Carroll is the Illinois PGA’s Player of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Could the Women’s Western Open be returning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Rich Harvest tourney will show how different the LIV Tour is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

LIV INVITATIONAL CHICAGO

 

SITE: Rich Harvest Farms, Sugar Grove.

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

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

LIVE COVERAGE:  LIVGolf.com and YouTube.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich Harvest is next up on LIV Tour’s schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole Jeray takes aim at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open title

For nearly four decades now Nicole Jeray has been virtually Chicago’s lone representative on the Ladies PGA tours.

While she’s transitioned from full-time tournament player to full-time instructor at Mistwood, in Romeoville, Jeray, 51, is still an enthusiastic competitor and this week is her biggest tournament of the season.  She’s in the field for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which tees off on Thursday at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio.

Even with a full teaching load at Mistwood and her duties as a high school coach at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, Jeray can still compete.  She tied for 15th at the Senior LPGA Championship in July and tied for 14th last week in a Legends of the LPGA tournament in Minnesota.

Tournaments are scarce for the top senior women, and Jeray’s only other event this season was the Illinois Women’s Open.

“There’s only a handful of events to play in but two of the most important ones were in the same week,’’ she said. “After we played the Senior LPGA in Kansas the players who are teaching had to take a red eye flight to get to Kingsmill (Virginia) for the LPGA Teaching Division Championship.  They got no practice round, then had to play for three more days.  I would have been with them except that I had the Illinois Women’s Open to play in.’’

A two-time IWO champion, that tournament is a Mistwood fixture so she couldn’t miss that one.

Jeray won’t have that problem in the Senior Women’s Open, but she will have to compete against legendary defending champion Annika Sorenstam, who won the tournament by eight shots last year.

“You have to be 50 years old to play in the Open (as compared to 45 in the Senior LPGA),’’ said Jeray.  “The younger you are, the easier it is to play, but most of the Hall of Famers will be in the Open because it’s such an historical tournament.’’

 

KORN FERRY FINALS:  No local players qualified for The Tour Championship, which concludes the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs in Atlanta this weekend.  That’s not the case in the Korn Ferry Finals.  Illinois alums Thomas Detry and Nick Hardy are in a good position going into the second of the three-tournament series.

The Nationwide Championship tees off Thursday with Detry coming off a tie for fourth place finish and Hardy a tie for 15th in last week’s Boise Open in Idaho.  The top 25 after the Finals conclude next week at Indiana’s Victoria National will earn PGA Tour cards for the 2022-23 season.

Hardy, hampered by a wrist injury that sidelined him for a month in his rookie PGA Tour season, is battling to retain membership on the premier circuit.  Detry, from Belgium, was a tour non-member this year but got in the playoffs thanks to going five-for-five on making cuts in the PGA Tour events he played in.

Boise wasn’t so friendly for Northwestern alum Dylan Wu, a PGA Tour rookie, and Patrick Flavin, who earned a spot by notching four top-25 finishes in nine PGA Tour starts.  Wu tied fur 37th and Flavin tied for 56th.  Both need high finishes in the last two events in the Finals to be PGA Tour members next season.

COMING AND GOING:  Last week’s BMW Championship in Delaware marked the second straight year the Western Golf Association took its biggest event out of Chicago.  Next year’s will be at Olympia Fields, but It’ll be a short-lived return for the tournament, which made its last Chicago appearance at Olympia in 2020.

The WGA has announced the BMW will go to Castle Pines, in Colorado, in 2024; Cave’s Valley, in Maryland, in 2025; and Bellerive, in St. Louis, in 2026. The choice of Bellerive was impacted by the fact that the President’s Cup is scheduled for Medinah that year.

 

 

Makray provides a new challenge for this IPGA tourney

 

Andy Mickelson has an interesting dual role in the Illinois PGA Championship, which tees off today at a new site – Makray Memorial in Barrington.

Not only is Mickelson the defending champion, he’s also – as the Illinois Section’s tournament director — the key figure in the public course landing the state’s premier event for club professionals.

The IPGA Championship, which also is a qualifier for the PGA Professionals national finals, has been played primarily at private clubs since its debut in 1922.

Stonewall Orchard, a public facility in Grayslake, was part of a three-course rotation with privates Olympia Fields and Medinah when they divided hosting duties from 2005 to 2018.

Makray Memorial has an interesting history that dates back to 1953 but the open- to-the-public 18-holer has never hosted an event of the Illinois PGA’s stature. The Illinois State Junior has been held at Makray since 2007, and current PGA Tour member Doug Ghim set the coursre record of 65 in 2011 at that event.

The course was called Hillcrest Acres when it opened its doors. Paul Makray Sr. purchased the course in 1962 and renamed it Thunderbird. When Makray died in 1999 son Paul Makray Jr. and his siblings decided to completely re-design and rebuild the facility in honor of their father. It was closed in 2002.

“We moved two million cubic yards of dirt and brought in 100,000 truckloads in the re-construction process,’’ said Makray director of golf Don Habjan, who was on board for the last year of the Thunderbird days.

The course became Makray Memorial when it re-opened in 2004, and Paul Makray Jr. is now its sole owner. The 4,000 square foot clubhouse is one of the very best in the Chicago area and the 6,875-yard course has never been tested as thoroughly as it will be over the next three days.

The 54-hole tournament calls for 156 starters playing 18-hole rounds Monday and Tuesday before the low 50 and ties decide the champion on Wednesday.

Mickelson, the winner at Ivanhoe last year, has overseen a change of direction in IPGA tournament scheduling over the last few years that has also encompassed the Illinois Open and the Illinois Women’s Open. The Illinois Open has undergone format changes and the IWO has relaxed its residency requirements in an effort to get more players and encourage better competition. Selecting Makray was different.

“What inspired this change (for the IPGA Championship) was a combination of finding a good venue for tournament play — and this course definitely falls into that mix,’’ said Mickelson,  “and we needed one that was able to give us four days in the middle of August. We had to balance those two things together. The course is very demanding, and it’s going to be a fun event.’’

Mickelson was early in his days as director of golf at IWO base Mistwood, in Romeoville, when he won the PGA National Assistants Championship in 2015 and the Pebble Beach National Championship for TaylorMade club professionals in 2016.

His next big win came last year at Ivanhoe, but he won’t be the favorite this week. Frank Hohenadel, his head professional at Mistwood, might be. They go back to their high school days, when Mickelson was at Lincoln-Way and Hohenadel at Andrew.

“We’ve been very solid the last three-four years, playing some of the best golf of our lives,’’ said Mickelson, “but our PGA section is one of the strongest. That keeps you going.’’

Medinah’s Travis Johns, the 2019 champion; Brian Carroll of The Hawk Country Club in St. Charles, leader in the IPGA Player of the Year standings; and Blackberry Oaks teacher Roy Biancalana, coming off a win in the Illinois PGA Senior Championship, are also strong contenders.

And then, of course, there’s Mike Small. The University of Illinois men’s coach had ruled the section nine straight years until Hohenadel beat him at Medinah in 2011.  Small, now 56,  won four more titles after that, the last in 2020.

“He’s the best-ever in Illinois,’’ said Mickelson.  “He’s still a very special player who has no issues keeping up with the younger guys.’’

 

Patrick Flavin is trying to make it to the PGA Tour the hard way

Very few golfers have earned membership on the PGA Tour without going through the nail-biting Qualifying School experience. Gary Hallberg, who grew up in Barrington, was the first to do it in 1980 when he needed to earn just $8,000 in a few late season tournaments to avoid Q-School.

Requirements have toughened over the years when such luminaries as Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth accomplished the feat.  Now Highwood’s Patrick Flavin is making a game attempt at it, and the next three weeks will determine whether he can get the job done.

Flavin’s route to make the PGA Tour has been more complicated, but it’ll be a great accomplishment if he succeeds. Just making it into the three-tournament Korn Ferry Tour Finals was a difficult feat in itself.

Last fall he couldn’t survive the second stage of the Korn Ferry’s three-stage qualifying school and basically had no tour to play on.  His options for the PGA Tour were Monday qualifiers, which usually meant finishing in the top four of about 200 hopefuls, or getting a sponsor’s exemption into big events and then playing well when those rare opportunities arose.

Immediately after the flop at Korn Ferry Q-School Flavin survived a Monday qualifier to land a spot in the PGA Tour’s Bermuda Open.  His father Mark hurried to the tournament site to work as his son’s caddie and they made a good team.  Patrick tied for 17th and earned his first FedEx Cup points.

That success led to Flavin taking a rarely-used route to PGA Tour membership.  If he could earn enough FedEx points as a non-member of the PGA Tour to finish among the players ranked from 126 to 200 on the big circuit’s season-long  standings he would be eligible for the satellite circuit’s Korn Ferry Finals.

That meant scrounging for tournaments and, thanks to more good showings in Monday qualifiers, he made it into nine PGA Tour events and three Korn Ferry tournaments.  To supplement his schedule and earning potential Flavin also made three appearances on the PGA’s LatinoAmerica tour and one on the Canadian circuit.

“I played in basically everything I could play in the last couple years,’’ said Flavin before departing for the Boise Open, which tees off on Thursday (TOMORROW) to open the Korn Ferry Finals. “There was a lot of travel, and all of it wasn’t fun, but it all paid off.’’

He received a sponsor’s exemption to the John Deere Classic and tied for 10th.  That finish gave him a spot in the following week’s Barbasol Championship, and he tied for 21st there.  Those finishes meant more FedEx Cup points, to go along with earlier points gathered at the Puerto Rico Open (tie for 22nd) and Corales Puntacana tourney in the Dominican Republic (tie for 54th).

After Boise the Korn Ferry Finals go to Columbus, Ohio, and Evansville, Ind.  All are 72-hole events with 36-hole cuts and $1 million purses.  The top 25 on the point list over those three events go immediately to the PGA Tour, which starts its 2022-23 season the following week at the $7 million Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif.  The rest of the field is eligible for the 2023 Korn Ferry season, but there won’t be a tournament until after the New Year.

“It’s been hard not knowing where your next tournament is going to be, but now I’ve got three in a row.  That takes some weight off my shoulders,’’ said Flavin.  “I feel great.  I’m super confident.  I’m ready to take care of business.’’

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy is also in the Korn Ferry Finals, but he’d rather not be there.  As a PGA Tour rookie Hardy failed to finish in the top 125 in the FedEx standings.  To retain his PGA Tour card he’ll also have to finish in the top 25 in the Korn Ferry Finals.

At least Flavin and Hardy still have playoff golf in their immediate futures.  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim made it into the FedEx Cup Playoffs but neither survived the 36-hole cut at last week’s St. Jude Classic in Memphis.  That eliminated both from the last two FedEx tournaments.

 

 

 

 

Settler’s Hill is back in business after an elaborate renovation

 

Architect Greg Martin’s latest project created big changes at Batavia’s Settler’s Hill.

The renovation of the Settler’s Hill course in Batavia wasn’t easy – even for veteran Chicago area golf architect Greg Martin.

His recent or current area projects include The Preserve at Oak Meadows (Addison), Park Ridge Country Club, Fox Bend (Oswego), Arrowhead (Wheaton), Phillips Park (Aurora), Springbrook and Naperbrook (Naperville) and Wilmette Golf Club. Only The Preserve project is comparable to Settler’s Hill in terms of magnitude.

Work began in the fall of 2020 when the course was still open for play.  It was closed for all of 2021 and didn’t re-open until last week.  The long wait, though, was worth it. The Forest Preserve District of Kane County now has a course that is unlike any other in the Chicago area, if not the state of Illinois.

“It was a long journey,’’ said Martin. “Working with a landfill creates a little different challenge, and now all the holes are unique.  All have a personality.’’

Settler’s Hill was built with 13 holes on a landfill, and five on the edges of it.  That alone makes it unusual for Chicago courses.  Harborside, on Chicago’s South Side; Chicago Highlands, in Westchester; and Willow Hill (Northbrook) are also landfill projects but Settler’s Hill was one of the first.

Built on a site that had housed the County Farm and Home, Settler’s Hill was a nine-holer when it opened in 1988.  It became an 18-holer when designer Bob Lohmann unveiled his second nine in 1991.

Martin’s renovation features some startling elevation changes.  He likens the new design to “a roller coaster ride,’’ and that becomes obvious at the highest points – the tees at Nos. 13 and 17 and the green at No. 14.

There’s a drop of about 90 feet at No. 17, a dogleg par-5 that may be the biggest eye-catcher even though the drops are slightly longer on the other two holes.  There are also two new par-3s and the routing has changed to correct a problem with the original design.  Neither nine started or finished at the clubhouse on that one.

“We took a great property that just needed a little care and thought,’’ said Martin.  “We moved a couple holes around and opened up some views to give it more of a prairie look.’’

While the course is open, the $6.8 million project isn’t finished. The original clubhouse – located in an old barn – will house the pro shop until the new clubhouse is finished next year.  The old barn will be transformed into a banquet facility. A new four-hole short course is ready for youth play now and a new practice range is also available.

FED EX PLAYOFFS TEE OFF: Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim are in the 125-man field for the first of the three tournaments in the PGA Tour’s season-ending playoff series.  First event tees off on Thursday in Memphis.

Neither Streelman nor Ghim survived the 36-hole cut in last week’s Wyndham Championship and they’ll need strong showings in Memphis to qualify for the second playoff event – the BMW Championship in Delaware. Only the top 70 in the season-long point race after the Memphis stop will advance to the BMW Championship. Streelman goes to Memphis at No. 83 and Ghim at No. 114.

HERE AND THERE:  Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich has confirmed that two of his course’s greens have been affected by poa annua but says they’ll be ready when the controversial new LIV Tour visits Sept. 16-18. Rich also reports that  “Corporate and general admission ticket sales are going crazy.’’

Last week’s local tournament schedule had four big events going head-to-head.  This week the Chicago District Four-Ball Championship, which concludes its three-day run today at Chicago’s Ridgemoor course, is the lone attraction.

Two of Chicago most prominent course superintendents, Mike Bavier and Luke Cella, have joined forces on the fourth printing of a recently-published book  “Practical Golf Course Maintenance – the Art of Green Keeping’’ (Wiley & Sons Publishing, Hoboken, N.J.)  “It’s not a technical book, unlike past editions,’’ said Cella, executive director of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents.  “It reflects all the new rules of golf, and all the photos have been updated.’’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald is getting his Ryder Cup captaincy after all

The Zach Johnson (left)-Luke Donald Ryder Cup captaincy matchup is finally official.

Luke Donald, always the gentleman, badly wanted to captain the European Ryder Cup team but feared his chances were gone after Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was selected on July 20.

Donald, a member of four Ryder Cup teams and a vice captain for two others, wasn’t even named a vice captain for the matches in Rome in 2023.  The Euros were going to have Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari as the helpers for Stenson.

Now Donald, the former Northwestern star and long-time resident and supporter of golf in Chicago, is back in business.  He was officially named the European Ryder Cup captain on Monday after a tumultuous few days for Stenson.

Stenson was removed from the captaincy after he joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Tour, then hinted at taking legal action against the DP World Tour – the European PGA circuit — for his removal.  Stenson regained his focus in time to win last week’s LIV event in Bedminster, N.J., however, and that meant a huge payday in his first event on the new circuit.  He received $4 million for the individual win and another $375,000 for being part of the runner-up team in a separate competitive category.

Donald, while finishing in an eight-way tie for 49th place in the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit on Sunday, didn’t confirm his captaincy until Monday’s announcement but did quip that – if selected – he “wouldn’t pull a Henrik.’’ He offered more thoughts on that after his selection was announced.

“I was surprised (Stenson) put his name forward if his plan was to go to LIV,’’ said Donald. “I hate to talk about rumors, but rumors are that he’d been in contact with the rival tours – whatever they were – and he was very interested.  Everyone knew that.  They (the European tour) obviously took his word that he wasn’t going to do that.  We all have to sign a clause or contract saying that we won’t have anything to do with LIV.’’

Donald, 44 and struggling with his game the last few years, was offered a job on the LIV broadcast team but turned it down.  He did, though, say he’d keep Bjorn and Molinari as his vice captains.

Given his age and earlier success as a player, Donald would seem a good candidate to jump to the better paying LIV Tour.  He was the world’s No. 1-ranked player for 56 weeks, but that was a decade ago.

While he never won a major title, he did have top-10 finishes in the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open and notched 17 professional victories. While still an amateur he won the 2000 Chicago Open by six strokes against a field of professionals.

While a Florida resident now, Donald maintained a home in the Chicago area for many years after his graduation from Northwestern and he has been a major supporter of the Wildcats’ golf program and the First Tee of Greater Chicago.

Donald, interestingly, finished in a tie for 49th on Sunday with – among others – Zach Johnson, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.  Donald’s captaincy will initially be more challenging than Johnson’s.

The PGA Tour indefinitely suspended all LIV Tour participants on Feb. 28 but the DP World Tour only fined its players who competed on the rival circuit. They included European Ryder Cup mainstays Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Stenson.  Will they be able to play on Donald’s team?

“That’s something that’s certainly up in the air,’’ said Donald.  “There’s no real clarity now, and there’s some legal action going on.’’

He’s convinced those issues will be resolved and is “so excited and truly honored’’ to finally be Europe’s captain.

“I’m really looking forward to the next 14 months and getting my team ready for Rome,’’ said Donald.

 

 

 

 

 

LIV Tourney should boost Kids Golf Foundation at Rich Harvest Farms

 

The controversial LIV Tour Invitational Series’  stop in Chicago is closing in. The Saudi-backed circuit holds its third tournament starting on Friday at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, and the fourth –called The International — is in Boston from Sept. 2-4.

Then it’s on to Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, from Sept. 16-18 in what looms as the highest profile competition of the Chicago golf season. The LIV Tour may include many more big-name players by that time, since it falls after the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Since the last LIV stop — the circuit’s American debut at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon — the circuit has added Henrik Stenson, Jason Kokrak, Charles Howell and Paul Casey to its roster and gained more notoriety when Stenson was stripped of his captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team because of his defection.

More PGA Tour players are expected to make the jump after the FedEx Cup Playoffs end on Aug. 28.

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich sent some of his staff members to Pumpkin Ridge and liked the reports they brought back.

“If our tournament turns out anything like that one Illinois golf fans are in for a real treat,’’ Rich said in his latest report to friends of Rich Harvest.

Rich also addressed a question that has been posed frequently since he joined the LIV Tour in his first venture into men’s professional golf.  A most successful LPGA team event, the Solheim Cup, was staged at Rich Harvest in 2009 and many big amateur events have also been held there.

So, why did Rich get involved with the Saudi circuit?

“The answer is simple and obvious: The Kids Golf Foundation,’’ said Rich.  “Every event I host at Rich Harvest Farms supports the Foundation and their mission of bringing golf into the lives of children and providing them with opportunities for personal growth and career enhancement.’’

LIV tournaments are different than PGA Tour events. They’re limited to 48 players, and they play 54 holes using a shotgun start. There’s also a team component to each event and prize money is significantly higher than it is in PGA Tour events.

The Bedminster event will have the Navy parachute team skydiving onto the course to start play each day. Gates there will open three hours before the first tee time to enable spectators to participate in other onsite activities.  General admission is $75 per day.

FED EX COUNTDOWN:  All the Chicago-connected players on the PGA Tour are in this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit for a very good reason.  They only have two tournaments left to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The top 125 on the season-long point list qualify for the first of the lucrative postseason events and Kevin Streelman (No. 82), Northwestern alum David Lipsky (90) and Doug Ghim (111) are inside the cutline now. Nick Hardy is the best of the others at No. 138 with only the Wyndham Championship left after the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Ghim helped his cause at last week’s 3-M Classic, finishing in a tie for 16th, but he was in a tie for third after three rounds before dropping down the leaderboard with a 77 on Sunday.

HERE AND THERE: The 73rd Illinois Open starts on Monday at White Eagle, in Naperville.  The host site was hit hard by a tornado over the weekend, forcing a closing of the course.  Over 50 trees went down and a scoreboard and tent were destroyed. The club plans to re-open for an outing on Thursday,  and the Illinois Open is expected to go on as scheduled. The Last Chance Qualifier  event is today on the Prairie Course at Countryside, in Mundelein.

With Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest drenched by six inches of rain the Illinois PGA Senior Masters was canceled on Monday. Plans to reschedule are in the works.

The Phillips Park course, in Aurora, unveiled two new simulators in its pro shop this week.

Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, who had a long career on the Korn Tour while qualifying for five U.S. Opens, is no longer on that circuit, but he captured the Florida Open title last week.