Illinois Am champion skips Western, takes aim at winning State Open

This week’s 119th playing of the Western Amateur may have one of its strongest fields ever at the Glen View Club, in Golf, but one notable name is missing. Ethan Farnam, who repeated as the Illinois State Amateur champion last week, won’t be there.

“I didn’t even apply for the Western Amateur,’’ said Farnam.  “Usually the top 100 (who receive invites) are the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. It’s just a hard tournament to get in, plus  I’m working.’’

Farnam, from Crystal Lake, is a caddie at Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club while preparing for a final year of college golf at St. Mary’s, in California. His accomplishment in the State Am at Mistwood, in Romeoville, was one for record books.  Only 15 players in 90 years have won multiple titles in the State Am and Farnam became just the 10th to win back-to-back.

Others to win titles in consecutive years include three who became regulars on the PGA Tour – Bob Zender (1970-71), Gary Hallberg (1978-79) and D.A. Points (1998-99). The last player to do it was Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell (2002-03).

Others going back-to-back were Warren Dawson, the tourney’s first winner in 1931-32; Harold Foreman Jr. (1944-45), Ed Moehling Jr. (1960-61), Joel Hirsch (1988-89) and Jay Davis (1991-92). Farnam’s first win came in 2019. The 2020 event was canceled due to pandemic concerns.

“Everyone was congratulating me for the first one,’’ said Farnam, “and it’d been so long just to reaffirm that you’re still here and that you’re still one of the better players in the state and the nation.’’

While he’s skipping the Western Am, Farnam will chase another historic feat when the Illinois Open tees off at Stonebridge, in Aurora, next week.  Only two golfers, David Ogrin 1980 and Patrick Flavin in 2017, have won both the Amateur and Open in the same year.

“I’m pretty motivated,’’ said Farnam.  “It’d be pretty cool, but it’ll be a lot more challenging to win against professionals who play tournaments all the time.  But it is do-able.’’

Farnam, 22, will consider turning pro after his college eligibility expires. He attended Northwestern as a freshman.

“I got kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons,’’ he said.  “It was a wild ride, and a growing-up moment, but it’s turned out well. I was born in California and, due to covid, I have one more year of college golf. I’ll go to Q-School in the middle of the school year while I’m still an amateur.’’

While the Western is in progress Farnam will pair up with Michael Fastert in Wednesday’s (TODAY) qualifying round for the Chicago District Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship at Blackstone, in Marengo.

The Western Golf Association takes 156 players into its Western Am,  and topping the list of locals this week is Hinsdale’s Mac McClear, who won the Big Ten’s individual title while playing for Iowa and was in a three-man playoff with Farnam for the State Am crown. Three other Illinois residents playing at Glen View are college golfers – Tommy Kuhl (Illinois), Timmy Crawford (Loyola) and Connor Polender (Liberty).

Veteran amateurs in field include Kenilworth’s Charles Waddell, the Glen View club champion and a qualifier for this year’s U.S. Amateur; Lake Bluff’s Andrew Price and Hinsdale’s Michael Castleforte.

The 72-hole stroke play portion of the tournament concludes on Thursday and the 16 survivors decide the champion in match play on Friday and Saturday.  That portion of the event will be streamed over Golf Channel’s digital platforms with more than 12 hours of coverage available.

University of Texas senior Pierceson Coody is the defending champion and the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world rankings. Champions of the previous two years —                                                                                                                                                                                                   Garrett Rank (2019) and Cole Hammer (2018) – are also in the field as are two former Western Junior winners.  William Mouw won that title in 2017 at Park Ridge Country Club, and Piercen Hunt was the 2019 champion at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove. Hunt, a sophomore-to-be at Illinois, just won the Wisconsin State Amateur.

HERE AN THERE:  Cog Hill, in Palos Park, has been named to host the 46th Boys & Girls Junior PGA Championship in 2022.  Dates are Aug. 2-5….Deerpath, in Lake Forest, has broken ground on The Lawn – a 30,000 square foot putting and chipping green….Northwestern alum Dylan Wu won the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., on the Korn Ferry Tour on Sunday….Mistwood teaching pro Nicole Jeray is in the field at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which starts its four-day run on Thursday (JULY 29) in Brooklawn, Ct….PGA Tour rookie Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, has been named an honorary ambassador to the First Tee of Greater Chicago….Marissa Wenzler was both medalist and champion at last week’s 121st Women’s Western Amateur at Park Ridge Country Club. The University of Kentucky student is also a caddie at NCR in Dayton, Ohio, which was just named the site of the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

 

Here’s how the Illinois PGA events have changed

 

While the four major championship on the PGA Tour are now history, the Illinois PGA has three of its four still coming up. The next is the Illinois Open, Aug. 2-4 at Stonebridge, in Aurora.

IPGA leadership did considerable soul-searching in trying to salvage the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, and their efforts are reflected in the streamlining of some  events and the expansion of its role in others this year. Executive director Carrie Williams outlined the changes event by event.

ILLINOIS WOMEN’S OPEN: The IPGA was reluctant to get involved when the late Phil Kosin organized the IWO 26 years ago, but now that’s changed.

“We were always interested in increasing our reach when it comes to women’s championship golf, and our relationship with Mistwood (in Romeoville) allowed us to establish a partnership for the first year, which hope to expand.’’ said Williams.

The IPGA provided starters, scorekeepers and rules officials for this year’s event, played earlier this month, and the section’s role could expand with Mistwood director of golf Andy Mickelson the tournament chairperson on the IPGA board of directors.

“It’ll always be the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open,’’ said Williams, “and I anticipate it will always be at Mistwood.  It’s the place we want to be, and we want to staff it with more females.’’

ILLINOIS OPEN: The expanded field for the finals is over.  The IPGA dropped Stonebridge as the alternate site last year when the field was cut back to 156 players and it’ll be the solo host this year.  There were 312 finalists the past few years in an effort to stimulate more entrants in the qualifying rounds.

“We think 156 works better from an administration perspective as well as providing a better championship experience for the competitors,’’ said Wlliams.  “When we went to two sites in 2014 or 2015 we had 500 to 600 qualify and saw an immediate increase in entries.  Over the last six years that’s evened out.   Now, in a typical year, we get 490 to 530.’’

IPGA CHAMPIONSHIP: The three-course rotation, used for more than a decade, is done. This year’s event is Aug. 23-25 at Ivanhoe Club, and no future sites have been announced.

“Medinah has the intention to host every few years, and we hope to return to Olympia Fields in the future,’’ said Williams. “We will remain regional, but not rotational. We may be downstate once in awhile. We want to go to clubs that want us to he there, clubs that will support us from a volunteer perspective, that are excited to have us.’’

FALL CHAMPIONSHIP: It’s now turned into two events – a best ball played a Metamora Fields and a 36-player invitational for the top players on the Bernardi Point List, to be played at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. That event is now The Players Championship.

“The old event always had an identity crisis,’’ said Williams.  “It was a points event to determine player-of-the-year and also a celebration of the end of the season. We’d only get 70 players.  Some of the top guys couldn’t get there (it was generally held at Eagle Ridge, in Galena) and some who did had not played much all year.’’

DRIVE, CHIP & PUTT: Williams is happy to announce that Medinah will be the site of a regional in which 88 qualifiers will battle for spots in the national finals on the Sunday before April’s Masters in Georgia. The regionals are rotated around the country, and Medinah has been the only Chicago site used.  That was five years ago.

IPGA JUNIOR TOUR: Operated by the IPGA Foundation, the new circuit called for seven 90-player tournaments played at high-end private clubs.  Dana Gattone, of the IPGA staff, is running the circuit with the finals coming up July 26 at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.

“The IJGA (Illinois Junior Golf Association) embraced it, and we had a fantastic launch in a very abbreviated season,’’ said Williams. She had headed the IJGA for eight years before moving to the IPGA six years ago.

HERE AND THERE: Dylan Frittelli, who missed the cut in defense of his John Deere Classic title two weeks ago , bounced back with a fifth-place finish at the British Open and earned $480,000.  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, who also missed the cut at the JDC, wasn’t bad across the pond, either.  He tied for 19th and earned $109,000…..Nicole Jeray, a long-time competitor on the LPGA Tour who is now on the teaching staff at Mistwood, in Romeoville, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open….The 90th Illinois State Amateur concludes Thursday at Mistwood. One former champion, 2012 winner Quinn Prchal, couldn’t compete this time but – working with his father Tom – he has come out with a book to help young players who want to play competitive golf.  It’s called “Lessons Learned, Playing Junior and College Golf.’’…The 119th Western Amateur begins its six-day run on Monday at Glen View Club and the IPGA Senior Masters will be played on Monday at Onwentsia.

Streelman looks for a bounce-back at the British Open

Last week’s John Deere Classic wasn’t kind to Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, the top local player on the PGA Tour.  He missed the 36-hole cut at the JDC, but he’s still in this week’s British Open at England’s Royal St. George’s course.

“It’s a different level of everything.  Everything’s elevated – the adrenalin, the crowds, the golf course,’’ said Streelman, who has played in the year’s last major championship five times since his first appearance in 2011.

Royal St. George’s was also the site when Streelman made his British Open debut – and missed the cut.

“I love it, but now I’m a more developed golfer than I was then,’’ said Streelman.  “It’s very weather-dependent, and you know what it will throw at us.’’

Like the JDC, the British Open wasn’t played in 2020 because of pandemic concerns. There’ll be still be restrictions in place there this week  and that’s bothering some of the players — but not Streelman.

“It is what it is,’’ he said. “We’re all in the same boat but. Heck, it’s a lot better than not having a championship. We’ll eat at the golf course. We’ll get through it, and someone will go home with the Claret Jug and be real happy.’’

Streelman’s berth in the field was announced on June 27, thanks to his No. 52 standing in the Official World Golf Rankings at that time. In addition to his first appearance 10 years ago Streelman tied for 79th in 2013, tied for 54th in 2014,, missed the cut in 2018 and tied for 57th in 2019.

He doesn’t appear to be going into his sixth appearance with his game in good place. After five solid performances – including an eighth-place finish in the PGA Championship – Streelman missed cuts in his last two starts. The first was at Hartford, a tournament in which he was a past champion, and the second was at the John Deere Classic, the only annual PGA Tour stop in his home state where he had three top-10s in nine appearances.

“I was pretty tired,’’ he said.  “I’d played in nine of the previous 11 weeks and been home only four nights in nine weeks,’’ he said.  “We spent a few days at Cape Cod (Massachusetts) and a few days in Lake Geneva and planned to get it going (in the JDC) but I didn’t play as well as I wanted. Still, it was a nice week with the family,  nice to eat Whitey’s Ice Cream (a tournament tradition) and get to see some friends from Chicago.’’

Instead of competing at TPC Deere Run he worked on his game at Black Sheep, in Sugar Grove, before catching the flight from the Quad Cities airport to England.

“We’ll figure it out.  We’re not far off.  I’m sure about that,’’ said Streelman.

Despite his recent struggles, Streelman has had a good year and still holds out hope of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the upcoming matches at Whistling Straits, in Wisconsin.

“With a monster British Open and a good  FedEx Cup Playoff run I can still get there,’’ said Streelman.  “I’ll take two weeks off after the British.  That’ll be key for me because I’ve played a ton the last few months.  That was a good problem because it got me into more tournaments than I would have done.  I got into the PGA and the U.S. Open, but now I need to get a recharge.’’

Streelman, 42, lives in Phoenix and spent the early stages of the pandemic shutdown getting in good family time that included some golf with son Rhett, who is just starting to play the game. He was ready to go when the PGA Tour resumed its tournament schedule on June 11

For the 2020-21 season he has made 17 of 26 cuts, accumulated three top-10 finishes, earned over $1.8 million and got his FedEx Cup ranking up to No. 57.

HERE AND THERE:  The Women’s Western Amateur, a tournament held without interruption since 1901,  begins a six-day run at Park Ridge Country Club on Monday (JULY 19) and the 90th Illinois State Amateur tees off the following day at Mistwood, in Romeoville….Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, Chicago’s only LPGA Tour player, tied for second in the Marathon Classic, in Ohio, on Sunday and earned her biggest check — $157,123….Vince India, Deerfield’s former Illinois Open champion, finished a strong sixth in the Korn Ferry Tour’s TPC Colorado Championship on Sunday…..A notable miss from last week’s Illinois Women’s Open:  Elyssa Abdullah, 14, of Hinsdale, finished in a tie for eighth place at Mistwood.  Her parents are Medinah members and her coach is Ian Grant at Oak Brook Golf Club…..Former University of Illinois stars Thomas Detry and Thomas Pieters will represent Belgium in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.

 

 

Glover ends a trend in winning the 50th John Deere Classic

SILVIS, IL. – Lucas Glover isn’t supposed to be the type of guy who wins the John Deere Classic. That event has been one for young players – like Payne Stewart, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau — to kick-start their careers.  They were among the 23 first-time PGA Tour winners among the JDC’s 50 champions.

Glover certainly doesn’t fit that mold. Usually players win the JDC first, then might go on to bigger things.  For Glover it was just the opposite. He won the JDC 12 years after he won the U.S. Open.

Even before he was a PGA Tour member Glover had played in the JDC.  He made his tournament debut here in 2002.

“I loved it,’’ said Glover.  “Virtually everywhere else we go there’s always something else going on at the same time, whether it be another sport or a concert or something.  In this area it’s the Classic, and you’re going.  It was rotten (weather) today and we still had people crawling all over the place supporting us.  It was great.’’

Glover, 41, has been on the PGA Tour since 2004. He won the 2009 U.S. Open at New York’s Bethpage Black on a day similar to Sunday at TPC Deere Run – a day-long drizzle on the heels of heavy overnight rain. Despite that U.S. Open accomplishment Glover hadn’t won on the PGA Tour in 10 years, his last victory coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011.

“It turned into a long week with the weather, but I seem to do all right in the mud,’’ said Glover. “I always thought I could do this again.  I just needed to figure out the best way to go about it.’’

Before Glover the JDC had three champions in a row – Bryson DeChambeau, Michael Kim and Dylan Frittelli – who won their first PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run. Glover’s playing partner in the final round was Adam Schenk, and he best  represented this year’s “first-time’’ candidates.

In his three previous seasons on the PGA Tour Schenk had failed to finish in the top three at any tournament. The former Purdue golfer was tied for second, but three strokes behind Glover, when they finished their round but he wound up in a tie for fourth.  Kevin Na and Ryan Moore shared runner-up honors, two strokes behind Glover’s winning 19-under-par 265.

Glover, who shot 64 in the final round, and Schenk started six groups in front of the last twosome of third-round leader Sebastian Munoz and Brandon Hagy, who was also a potential first-time winner but wound up tied for 18th.

Munoz was out of it early, with two bogeys in the first three holes, but he rallied to finish a tie for fourth with Schenk, Luke List, Scott Brown.

Glover had his own game plan.

“The focus starting out was aggressive, make as many birdies as possible then see where we are coming to the middle of the back nine if it’s going well,’’ said Glover.

It wasn’t going well – Glover was just 2-under-par for the day after making a bogey at No. 11 – but then everything got better in a hurry.  He strung four straight birdies and had five birds in his last seven holes. That put him in control the rest of the way and sent him off Sunday’s flight to the British a good mood.

Glover has been to the British 10 times and missed the cut in five of those.  His best finish was a tie for 12th in 2011. The John Deere Classic had four other champions in its 50-year history who also won the U.S. Open — DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Steve Jones and Payne Stewart.  Four of its other winners won major championships –  Johnson, Vijay Singh, David Toms and Dave Stockton.

Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, finished the tournament strong, shooting a 68 that landed him in a tie for 18th place. Steve Stricker who, at age 54, had hoped to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event, finished in a tie for 41st place.

 

 

 

Munoz makes another big splash in regaining John Deere Classic lead

Sebastian Munoz (left) was a happy camper leaving TPC Deere Run after regaining the tournament lead.

SILVIS, IL. — The John Deere Classic, which concludes its 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday,  is known for its long history of first-time winners on the PGA Tour.  The tourney has had 23 of them in its first 49 years and is on a streak of three straight champions who cracked the win list for the first time here.

That streak could reach four on Sunday, but the odds are against it.  Only three players in the top 11 after 54 holes are without a PGA Tour win – Brandon Hagy, Maverick McNealy and Luke List.

Sebastian Munoz, who takes a one-stroke lead into the final round, had his only PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2020 when he beat Sungjae Im in a playoff.  Munoz, who played collegiately at North Texas State, has also tasted victory in his native Colombia three times, once in a Korn Ferry Tour event and twice in domestic competitions.

Munoz shot 63 to take the first-round lead here.  List shot 8-under-par 63 in the second round to take the lead away from him, and Scott Brown shot 63 on Saturday to climb to the top of the leaderboard but he couldn’t stay there. Munoz, who has been brilliant on the back nine at TPC Deere  Run the first three days, rallied for a 67 and stands at 197 for the three rounds.

Round 3 was played in a steady drizzle, and more rain is in the forecast for Sunday.  That didn’t hamper the usual low scoring – another JDC tradition.

“It was tough on the front nine, scrambling with the umbrella, the towel and trying to keep the clubface dry,’’ said Munoz.  “It was just take your time, do the best you an and hope for the best.’’

His best came on the back side, where Munoz is 13-under-par for the tournament as compared to only three-under on the front. He played in the last threesome on Saturday, paired with List and Adam Schenk. List (71) and Schenk (70) had trouble keeping up with the other contenders.

“We could see on the leaderboard that people were going low, so it was really important to birdie 11, 13 and 16 coming in,’’ said Munoz.  “It’s nice to be in the position I am right now.’’

Hagy is one stroke back in second place with Brown, Adam Long, Cameron Champ, Kevin Na and Ryan Moore all two back and McNealy, Jhonattan  Vegas, Chez Reavie and List three behind.

The 10 players trailing Munoz have won a combined 20 times, so – for at least this anniversary year – one of the JDC’s most notable traditions may have to be put on hold.  Only one of the top 11 on the leaderboard, Moore, has won the JDC.  He did it in 2016, the last of his five PGA Tour victories. This year he’s without a top-10 finish after piling up 69 of them in his PGA Tour career.  Na has also won five times.

 

Brown had the best round Saturday, and it came on top of a hot Sunday round – a 66 – last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. The strong finish in Detroit, however, only got him a tie for 52nd place.  Standing at No. 180, he’s far down the FedEx Cup standings and is on the brink of missing the lucrative postseason series.

“Last Sunday I started to see some putts go in, and it carried over to this week,’’ said Brown.  “With my FedEx position, I need to win.  I have one goal – to come in here and win.’’

Hagy, Munoz’ closest pursuer, has his eyes on the top prize, too. The winner gets $1.116 million from a $6.2 million purse.

“It’s definitely within my grasp,’’ said Hagy.  “I can hit all the shots that are necessary to get me to the top, but the key is all these guys can hit those shots.’’

A couple noteworthy ones had trouble doing that Saturday, however.  Three-time champion Steve Stricker, trying – at 54 — to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, managed a 68 but is tied for 29th. Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights who started with two strong rounds, settled for a 70 and dropped 10 spots in the standings to a tie for 22nd.

Canadian David Hearn made a hole-in-one at No. 3.  It was the second ace of the tournament.  McNealy made one at No. 16 on Friday.  Those were the first holes-in-one in the tournament since 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recharged List passes Munoz for lead at midway point in John Deere Classic

Luke List has been off the PGA Tour for a few weeks, but he was ready to play at the JDC.

SILVIS, IL. – Sebastian Munoz knew that shooting a 63 in Thursday’s first round of the John Deere Classic – with birdies on the last five holes to boot — wasn’t all good.

“It’s never easy showing up the day after you shoot 8-under,’’ he said.  And it wasn’t easy for him on the first nine of Friday’s Round 2.  Munoz was only even par – not a good score at TPC Deere Run whenever the PGA Tour stars gather there.  The Colombian-born Munoz rallied on the back nine for 67, however, and his 12-under-par 130 was good enough to keep him in the lead midway for most of the day in the $6.2 million championship.

Unfortunately for Munoz, it wasn’t quite good enough to keep him there  Luke List got hot late in the day. He matched the bogey-free 63 that Munoz shot in Round 1, and he emerged the 36-hole leader at 13-uinder 129.

List needs good finishes in the next few weeks to get into the lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs. He’s only No. 117 in the playoff standings now in large part because he missed two weeks while his son Harrison, born on June 5, was hospitalized with a respiratory virus.

“That’s a dangerous thing for a premature.  He was born a month early,’’ said List.  “He fought hard.  He was incubated for a couple days and in the ICU for 14 days. Everything’s great now.  He’s home and eating like a champ.’’

“A champ’’ is what List would like to be on Sunday.  Winning would take care of his worries about not making the FedEx Playoffs.

“I’m not trying to think about that,’’ said List. “I’ve got enough on my plate with the next two days and, as long as I stay in my own head space, all that stuff will take care of itself.’’

Munoz had no complaints about losing the lead.

“I would like to be more in the lead,’’ he said, “but I’m in a good position.  You learn, you stay in the moment, don’t get ahead of yourself and just keep going on.’’

That’s all any player still alive in the tournament can do at this point.  Saturday is “Moving Day,’’ and that’s when lots of players will gun for List and Munoz in hopes of getting in position for a run at the title in Sunday’s final round.

Among those poised to make such a move is Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights.  He followed a first round 66 with a 67 on Friday and enters the final round in a .tie for 12th place, four shots behind List.

“I didn’t get off to the best of starts,’’ Ghim said of his Friday play.  “There’s some scorable holes to begin the front nine, and one-over through three isn’t really what you’re looking for.  I lipped out twice in the first three holes. Hopefully I’ll make a couple more putts tomorrow but – given the fact I didn’t putt my best – I’m still here.’’

So is three-time champion Steve Stricker, who made the tough decision to help the JDC celebrate its 50th anniversary rather than defend his title in the U.S. Senior Open. The U.S. Ryder Cup captain had a shaky first round, a 1-over-par 70, but improved to a 66 Friday.

That was good enough to survive the 36-hole cut, but more spectacular scoring will be needed on the weekend if the 54-year Stricker is to fulfil a dream of becoming the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event.  Sam Snead was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open three years before Stricker was born.

“I’ve got to go out there and try to make birdies,’’ said Stricker.  “I’m a long ways from the lead – seven back – so I’ve got to go out and make something happen.  I’ve got to shoot a real low one tomorrow or Sunday – or both.’’

Defending champion Dylan Frittelli missed the cut, a fate that did in the last five JDC champions as well as Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman. He’ll still be on the flight to next week’s British Open when it departs the Quad Cities on Sunday night.

 

 

 

Fast start at John Deere Classic shows how much progress Ghim is making

 

SILVIS, IL. – Being a rookie on the PGA Tour isn’t easy.  Doug Ghim, who got to golf’s premier circuit after growing up in Arlington Heights, is making headway and Thursday’s first round of the John  Deere Classic provided proof of that.

Ghim came into the JDC with $1,152,732 in season winnings and had made 16 cuts in 23 starts.  While his standing in the Official World Golf Rankings was only No. 217, he is No. 81 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup race.  That pretty much assures he’ll be in the lucrative postseason playoffs.

A 5-under-par bogey-free 66 certainly didn’t hurt Ghim’s cause on Thursday. He enters today’s second round three shots behind co-leaders Sebastian Munoz, from Colombia, and Chesson Hadley.

Ghim is in a five-way tie for seventh place.  Chez Reavie, Camilo Villegas are one stroke behind the leaders and Ryan Moore, the tourney’s 2016 champion, is another stroke back. Joining Ghim at 5-under are Luke List, Kevin Tway, Cameron Champ and Michael Gellerman.

While he attended Buffalo Grove High School, Ghim didn’t play much golf in Illinois his his amateur days. He preferred to play a nationwide schedule of American Junior Golf Assn. events instead and it paid off when he starred at the University of Texas, finished as runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Amateur and was low amateur at the 2018 Masters.

In fact, Ghim played in the John Deere Classic only once, and that wasn’t a happy experience. He got into the 2018 JDC on sponsor’s invitation and, after shooting a first-round 73, he withdrew with a case of food poisoning. That made this tournament more special.

“We don’t have many chances to play in my home state, so I always relish the opportunity to be here,’’ said Ghim.  “I’ve been circling this one on the calendar for awhile.’’

The good start was encouraging, but Ghim was hardly giddy about it.

“It’s a little too early to be talking about the lead, or anything like that,’’ he said.  “Scores are always low here, and I’ll have to keep the pedal down.’’

He’s contended several times, most notably in The Players Championship when he was paired with eventual champion Justin Thomas in the final pairing on Sunday.  Ghim struggled to a 78 and finished tied for 29th.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to make it a real good year,’’ he said.  “I’ve had a lot of growing pains, but considering where I started from last year, it’s a huge improvement.  I’ve learned a lot.’’

One of the tournament’s most popular players, Steve Stricker, is in danger of missing today’s 36-hole cut. He opened with a 1-under 70.

Stricker is a legend in this PGA Tour stop, which is three hours from his Wisconsin home.  He won the JDC three straight times, from 2009 to 2011. He’s won more money in the tournament than anyone else, and he was 186 strokes under par in his first 17 appearances in the tournament.

In this his 18th visit, though, he is 54 years old. Nobody else in the field has reached his 50th birthday. The oldest previous winner on the PGA Tour was Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open, and that was three years before Stricker was born.  Stricker wants to beat Snead’s record, and the bad first round won’t help.

“It was an early wakeup call,’’ said Stricker.  “I’m not used to getting up at 5 in the morning anymore to play.  I played like I was still asleep for awhile. Hopefully I can come back tomorrow and put up a good number.’’

In addition to being the U.S. Ryder Cup captain Stricker is a PGA Champions Tour mainstay now – and he’s been a good one.

Last year he won the U.S. Senior Open, and he won another Champions’ major in his last start, taking the Bridgestone Senior Players at rugged Firestone two weeks ago by a whopping six strokes. After that he opted for a return to the JDC even though it conflicted with what would have been his title defense in the U.S. Senior Open.

“I wish they weren’t the exact same week, but I’m glad I’m here,’’ said Stricker. “It’s a special place for me and my family.’’

 

 

 

Stricker could be the big story again at the John Deere Classic

 

The John Deere Classic isn’t the biggest event on the PGA Tour, but it’s the circuit’s only annual Illinois stop and this week’s staging is – by far – the biggest golf event in the state in 2021.

TPC Deere Run, on the outskirts of Moline, again hosts the $6.2 million championship that begins its four-day, 72-hole run on Thursday. It’ll be the tourney’s 50th anniversary celebrated a year late.  The tournament was canceled in 2020 due to pandemic concerns.

A tourney trademark has been its abundance of first-time winners on the PGA Tour.  There have been 23 of them in

tourney’s first 49 years, and that list includes eventual top stars Payne Stewart, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau.

It also includes Dylan Frittelli, this week’s defending champion. None of the first-time winners could defend their title.  In fact, the only players to win back-to-back were the tourney’s first champion, Deane Beman (1971-72) and Steve Stricker, who pulled off a three-peat from 2009-11.

Stricker, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, could be a factor again this week even though he’s now playing with the 50-and-over circuit.  He won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship by a whopping six-stroke margin last week at Ohio’s venerable Firestone course and is skipping the next major on PGA Tour Champions, the U.S. Senior Open, to return to the JDC instead.

Frittelli’s chances this week don’t appear nearly as good as Stricker’s. Frittelli had two top-10 finishes in big events after his win in the JDC — a tie for fifth in the 2020 Masters and ninth-place showing the the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March.

He’s missed the cut in six of his last seven starts, though.  There was a brief return to form when Frittelli shot a 65 in U.S. Open qualifying and tied for 46th in the main event, but he missed cuts the last two weeks leading into his title defense.

“Not to sound too cliché, but (winning the JDC) gave me a sense of belonging.  That solidifies the fact that I’m on the PGA Tour and can be here long term,’’ said Frittelli. Looking back on his win two years ago.  “I don’t know how many winners there have been – probably a thousand that have done that.  As you get more wins, more stature, you realize that was basically the thing that started the domino effect.  You’ve obviously got to get over that hill before you can win two or three times.  I’m proud to have made that step at the John Deere Classic.’’

Winning the JDC doesn’t mean immediate success.  Michael Kim was the winner in 2018, a year before Frittelli.  Kim set the JDC scoring record at 27-under-par 257 for the 72 holes and won by eight shots. Then his game went sour.  Kim showed up for his title defense with a string of 27 missed cuts in a row and made it 28 in the year that Frittelli had his breakthrough.

The South African-born Frittelli, 31, had a great amateur career, winning the World Junior in 2007 and holing the winning putt for the University of Texas to give the Longhorns the 2012 NCAA team title.

In addition to Stricker, Frittelli and Kim, the past champions in the JDC’s 156 starters this week include  Ryan Moore (2016), Brian Harman (2014),  Zach Johnson (2012), Jonathan Byrd (2007), John Senden (2006) and Sean O’Hair (2005).  The field also features Chicago-based PGA Tour members Kevin Streelman and Doug Ghim and some formidable late entries includes Brandt Snedeker and Daniel Berger.

Tournament director Clair Peterson also awarded sponsor exemptions to six college stars, and at least two of them – Illinois’ Michael Feagles and Illinois State’s David Perkins – will make their professional debuts this week.

 

 

Illinois Women’s Open returns minus Western Junior champ

This year’s golf calendar isn’t as loaded with big events as it normally is.  That’s why next week figures to be the biggest of the local season.  It features the biggest annual women’s event of the year followed immediately by Illinois’ only PGA Tour stop of 2021.

The 26th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open leads things off at Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville. It tees off on Tuesday (JULY 6) with a 36-hole session to determine the qualifiers for the final 18 the following day.  As soon as the IWO wraps up the spotlight shifts to downstate Silvis for the 50th playing of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Neither event was played in 2020 because of pandemic concerns.

Mistwood is beginning an extraordinary stretch as a tournament site, with the Illinois State Amateur coming up just two weeks after the IWO, and the women’s event is special this year given the recent selection of its late founder Phil Kosin into the next induction class into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies will be on Oct. 1 at The Glen Club, in Glenview.

Kosin, who succumbed to cancer in 2009, started the event at Odyssey, in Tinley Park.  After four stagings there – and with strong support from then Mistwood owner Jim McWethy – Kosin moved the event to Romeoville, its home ever since.  McWethy passed away last June after battling lung problems.

Two-time champion Nicole Jeray, now on the Mistwood teaching staff, and recently-crowned Illinois Women’s State Amateur champion Grace Curran head the field.

“Having not held the tournament last year, our entry numbers are a little down,’’ said Andy Mickelson, Mistwood’s director of golf. “We probably have a stronger amateur field than professionals.’’

Mickelson said the purse and champion’s payout will be about the same as recent years – a $20,000 prize fund with $5,000 for the champion, assuming she’s a professional.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Rarely have Chicago players won the prestigious Women’s Western Junior title, but Barrington’s Mara Janess pulled off that feat last week at Aurora Country Club.  Soon to enter her senior year at Barrington High School, Janess has already committed to play golf at the University of Michigan.

Before she goes collegiate, however, Janess will take on adults in the Women’s Western Amateur, which begins July 19 at Park Ridge Country Club.

“I played in the Women’s Western Amateur last year, and can’t wait for this year,’’ said Janess, who was the Illinois Class 2A high school champion in 2019.  “It’s such a great field every year, and it’s one of my favorite events.’’

Janess won’t play in the Illinois Women’s Open because it conflicts with her qualifying round for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

The Women’s Western Junior has been played for 94 years and rarely has a local player won.  Before Janess the last to do it was Kate Lillie, of St. Charles, in 2016.  Most notable local winner of the title was legendary Carol Mann, an Olympia Fields golfer who went on to a Hall of Fame career after being crowned the Western Junior champion at Inverness in 1958.

Between Mann and Janess there were only three Chicago area winners of the coveted title – Mari McDougall of Midlothian in 1977, Ashley Armstrong of Flossmoor in 2011 and Lillie.

HERE AND THERE:  Michael Feagles, a fifth-year senior at Illinois, has joined Illinois State’s David Perkins in deciding to begin his professional career at the July 8-11 John Deere Classic.  Feagles and Perkins were among six college stars offered exemptions into the tourney.…Nick Tenuta, a senior-to-be at Louisville playing out of Mount Prospect Golf Club, won the 101st Chicago District Amateur title with a 5 and 4 win over Butterfield member Brett Tomfohrde, of Chicago, in their 36-hole title match at Bull Valley, in Woodstock….Caleb Surrat, of Matthews, N.C., was the only player under par for 72 holes in the 103rd boys’ Western Junior tourney at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.  Finishing 65-67 in a 36-hole final day, Surrat was at 3-under 277 in capturing the oldest tourney in junior golf. He’ll play collegiately at Tennessee.

 

 

There’ll be no Less-Perkins rematch in CDGA Am; both are ready to turn pro

While the 121st U.S. Open is history, there’ll be plenty of  tradition in evidence this week in the Chicago amateur ranks. Heading the busy schedule is the Chicago District Amateur, at Bull Valley in Woodstock. It’s being played for the 101st time.

The Western Golf Association is also contesting its two junior championships this week, and they are rich in history as well.  The Western Junior, first played in 1914, is the oldest national junior championship in golf.  The Women’s Western Junior Championship was first played in 1920.

None of the three were played in 2020 because of pandemic concerns.

While the CDGA Amateur is a prestigious event, it’ll be without two of Illinois’ best amateurs who were the stars of the show the last time the tournament was held. Jordan Less and David Perkins shared the last CDGA Player-of-the-Year award, issued in 2019. They also were finalists in the an epic final in the last playing of the CDGA Am, Less winning in 37 holes.

Now, however, Less, of Elmhurst, and Perkins, of East Peoria, are ready to turn pro. Both completed their college careers, Less at Northern Illinois and Perkins at Illinois State. Perkins plans to turn pro at next month’s John Deere Classic.  He’s in the field for that PGA Tour stop on a sponsor’s exemption.

Less will play in the Illinois State Amateur next month, then turn pro at the Illinois Open in August. Less was low amateur in the last two Illinois Opens and a stalwart for the CDGA amateur team in last week’s Radix Cup matches.

While Less is ready to make a big jump career-wise, one thing won’t change.  He’ll still be doing most of his practicing at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.  Rich Harvest is the home course for Northern Illinois’ teams, and owner Jerry Rich is allowing Less to continue to use the private club’s facilities though his collegiate eligibility is over.

“I’m excited for Jordan’s future, both in golf and in life,’’ said Rich.  “I expect to find him honing his skills at Rich Harvest Farms while mentoring Northern Illinois University players and earning his membership on a professional tour.’’

The CDGA Amateur drew over 300 entries and the field was whittled to 78 through exemptions and four qualifying tournaments.  The championship proper opened with a 36-hole qualifying session on Monday, and the low 16 and ties began the match play portion on Tuesday. Quarterfinal and semifinals matches will be played on Wednesday (TODAY) and the champion will be crowned in a 36-hole final on Thursday.

JUNIOR DOUBLEHEADER:  The Western Golf Association will conduct its junior championships concurrently, but on different courses.  Onwentsia, in Lake Forest, will host the boys and Aurora Country Club will be the girls venue.

Both tournaments started on Monday with the boys ending on Thursday and the girls on Friday. The girls championship, held in conjunction with the Women’s Western Golf Association, is being played in the Chicago area for the firt time since Knollwood, in Lake Forest, hosted in 2014.

Past winners of the boys tourney include Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk while the girls champions of the past include Christie Kerr and Nancy Lopez.  Lopez was a three-time winner from 1972-74.

 

HERE AND THERE:  Grace Curran, a University of Minnesota golfer from New Lenox, dominated the 88th Illinois Women’s State Amateur at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein.  She shot a 2-under-par 70 to lead the qualifying round, then won all five of her matches.  Megan Furtney, of St. Charles and Duke, was Curran’s 2 and 1 victim in the title match….Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman hovered among the top 10 at the U.S. Open until a 72-73 finish on the weekend dropped him into a tie for 15th.  Still, it was his second-best showing in eight appearances in the finals.  He tied for 13th in 2016…..Northbrook’s Nick Hardy opened 68-69 in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Wichita Open, then withdrew after developing a wrist injury. Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, who posted a 62 in the third round, wound up in a tie for 10th….The top players in the Illinois PGA defeated the CDGA’s top amateurs 11-7 last week at River Forest Country Club.  The IPGA has a 36-20-2 edge in the series.

 

Len Ziehm, a 2019 inductee into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, is part of the Golfers on Golf Radio 820 show, which is broadcast at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.  He is also co-host of the Ziehm & Spears Golf Podcast Series on social media outlets and his writings can be found at www.lenziehmongolf.com.