Len Ziehm On Golf

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.

Donald, Pope, four Illini alums qualify for U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

The Monday of U.S. Open sectional qualifiers has been billed “golf’s longest day,’’ and for good reason. This week the final nine of twelve 36-hole qualifiers started with 927 players. Late Monday night the final 68 players were determined for the U.S. Open proper, coming up June 13-16 in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The list of sectional survivors included four University of Illinois alums – Nick Hardy, Thomas Pieters, Charlie Danielson and Luke Guthrie – plus Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope. Northbrook’s Hardy, in his first season as a professional, qualified for the third time and Pope made it for the fourth time in five years.

Chicago’s two best touring pros – former world No. 1 Luke Donald and PGA Tour veteran Kevin Streelman — went through a weird scenario in the Columbus, Ohio, sectional. As usual it drew the strongest sectional field, one dominated by players competing in the nearby PGA Tour’s Memorial tournament, which concluded on Sunday.

Donald, on the comeback trail after battling injuries for two years, jumped into contention at the Memorial on Saturday by shooting a third-round 65. He soared to an 80 on Sunday, however, and dropped 42 places on the leaderboard to finish in a tie for 57th.

Streelman, meanwhile, had a hot Sunday round – a 66 that got him a fourth-place finish and his biggest check of the season $436,800.

A day later, in the 36-hole sectional played at the Brookside and Scioto courses, their magic shifted. Donald was a steady 68-71 and qualified for his 14th U.S. Open, and his first in three years. Streelman shot 75 in the morning round and withdrew.

Guthrie, a Web.com Tour player whose game has improved dramatically in the last three weeks, was the most impressive of the local qualifiers. He was low man in the loaded 121-man field at Columbus, shooting 64-67 after finishing sixth in a Web.com Tour stop in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday.

“After getting into Columbus at midnight and getting four hours of sleep I didn’t know what to expect,’’ said Guthrie, “but I have been playing well and guess it just carried over.’’

Playing in the U.S. Open will be a treat, but perhaps a costly one.

“I told my wife that it might cost $1,000 a night, but that doesn’t matter because it’s Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open,’’ Guthrie said.

Of the area’s near-missers Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly had the most heart-breaking experience while competing in Rockville, Md. He made double bogey on the last hole of regulation play, then was odd-man out in a three-way playoff for two spots at Pebble Beach. As the first alternate in his sectional, he’ll have to hope for late withdrawals to make the field.

Flavin’s first pro win

Highwood’s Patrick Flavin enjoyed a remarkable amateur career, becoming the first player in 37 years to win the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year in 2017. Now he’s a champion on the pro level as well.

Flavin completed the first half of his rookie season on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour with a victory in the Bupa Match Play Championship in Mexico on Sunday. That boosted him into the No. 9 spot in the circuit’s Order of Merit with winnings of $36,326. His season, though, was filled with ups and downs.

He started by leading a Latinoamerica qualifying tournament in Brazil, then had two top-20 finishes in the first three tournaments. After that steady start he missed the cut in four straight events before getting his big win. Flavin was 4-up on Brazil’s Rodrigo Lee after 12 holes but had to hang on for a 1-up victory.

“I’m proud how I hung in there,’’ said Flavin. “Winning the last event of the first half leaves a different taste in my mouth. Now I have to work hard in the second half and earn my Web.com Tour card.’’

Here and there

Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow earned a place in the U.S. Senior Open, coming up June 27-30 at the Warren course in South Bend. Dukelow led a qualifying session at Inverness, shooting a 3-under-par 69.

Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell is now a USGA champion. A two-time Illinois State Amateur champion and five-time winner of the Illinois State Mid-Am, Mitchell teamed with Scott Harvey, of Kernersville, N.C., to win the U.S. Amateur Four-ball title in Bandon, Ore.

Northwestern’s Stephanie Lau and Cole Hammer, who won last year’s Western Amateur at Sunset Ridge in Northfield are part of the U.S. team that will compete against an international squad of collegiate starts in the Arnold Palmer Cup matches. They begin a three-day run on Friday at The Alotian Club in Arkansas.

Tiger’s proposed Chicago course might be built in phases

Mike Keiser, the Chicago golf visionary whose projects have included the well-received Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Sand Valley in Wisconsin, is also involved in a much-discussed Chicago course that involves Tiger Woods.

That project would require the combining of the existing Jackson Park and South Shore courses operated by the Chicago Park District. So far that highly expensive and politically charged project has been all talk and no action, but Keiser hasn’t ruled it out.

Talking during last week’s Web.com Tour event at The Glen Club in Glenview, Keiser lauded the routing devised by Woods’ lead architect Beau Welling and said a new construction plan might get the project underway before the year is out.

“We’re about to decide that we’ll do it in phases,’’ said Keiser. “ We’ll go ahead with Beau’s design on South Shore until the other course is ready. The holes on South Shore will be stunning.’’

Welling’s plan calls for five holes at South Shore, which is now a nine-hole course. Four of Welling’s holes would be on the lake and two of them would be par-3s. South Shore would then operate as a junior golf course and have a dynamic caddie program.

An announcement on the status of the project could come during the BMW Championship – the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoff event that comes to Medinah in August.

Keiser’s other nationally-known projects are much further along. Bandon Dunes, celebrating its 20th year, is getting still another course.

“It’ll be our fifth, and last,’’ said Keiser. The architectural team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are about halfway through the construction process on a layout called The Sheep Ranch. It’s expected to open on June 1, 2020.

Sand Valley is also getting another course, the third at the facility. It’ll be a Tom Doak design – a par-68 layout that’ll measure about 6,300 yards and hasn’t been named yet.

A name-game at U.S. Women’s Open

Megan Furtney, of South Elgin, makes her U.S. Women’s Open debut on Thursday in a threesome that includes Megan Osland, of Canada, and Megha (CORRECT) Ganne of New Jersey. All were sectional qualifiers for the event at Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina. Furtney and Ganne are amateurs.

They’ll tee off in the last threesome off the No. 1 tee on Thursday.

Furtney 18, just finished her senior year at St. Charles North High School and will enroll at Duke in the fall. Earlier this month she teamed up with soon-to-be Duke teammate Erica Shepherd, of Greenwood, Ind., to win the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball title in Jacksonville, FL.

Illini look ahead

The University of Illinois men’s team was again the best of the state’s collegiate teams, but a tie for 27th in the NCAA finals to conclude the season was a downer. The Illini won their fifth straight Big Ten title and also ruled their NCAA regional before their season ended in Fayetteville, Ark., on Sunday.

“It was a disappointing week, and the kids are pretty down,’’ said coach Mike Small. “We struggled from the very first hole on the first day and never could get things going in the right direction. That’s not the personality of Illini Golf.’’

Illinois was ranked No. 24 nationally and made its 12th straight appearance in the NCAA finals with a very young team.

“Usually this is a time of year where you thank the seniors and send them off, but we don’t have any,’’ said Small. “That’s a positive thing. This team still has another year to grow.’’

The Illini will return all nine members of this year’s team and also welcome freshman Jerry Ji, a recruit from The Netherlands.

Here and there

The Chicago qualifier for the U.S. Senior Open at the Warren course in South Bend is today at Inverness and the 90-player field includes some stars of the past – Dale Tallon, Jerry Vidovic and Joel Hirsch — who don’t compete much these days. Two spots in in the finals will be on the line.

Cog Hill, the Chicago area’s biggest golf facility with its 72 holes, has announced it will use Dynamic Pricing – a formula in which golf rates will be adjusted, both higher and lower, in real time, based on demand, availability and other changing factors.

Springfield’s Jake Erickson is the CDGA Mid-Amateur champion. He defeated Zach Jecklin 3 and 2in the final at Northmoor, in Highland Park. It was Erickson’s first CDGA victory after runner-up finishes in both the Mid-Am and the Illinois State Amateur.

PGA’s date change also impacted Chicago area club professionals

One the biggest offseason developments in golf this year was the shifting of the 101st playing of the PGA Championship to May from its usual August dates. This week we’ll see how that works out. It tees off on Thursday at New York’s Bethpage Black course.

Previously the PGA had been “Glory’s last shot,’’ the last major championship for the PGA stars. Now it’s the second, and there’s a little more to it than that. One thing that made the PGA different from the other majors was that the field includes the best club professionals, as determined by their finish in the PGA Professionals National Championship.

The PGA Professionals had a date change, too, to accommodate the move of the major event. It was played in Bluffton, S.C., two weeks ago, and that didn’t help Illinois PGA members.

Mike Small, the men’s coach at Illinois and a three-time champion of the club pros, couldn’t compete because his college team was still playing. The IPGA still had 11 qualifiers in the 312-player field at the PGA Professionals event but none reached the final round. Holding the event when there was still snow on the ground in Chicago didn’t help their preparations.

“It’s hard to be prepared for a tournament at that level,’’ said Garrett Chaussard, who repeated as champion of the first local major of the season – the IPGA Match Play Championship, held last week at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove. “It’d be interesting to see if they could work out our qualifying in the previous fall. That might work out better.’’

Seemingly the qualifiers for the PGA Professionals event would have an edge in the Match Play because they had a tournament tuneup. None could beat Chaussard, however.

While he qualified for several previous PGA Professionals tourneys in the past, he didn’t make it into this one. Still, he beat two players who did — Twin Orchard’s Dakun Chang in the semifinals and Royal Hawk’s Brian Carroll, in the finals — to become only the fourth player in the tourney’s 68-year history to successfully defend a title.

Lack of tournament preparation wasn’t the only surprising aspect in Chaussard’s success. He’s also adjusting to being a father. His wife Diana gave birth to their first child, daughter Marie, three months ago.

“I was surprised, because playing has been on the back burner,’’ said Chaussard, who was in Small’s first recruiting class at Illinois 2001 and worked at Cog Hill, in Lemont, and Chicago Highlands, in Westchester, before coming to Skokie three years ago.

From Chicago Golf to Pine Needles

The inaugural playing of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open was a big hit at Chicago Golf Club last summer though it was played opposite a major on PGA Tour Champions nearby. The second version, which tees off on Thursday at Pine Needles, in Southern Pines, N.C., is opposite the PGA Championship.

Jaime Fischer, teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, is in the 120-player field as one of 55 exempt players. She bypassed the qualifying rounds because she finished in the top 20 (tie for 12th) at Chicago Golf Club.

Fischer is paired in the first two round at Pine Needles with Kelley Brooks, the director of golf at Bethpage. Brooks will be competing at Pine Needles instead of tending to her usual duties when her home course hosts the PGA Championship.

Here and there

Both Northwestern and Illinois have women’s teams in the NCAA finals. NU is in the finals for the seventh straight year. Illinois is making its first appearance in the finals, which begin a six-day run Friday at Blessings Golf Club in Arkansas.

The men’s teams from Illinois and Northwestern both conclude NCAA regional play today at TPC Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. The top five teams there move on to Blessings for the men’s finals May 24-29.

Illinois State’s Ray Kralis is the Missouri Valley Conference’s men’s coach of the year.

Brian Chasensky, formerly an assistant superintendent at Chicago Golf Club, is now the superintendent at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff.

College golf programs in Illinois couldn’t be much better

It’s hard to imagine anything being better for Illinois’ top college golf programs than it is right now, with the NCAA championships closing in.

Coach Mike Small’s Illinois men’s team won its fifth straight Big Ten title and ninth in 10 years on Sunday in Philadelphia and had the conference medalist for the ninth straight year in freshman Adrien Dumont de Chassart. The Illini will learn their NCAA regional assignment on Wednesday night via The Golf Channel.

Northwestern director of golf Pat Goss announced the school’s Gleacher Golf Center is getting a $5.7 million renovation. The project, now underway, is scheduled for completion in the fall. NU had the nation’s first comprehensive indoor collegiate facility when the Gleacher Center opened 20 years ago. A notable part of the renovation is the expansion of the indoor short game and putting area to 5,400 square feet.

NU had more to celebrate than that. Ryan Lumsden, who has the third-best career stroke average at NU behind former stars Dylan Wu and Luke Donald, was named the winner of the Byron Nelson Award. It goes to the graduating senior who is given equal consideration for performance, academics, character, integrity and citizenship

On the women’s front Illinois’ Renee Slone became her school’s first Big Ten Women’s Coach of the Year after guiding the Illini to a runner-up finish in the league tournament for the second straight year. Northwestern, though, had the conference player-of-the-year in senior Stephanie Lau.

The women’s NCAA tournament tees off on Monday (MAY 6) with Northwestern, Illinois and Southern Illinois all qualified for regional play. NU and Southern Illinois, which got an automatic NCAA berth by winning the Missouri Valley Conference title, will compete for a berth in the finals at Tumble Creek, in Washington. Illinois is in the field at Forest Akers West in Michigan.

Illinois State’s men swept the Missouri Valley individual honors with Trent Wallace the MVC Player of the Year and David Rauner the medalist in the conference tournament. The Redbirds didn’t win the league title, though. That went to Southern Illinois. Conference champions receive automatic NCAA berths. Other schools must wait until Wednesday announcement to find out if they’re in.

Setback for Small

The change in the PGA of America’s tournament schedule kept Small from competing in the PGA Professionals National Championship, an event he has won three times. That tournament, along with the PGA Championship, were moved to the spring and in conflict with Small’s coaching duties at Illinois.

His team’s Big Ten title provided plenty of consolation, however. There’s no seniors on Illinois’ nine-man roster and – until the breakthrough at the Big Ten – the Illini hadn’t resembled Small’s teams of the recent past.

“This team needed to grow up, and it did,’’ said Small. “It was a young team that was trying to find itself. Until we took over on the back nine (at the Big Ten tournament in Philadelphia) we had been have trouble closing out events this spring.’’

Even without Small in the field the Illinois PGA had 11 qualifiers for the PGA Professionals Championship, which is in progress at Belfair in Bluffton, S.C.

Here and there

Phillis Meti, who represents Batavia-based Tour Edge, set a women’s record with a 413-yard drive en route to winning her third World Long Drive Championship.

Ho Sung Choi, a 45-year old South Korean who won last year’s Casio World Open on the Japan PGA Tour, has received a sponsor’s exemption into July’s John Deere Classic.

Bryant Gaynes will take over as golf operations director at Prairie Landing, in West Chicago, He had been the club’s outing coordinator.

Chris French, of Aldeen in Rockford, won the Illinois PGA Assistants Match Play title, beating Butler National’s Bret Burgmeier 6 and 4 in the final at The Grove in Long Grove.

Weather problems caused Monday’s qualifying round for the Chicago District Mid-Amateur at Maple Meadows, in Wood Dale, to be rescheduled for May 9.

Next on tap

First of the area’s U.S. Open local qualifiers is today (WEDNESDAY) at Cog Hill, in Lemont. The U.S. Women’s Open qualifier is Monday (MAY 6) at Elgin Country Club, and the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship – first of the section’s four majors – begins ifs four-day run on Monday (MAY 6) at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove.

Medinah hosts a last qualifier for the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open

A highlight of last year’s Chicago golf season was the playing of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. It was a rousing success – a feel-good story capped off by Laura Davies’ 10-stroke victory on America’s first 18-hole course.

“It doubled our expectations from the crowd standpoint, and we learned a lot,’’ said Katherine Thigpen, the tournament manager for the U.S. Golf Association. “Everything was extremely positive. We heard how special it was from volunteers, fans, staff and players.’’

This year’s second staging will be at Pine Needles, in Southern Pines, N.C., next month but the last of the 17 nation-wide qualifying rounds will be at another special Chicago course. Medinah’s No. 2 course will be the site of the first significant competition of the Chicago season next Tuesday.

Medinah No. 2 had been unofficially designated the club’s “women’s course’’ while No. 3 hosted major championships like the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and – most recently – the 2012 Ryder Cup matches. The No. 1 course has hosted two Illinois PGA Championships since architect Tom Doak re-designed the layout.

Though No. 3 will be back in the spotlight in August as the site of the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, now is the time for No. 2 to get the attention. Rees Jones was the architect in a $3 million renovation of that layout in 2017. Like the other Medinah layouts, it was a Tom Bendelow design from the 1920s.

No. 2 had been a tournament after-thought, but no more. The University of Illinois women’s team hosted a tournament there last fall and that event will return for three more years. Next week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier is another step in the right direction.

The Senior Women’s Open qualifier will have 15 players from the 50-and=over set competing for three spots in the 120-player field at Pine Needles May 16-19. Regardless of what happens at Medinah, there’ll be one Chicago player competing at Pine Needles. Jamie Fischer, a teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, earned a place by finishing in the top 20 at Chicago Golf Club.

Fischer was third in last year’s qualifier, played on her home course, and then finished in an impressive tie for 12th in the finals.

The Medinah field is headed by veteran touring pro Elaine Crosby, the first-round leader at Chicago Golf who faded into a tie for 23rd and Medinah member Blue Kelly. Fifty-five of the Pine Needles starters are exempt off past performances, and they include Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon – former LPGA stars who didn’t compete in the event last year.

Tour Talk

Last weekend was almost unheard of for the players with Chicago connections on the pro tours. Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman had his second straight sixth-place finish on the PGA Tour, this one at the RBC Heritage Classic in South Carolina, and Luke Donald continued on the comeback trail with a tie for 33rd.

Jeff Sluman had his best finish of the season on PGA Tour Champions — a tie for sixth in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Georgia — and Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, an LPGA rookie, earned her biggest check on the premier women’s circuit — $,6,623 for a tie for 50th in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.

Additionally, the three players on the PGA’s Web.com Tour cashed at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Championship in Alabama as did the two on the PGA Latinoamerica circuit in Argentina. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger tied for 18th, Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim tied for 29th and Deerfield’s Vince India tied for 35th in the Web.com stop and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin tied for 16th and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly tied for 50th in the Latinoamerica event in Argentina.

Here and there

The Chicago District Golf Association, which will conduct the qualifier at Medinah, will also host qualifiers for two of its local competitions. The CDGA Senior Amateur elimination will be today (APRIL 24) on Silver Lake’s North course in Orland Park, and Maple Meadows, in Wood Dale, will host the CDGA Mid-Amateur qualifier on Monday.

A format change has been announced for the 25th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, coming up in July at Mistwood, in Romeville. It’ll be a three-day event with the championship still decided over 54 holes, but the first day will be a pro-am and the field will play 36 holes on the second day, after which a cut will be made to decide the final round field. Andy Mickelson, Mistwood’s director of golf, said the change was made to increase the amateur players in the pro-am. “We also wanted to keep the tournament at 54 holes with the finish on Wednesday,’’ he said.

The Illinois PGA Assistants Match Play Championship concludes today at The Grove in Long Grove and the section’s first stroke play event for full members is Monday at Bloomington Country Club. The latter will have a weakened field with the top four players on last year’s Player-of-the-Year point standings – Medinah’s Travis Johns, Royal Hawks’ Brian Carroll, Twin Orchard’s Dakun Chang and Glen View’s Chris Green – all competing in the PGA Professionals Championship in South Carolina instead.

Masters memories still give rookie pro Ghim good vibes

The golf world gets back to normal this week following the tumultuous week created by Tiger Woods’ victory in the Masters. None of the American tours had tournaments during Masters week but Doug Ghim was invited by the PGA Tour to look back on his experiences at Augusta National.

Ghim was the low amateur in the 2018 Masters and made three eagles in the tournament with his father Jeff working as his caddie. Each eagle earned him a crystal goblet.

Though Ghim has established Las Vegas as his base as a tour player, those goblets are back in the family home in Arlington Heights. Ghim’s roommate in Las Vegas is fellow Web.com Tour member Maverick McNealy, and Ghim didn’t think the goblets should be kept in Las Vegas.

“Chicago is still home,’’ said Ghim. That’s where I came from so I kept them there. I just didn’t want them to get wrecked.’’

Ghim won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top male collegiate golfer and turned pro prior to last year’s Travelers Championship. In addition to playing in four PGA Tour events Ghim earned membership on the Web.com Tour with a tie for third in the qualifying school.

Going into this week’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship in Alabama Ghim stands No. 30 on the Web.com point list. Former University of Iowa teammates Brad Hopfinger, of Lake Forest, and Vince India, of Deerfield, will join Ghim in the field in Alabama.

Hopfinger is No. 56 on the tour point list and India, the reigning Illinois Open champion, is 65th. The top 25 at season’s end get PGA Tour cards and the top 75 earn spots in the Web.com Tour Finals.

Those numbers are more important to Ghim now, but the Masters experience hasn’t been forgotten.

“I went off in the pro shop and bought like $600 worth of hats alone,’’ he said. “I still wear them to this day. I bought a lot of stuff, but the silver cup (as low amateur) and the eagle goblets were awesome to bring home because they were the only things that I didn’t have to pay for, so that was nice.’’

Streelman, Donald in Heritage

The PGA Tour tees off at the RBC Heritage Classic on Thursday at the Harbour Town course in Hilton Head Island, S.C. That layout has been especially good to Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star who is on the comeback trail after two years of back problems.

A former world No. 1 with two top-five finishes in the Masters, Donald has been consistently good at the Heritage. He has four runner-up finishes and two thirds in the event.

Like Donald, Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman didn’t qualify for this year’s Masters but will play in the Heritage. A former winner of the Masters Par-3 Contest, Streelman is coming off his best finish of the 2018-19 season – sixth at the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago.

Tour reports

Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, the last player to win the Illinois Open and Illinois State Amateur in the same year (2017), is doing the best of the three Illinois players with membership on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour.

Flavin won the Brazil qualifier to get him tour membership and is 25th on the money list after two tournaments, having tied for 14th in Panama and tied for 40th in Argentina. The circuit stops in Chile this week. Glen Ellyn’s Kyle Kochevar and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly are also on the circuit.

PGA Tour Champions resumes its season this week at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Georgia. The only local player on the circuit, Jeff Sluman, is coming off his best showing of the season – a tie for 11th in the Rapsian Systems Championship in Mississippi three weeks ago.

The LPGA resumes its campaign this week at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii. Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, in her rookie LPGA season, has made the cut in two of her four tournaments and has winnings of $8,510.

Here and there

Pat Goss, Donald’s putting and short game coach since 1997, is now taking registration for his Short Game/Putting Schools. They begin on May 4 at the Luke Donald Practice Facility at The Glen Club in Glenview. Goss has also worked with PGA Tour players Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland, Trevor Immelman, Nick Watney and Patrick Cantlay.

Troy Newport, who has worked most recently with Troon Golf facilities in Wisconsin, will replace Nick Mokelke as general manager at Cog Hill. Mokelke, who will retire later this year, has been with Jemsek Golf for 56 years including 39 at Cog Hill.

Antioch Golf Club has undergone an ownership and name change. The facility is now called Valley Ridge Golf Club.

Tiger’s win in the Masters was big — but it won’t be his biggest

Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I was on hand at the Brown Deer public course in Milwaukee for Tiger Woods’ first professional tournament.

Of course it wasn’t yesterday. It was 23 years ago, and the event he was playing in was the Greater Milwaukee Open – a PGA Tour stop that ended its 42-year run in 2009 when its sponsor failed to renew and a replacement couldn’t be found.

Woods announced he was turning pro on the Tuesday before that tournament, saying to a packed press conference `Hello, world.’ Woods had won his third straight U.S. Amateur four days earlier and he already had signed endorsement deals worth $40 million. Still, Woods needed to borrow $100 from swing coach Butch Harmon to pay the tourney entry fee. Woods was just 20 at the time.

Though Loren Roberts won the Milwaukee tournament in a playoff with Wisconsin favorite Jerry Kelly the story of the week was Tiger Woods. He shot 67 in his first round as a pro and made a hole-in-one in Sunday’s final 18 of the tournament. His finish wasn’t impressive – a tie for 60th place – and he earned just $2,544. Still, he was off and running on a pro career that everyone even remotely connected to golf suspected would reach great heights.

It did. His first PGA win came at Las Vegas a month later and victories came fast and furious after that.

A favorite Woods moment? Most every golfer has them, but mine has nothing to do with his 15 wins in golf’s majors. In my 51st year reporting on golf for a variety of publications, I was on hand for many of Woods’ victories. My favorite came at the 1997 Motorola Western Open at Cog Hill in Lemont.

Woods had won his first Masters earlier that year by a whopping 12 strokes and his popularity soared after that. At the ’97 Western he had a comfortable lead on eventual runner-up Frank Nobilo (now one of the sport’s premier TV analysts) as he walked down the final fairway. The gallery swarmed in behind Woods in celebration long before he reached the green. That’s a sight you see in the British Open but it was basically unheard of on the PGA Tour until then.

And now we come to Woods’ latest victory, the drama-filled nail-biter in the Masters at Augusta National on Sunday. A feel good story, no doubt about it, and this world needs much more of those.

I’m one who felt the media – golf and otherwise — gave too much attention to Woods during most of his comeback attempts in recent years. There were a lot of failures along the way as Woods coped with marital problems, health issues and related personal matters. Focusing on Woods then certainly wasn’t fair to the other players.

Now, though, things have changed. Whatever Tiger does now should and will be scrutinized. Yes, he’s back – but Sunday wasn’t the end-all.

I’m afraid I’ll risk being a spoil-sport. Sunday’s win was exhilarating and may be Woods’ finest golf moment so far. Recovering from the multitude of problems he had is impressive, even inspirational.

However – despite the hyperbole voiced world-wide since his last putt dropped at Augusta – his wasn’t the greatest win in the history of the Masters. That still belongs to Jack Nicklaus. I was there, squeezed into the back row of a Quonset hut that served as the Media Center then, when Nicklaus won his record sixth Masters in 1986 at the age of 46. That was my first of 12 Masters, and Nicklaus became the tourney’s oldest champion.

I’ve been blessed to cover tons of great sports moments over the years, not all of them in golf. I haven’t experienced the electricity that Nicklaus’ back nine charge created that day before or since.

As for Woods, I’m convinced his best day is yet to come. Maybe it’ll come when he breaks Sam Snead’s record for most PGA Tour victories. Snead won 82 times, Woods 81.

Ideally, though, Woods’ greatest moment will come when he tops Nicklaus for most wins in golf’s major championships. Woods needs three wins to match Nicklaus’ record of 18. That’s been Woods’ ultimate target since the day he striped his first drive down the fairway in Milwaukee 23 years agos. No. 19 is within range now, and I believe Woods will get it.

Jennifer Kupcho wasn’t the only winner at the inaugural ANWA

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jennifer Kupcho was a convincing winner in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday, but women’s golf may have been the biggest benefactor.

For the third straight year the top women players had a new high profile event to build on. In 2017 it was the Senior LPGA Championship at Indiana’s French Lick Resort. In 2018 it was the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. The ANWA had far fewer players than both of those but it had also more hoopla and far bigger galleries. The post-round awards ceremony was very Masters-like, too.

“Just walking up the fairway with so many people is a feeling like no other,’’ said Kupcho. “This tournament showed how good we are. It exceeded my expectations, and it was the most organized tournament I’ve ever played in. The women’s game will come up stronger because of it.’’

Saturday’s gallery marched four deep on both sides of the fairways when Kupcho and Mexico’s Maria Fassi were wrapping up their day-long duel for the title.

Kupcho, the reigning NCAA champion and No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, took control thanks to a torrid stretch on holes 13 through 16. She played them in eagle-par-birdie-birdie and added another bird with a 25-footer to conclude the tournament.

Fassi had opened a two-stroke lead when they arrived at the No. 13 tee, a key par-5 in Augusta National’s famed Amen Corner. Kupcho carried the creek fronting the green with a 3-hybrid second shot from 211 yards, then rolled in an eight-footer with a two-foot break for the only eagle of the tournament.

“Being two back I knew I had to make a move’’ she said. The eagle meant Kupcho and Fassi were tied again and Kupcho pulled away with her three birdies in the remaining five holes. She posted a 67 in the final round, the best score of the day.

Fassi and Kupcho are long-time friends. Fassi plays collegiately for Arkansas, Kupcho for Wake Forest. Both have already earned LPGA playing privileges and deferred turning pro until after their college seasons are over.

Finishing at 10-under-par 206 for 54 holes, Kupcho had a four-stroke advantage on Fassi at the finish but their duel was spirited in the middle of the round when they took turns holding the lead. Kupcho led the tournament until the eighth hole on Saturday, when a migraine attack hampered her for the next four holes.

That’s when Fassi made a move, but she couldn’t sustain it.

The tourney started with 72 invited players, and 25 countries were represented. Augusta National was set up at 6,365 yards for the ANWA. The men will play it at 7,475 yards when the Masters tees off on Thursday.

Fred Ridley, the Augusta National president who announced the creation of the first women’s competition at storied Augusta National at the 2018 Masters, saw nothing but positives from the first staging.

“Focusing on women’s accomplishments in general, not just in golf and sports, is good for society,’’ he said. It’s good for everybody’’

The final round started with ceremonial tee shots from four of the greats of women’s golf—Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam. They had the same good vibes that Ridley had.

“When they announced it last year I had chills wishing I could be an amateur again so I could come and play,’’ said Lopez.

“It was so exciting to see the players after their rounds, their smiles all up to their ears,’’ said Sorenstam. “They can’t stop smiling and it’s a dream come true. I’m so happy for them.’’

The inaugural ANWA got the climax to another season of golf at Augusta National off to a rousing start. The national finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition for youngsters between the ages of 6 and 15 will be held today (SUNDAY) and then the men take over on Monday for three days of preparations for the Masters.

Four legends will get the ANWA’s climax off to a rousing start

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National Golf Club has been a trend-setter since legendary player Bobby Jones led its creation in the 1930s. Jones also organized the Masters — at least arguably the world’s most popular golf tournament — in 1934. Today women finally get their chance to play the iconic course in a tournament setting.

Or at least 30 of them will. They were the survivors from the 72 invited international players who went 36 holes on the nearby Champions Retreat club this week to decide who would compete amidst loads of fanfare Saturday.

This marks the third straight year of breakthrough events for women golfers. In 2017 the Ladies PGA Tour staged its first Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana. Last year the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. The ANWA has fewer players but much more hoopla than either of them.

All the ANWA players had a closed-to-the-public practice round on Friday at Augusta National and LPGA legends Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak were on hand to greet them when they finished play. Today all four players will hit ceremonial tee shots. Pak will go first, then Ochoa, then Lopez and finally Sorenstam.

“It’s such an honor, such a great moment in golf, for us to make up a group like Arnold (Palmer), Jack (Nicklaus) and Gary (Player) did,’’ said Lopez. “It’s exciting to be part of history.’’

As for the current players one, from the beginning of the week, has stood out throughout the buildup to the final round. Jennifer Kupcho is already the reigning NCAA champion and No. 1 in the Official World Amateur Rankings.

The Wake Forest senior was the only player seated with Augusta National president Fred Ridley and Diana Murphy, a former U.S, Golf Association president and the fourth woman member of the club, at the first of four straight nights of pre-tournament banquets. Kopcho also had the honor of hitting the first tee shot on Wednesday. She shared the first-round lead with 16-year old California phenom Zoe Santos and led solo after Thursday’s Round 2.

Kopcho played her first 31 holes of the tourney without a bogey and she still hasn’t had a three-putt. Still, her margin is just one shot over Mexico’s Maria Fassi going into today’s (SATURDAY) final 18. Fassi, a longer hitter, will be her playing partner.

“We’ll have a lot of fun’’ said Kopcho. “We are good friends, and we’re both good at golf – really good at golf. We’ll make a lot of birdies, and it will be pretty fun to watch us.’’

In addition to Friday’s practice round Kopcho had a look at Augusta National during a practice with her Wake Forest teammates. Though she’s yet to play the course in competition she has watched the Masters on television and believes “I know it well.’’

“But you don’t see the greens on TV, and that’s the toughest part of the course,’’ said Kopcho. “So, I think I know the course, but not the greens. If you’re above the hole you’re just trying to two-putt. You don’t want to be having a five-footer coming back. That’s going to be a big thing out there.’’

She was told the greens at Champions Retreat were similar to what Augusta National will offer today.

“But I’m sure they will be faster.’’ said Kopcho, “and I would say I’m a pretty good fast green putter. I’m pretty good at figuring out how hard to hit it.’’

The tourney started with players from 25 countries ranging in age from 14 to 23. Of the 30 still in contention 17 are from countries outside the U.S. NBC Sports will broadcast the final round from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.