concurrently last week with Piercen Hunt, a University of Illinois recruit from Hartland, Wis., winning the boys version by seven shots at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove and Gabriella Gilrowski of Westfield, Ind., taking the girls tournament in Carmel, Ind.

Schaumburg Golf Club’s three-stage renovation of its 27-hole facility has hit a snag. The second stage was to be completed on Saturday with the re-opening of the Baer nine. Only holes 10-16 will be ready for play, however. The time goal for opening the other two holes is Aug. 1. Meanwhile, work will begin on the first seven holes of the Tournament nine on July 1.

Former hockey stars Jeremy Roenick and Patrick Sharp will headline the Helping Hands Network’s celebrity tourney at Twin Orchard in Long Grove on July 18. Proceeds will go to Keshet of Northbrook, which offers programs for individuals with special needs.

Woodland is just the latest Wilson staff player to win a major title

The 119th U.S. Open ended on Sunday, but it won’t be forgotten – certainly not at Chicago’s biggest golf equipment company. Tim Clarke, who heads Wilson’s golf division, added Gary Woodland to the company’s player ambassador staff last winter and Woodland delivered big time.

Woodland won the title at Pebble Beach, and that should pay dividends to Wilson as well as Woodland.

“We couldn’t have a better story for our brand,’’ said Clarke. “It was unbelievable.’’

Kevin Streelman, who had been Wilson’s top gun on the PGA Tour though he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open, agreed via Twitter.

“I’m so happy for Gary and his entire family,’’ said Streelman. “I’m proud of the classiest company and the best-looking clubs in the business. I’m proud to be an ambassador and member of the team.’’

Back in golf’s good old days Wilson’s clubs were played by numerous champions. Woodland used Wilson’s irons and donned the company’s hat and glove en route to his dramatic victory.

“It was a pretty strong endorsement that our equipment works,’’ said Clarke. “ We still have had more major champions playing our clubs than any other company.’’

Woodland won the 62nd major title playing Wilson clubs. The first was Gene Sarazen in 1931.

“That was pretty much the starting point. It started the movement for companies to start stinging players,’’ said Clarke.

Others using Wilson clubs when they won a big one included Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper and Padraig Harrington.

It’s commonplace that major championship winners receive bonuses from their equipment companies, and Clarke said that’d be the case with Woodland – though he was coy about what that reward will be.

“It’s complicated,’’ said Clarke, “but everything has a price and obviously there’ll be a reward. I was 100 percent sure that he’d win a major when we signed him, and I even thought that it would be this year. We believe that elite athletes drive consumer awareness.’’

More Open aftermath

There were plenty of Chicago sidelights lost in the glory of Woodland’s victory. Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star, continued his comeback season despite a 77-73 finish in the weekend rounds. He tied for 58th place along with former University of Illinois golfer Charlie Danielson.

Danielson may have been the best sidebar at the tournament. He had been sidelined a year after major knee surgery but he survived sectional qualifying and had pairings with Phil Mickelson in the third round and Donald in the four. Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, who qualified for the finals for the fourth time in four years, also tied for 58th.

Away from Pebble Beach Northwestern alum Dylan Wu went to a playoff in the Web.com Tour’s Lincoln Land Championship in Springfield. He lost on the third extra hole to Xinjun Zhang but Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger finished in a solid tie for 15th and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, on a break from the PGA Latinoamerica circuit, tied for 49th.

On the women’s front LPGA rookie Elizabeth Szokol of Winnetka made her second straight cut in the Meijer Classic in Michigan. While the men’s majors are over in the U.S. thanks to the PGA Tour’s dramatic rescheduling in 2019 the women have one coming up this week. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, played at Olympia Fields and Kemper Lakes the last two years, is on tap for this week at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

WGA’s two-state doubleheader

The Western Golf Association will hold its two junior championships this week, but at courses in different states. The 102nd playing of the boys version will be at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The 93rd staging of the girls tournament is at Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Ind.

Formats and scheduling are a bit different, though. The boys started on Tuesday at Rich Harvest with the stroke play portion concluding today (WEDNESDAY). The low 44 and ties will compete over 36 holes on Thursday to determine the champion.

The girls completed two rounds of match play on Tuesday. Match play for the 16 survivors begins today. The semifinals and championship match are on Thursday.

Here and there

The Chicago District Amateur will be played for the 100th time beginning on Monday (JUNE 24) at Glen View Club in Golf. Four state-wide qualifying rounds determined the players in the four-day finals. They will compete over two days of stroke play to determine 16 match play qualifiers. The championship match is on June 27.

Weather problems led to the postponement of the 58th Radix Cup matches between the top professionals from the Illinois PGA and top amateurs from the Chicago District Golf Association. Both sides are trying to reschedule the event at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.

The 30th playing of the Thompson Cup matches is tomorrow (JUNE 20) on Olympia Fields’ South Course. The event matches eight-player teams of the top senior players from the IPGA and CDGA.

Troon Golf, which is opening a Chicago office, has taken over the management of Naperville Country Club.