Pinns heads latest Illinois Golf Hall of Fame induction class

Gary Pinns is probably best known in Illinois golf circles for winning the Illinois Open five times.  No one else has done that.

Pinns has done much more than that, howeve3r. He gave the PGA Tour a four-year shot before making an instantly successful transition into teaching. He’s been doing that as director of instruction  at Oak Brook Golf Club for 31 years and has won numerous awards for his teaching prowess.

For those reasons he will be among six inductees into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame during ceremonies at The Glen Club, in Glenview, on Friday.

The Hall of Fame inducts new members every two years, and Pinns will   joined by one other teaching pro, Dr. Jim Suttie. Suttie’s pupils include PGA Tour players Paul Azinger, Chip Beck, Jeff Sluman, Kevin Streelman and Mark Wilson.

Other inductees, all deceased, include Phil Kosin, creator of Chicagoland Golf magazine and radio show as well as the Illinois Women’s Open; Bessie Anthony, the state’s first great women’s player in a career that was highlighted by a title in the 1903 U.S. Women’s Amateur; Mason Phelps, an Olympic champion and two-time Western Amateur winner more than a century ago; and Herbert James Tweedie, a pioneer architect who designed 21 Chicago area courses in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Pinns’ career is one that stretches through all phases of the sport. A Wheaton resident now, he won the Illinois high school title for Glenbard East in 1974, then was a two-year captain at Wake Forest on teams that featured eventual PGA Tour members Gary Hallberg, Scott Hoch and Robert Wrenn.

First of the Illinois Open wins came at age 19 in 1978 at Elgin Country Club.

“My last tee shot went right and hit a tree,’’ recalled Pinns.  “The ball came back in the fairway, and I won. Once you win one time you think you can win again.’’

He dd – again and again and again and again. Pinns  picked up three more titles in the 1980s and the final, most dramatic one on his long-time home course at Village Links of Glen Ellyn in 1990. That one led him to enter qualifying for the Ben Hogan Tour – one of the predecessors of what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. From the developmental tour Pinns went on to the PGA circuit.

“I probably played in 75 tour events and made the cut in 30 of them,’’ he said.  The highlight was his lone top-10 finish at the now defunct Greater Milwaukee Open. Eventually, at age 33, the realities of the real world set in. Married with two children by then, Pinns needed another means of support and teaching was it.  His brother Doug has long been a teaching pro at Village Links.

“I got busy right away in the first month  because my name was known,’’ said Pinns.  “I needed it to happen then, and it’s turned out that teaching has been a better life than tour life. It’s been very satisfying, and  I ‘ve been very fortunate.’’

He now has three adult children and has been working 60-hour weeks during this busy summer for recreational golfers. Tournaments are a thing of the past.

“I lost interest in competition because I couldn’t work at it,’’ said Pinns, who believes his record five Illinois Open titles will withstand the tests of time.  Mike Small the University of Illinois men’s coach, has won the Illinois PGA Championship 13 times and is Pinns’ only challenger since he stopped playing. Small won four Illinois Opens but is now playing mainly in the senior ranks.

“My record won’t be broken,’’ predicted Pinns.“It’s harder now because there’s a lot of good players. When I was working at it I had just a few good club pros to beat.’’

 

WWGA honors Fullmer

Sandra Fullmer, an Illinois Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 1997, will add the coveted Woman of Distinction Award from the Women’s Western Golf Association on Thursday at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe.

Fullmer had an outstanding playing career, winning four Mexican Amateur titles as well as the Spanish and German amateur crows in 1959 before moving to Chicago.  She kept winning here,  claiming four Chicago Women’s District titles, three Northern Illinois Women’s titles and five Illinois State Senior crowns as well as the National Club Championship for Women in 1991.

She’s also been a long-time WWGA board member and a past president of the organization that has been a leading organizer of women’s events since 1899.

 

HERE AND THERE: The Chicago District Golf Assn. championship season concludes on Thursday with the end of the four-day Amateur Senior Four-Ball at Ravinia Green in Riverwoods….The leading assistant professionals from Illinois and Wisconsin will collide in a four- ball match play competition  on Friday at Strawberry Creek, in Kenosha…..White Eagle Country Club, in Naperville,  has announced plans for  a $12.5 million upgrade of its facility.  The club, site of the Illinois Open in 2020, will be the site of the Mid-American Conference tournament next April.

 

U.S. dominates in this Ryder Cup

The U.S. enjoyed this Stanley Cup-style end to the 43rd Ryder Cup.

HAVEN, Wis.—The longstanding U.S. frustrations in the Ryder Cup are over.  After losing to Europe in four of the previous five meetings and seven of the last nine captain Steve Stricker found a combination of young  players who dominated the 43rd staging of golf’s premier team event at Whistling Straits.

In fact, this American team dominated like no other.  The 19-9 victory was underscored by the fact that the American side set the modern day point record. The winning 1981 U.S. team had 18 ½ in its victory at Walton Heath in England.

“It sure feels like this is the start of a new era,’’ said Stricker, who used a roster that included six first-time Ryder Cup players.  “The Ryder Cup means a lot to everybody, and this is the greatest team of all time.  These guys are unbelievable. They  came in with a lot of fire, had a mission and did it.’’

Stricker has been an emotional leader.  He has been a vice captain of the U.S. side since he stopped playing on the team and also captained the President’s Cup team. Winning the Ryder Cup, especially in his native Wisconsin,  was a well-deserved reward for one of America’s most popular golfers

“You’re trying to make me cry, aren’t you?’’ said Stricker, who played collegiately for the University of Illinois.  “This is very special.  I never won a major, but this is my major right here. ‘’

After building up an 11-5 lead in two days of foursome and four-ball matches the U.S. made quick work of reclaiming the Ryder Cup.  The clincher came when Ryder Cup rookie Collin Morikawa holed a four-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to assure the Americans had the necessary 14 1/2 points to win.

The U.S. side had a well-deserved celebration after years of waiting.

In a battle of the game’s brightest young stars Morikawa had a spirted duel with  Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the fifth of the 12 singles matches. Their match ended in a tie with seven matches left on the course but the tension remained with the point record on the line.

The U.S. team, had much more lofty goals than just winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2016.  Haunted by the Europeans’ domination of the event, U.S. players wanted a one-sided win. They needed. That was a possibility after Europe’s Rory McIlroy won the first match of the day.  At that point 11 matches were on the course and the U.S. led in nine.

In 1979 the Ryder Cup format switched to allow a team from all of Europe instead of just Great Britain and Ireland.  Two years later the U.S. team piled up 18 ½ points  at Walton Heath.   Such American successes were few and far between after that, the most painful defeat coming at Medinah in 2012 when they fizzled in singles after going in with a 10-6 lead.

This time singles success came in abundance.  Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were winners and Morikawa and Jordan Spieth tied in their matches to get the record point total.

The celebration is on, as the U.S. completes a record Ryder Cup win.

The Europeans took the loss hard.  McIlroy and Ian Poulter, for years the mainstays on the European team, were in tears even though both scored their only points of this year’s Ryder Cup on Sunday.

While the U.S. win was an obvious team effort, there were special performances.  Johnson, at 37 the oldest American player, won all five of his matches.  In 2019  Scheffler won the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour event held at The Glen Club in Glenview.  That helped him advance to the PGA Tour and on Sunday he was the man of the hour at the Ryder Cup, beating world No. 1 Jon Rahm.

“I got off to a nice start – five birdies in the first six holes –and kept the pressure on him the whole day.  I was super happy seeing a lot of red on the scoreboard,’’ said Scheffler.

Rahm took the loss in stride, but downplayed the magnitude of it.

“It not what any of us wanted,’’ said Rahm.  “We all tried our hardest and just got beat. You lose by a half-point or by 10, it doesn’t matter.’’

Cantllay, another of the U.S. rookies, won the FedEx Cup two weeks ago and kept the momentum going at Whistling Straits.  His win over Shane Lowry started Sunday’s 7-0-2 run in the singles matches.

“I wanted to send a message,’’ said Cantlay.  “We sent out four rookies in the first five matches.  That’s unheard of.  We’re young, but most of us have  played together since we were teen-agers.’’

Obviously the future of American golf is bright. They’re already looking ahead to the next Ryder Cup, in Italy in 2023.

Not all the spectators at the 43rd Ryder Cup were on the grounds at Whistling Straits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could this be the day the U.S. reclaims the Ryder Cup?

HAVEN, Wis. – If it wasn’t for a nightmarish day nine years ago the United States golfers and their supporters would already be in a celebratory mood at Whistling Straits. The U.S. went 3-1 in Saturday’s morning foursome matches for the third straight session to open a 9-3 lead.

The Europeans had their best session of the week in the afternoon four-ball, winning two of the matches, but the U.S. will have an 11-5 lead  going into Sunday’s concluding 12 singles matches

Europe will need to go 9-3 in singles to retain the Ryder Cup, which might seem insurmountable were it not for the haunting memory of the “Meltdown at Medinah’’ In 2012. The U.S. had a 10-6 lead after the two days of foursome and four-ball competition that year but fizzled in singles and left with a stunning defeat that’s hard to forget.

Michael Jordan, the basketball legend and golfing addict, showed up for his 12th Ryder Cup this week. and he hasn’t forgotten.  Jordan  hasn’t been as active with this Ryder Cup team, but he isn’t ready to celebrate just year.

“I m a little nervous,’’ he said. “I was there when it was 10-6 at Medinah and things changed in a moment.’’

They certainly did. The U.S. has lost four of the last five and seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, but none of the defeats was more painful than that one

On the brighter side this Ryder Cup might go down as the “Whipping at Whistling’’ based on the U.S. domination the last two days, but that’s not a done deal yet..

With six rookies on this American side captain Steve Stricker, a player on the losing side at Medinah, had a radically different roster than the teams that have been dominated by the Europeans in recent years. Despite the comfortable lead, Stricker is warning his players about relaxing too much.

“We want to just keep building on the lead,’’ he said. “We’ve got them down a little bit, and our goal is to continue that, and continue that momentum.’’

Immediately after Stricker’s warning the American players were openly celebrating.  Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger chugged beers and doubled as cheerleaders to the delight of the loud partisan gallery surrounding the first tee before the start of the final afternoon session of the competition.

“I don’t think any of us really expect anything,’’ said Thomas.  We just expect to go out and play well. We are all good friends and know each other’s games.’’

“Other than a couple of us we have known each other since high school, or even grade school,’’ said Jordan Spieth.  “We are having a blast off the course, and that’s feeding into the lightness in our rounds.’’

Stricker has his players in position for success on Sunday.  Only Dustin Johnson, at 37 the oldest player on the team, played in all four sessions of the foursome and four-ball matches and he won them all. The others had at least one session to rest.

The Europeans, in sharp contrast, are struggling and it showed in captain Padraig Harrington’s match pairings.  He sat Ian Poulter, the ringleader in Europe’s comeback at Medinah, for two consecutive sessions and his partner, Rory McIlroy, didn’t play on Saturday morning. They figured to be mainstays on the European team but neither score a point.

Only the Jon Rahm-Sergio Garcia pairing was a problem for the U.S. team. They won twice on Saturday, and that had historical significance for Garcia.  He notched his 24th and 25th victories in Ryder Cup play. Garcia started the day tied for the most wins with Nick Faldo at 23 apiece. Rahm is the only European player to compete in every session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At least there’s hope for the U.S. after great start in Ryder Cup

There couldn’t have been a more perfect day to open the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

HAVEN, Wis. – Beautiful weather greeted the 40,000 spectators when the 43rd Ryder Cup teed off Fridays. So did massive traffic jams on the rural roads that surround Whistling Straits. At the end of the day, though, there was at least hope for the American side that has been dominated by the Europe  in  in the  recent years of this biennial competition.

The U.S. ended day one of the three-day event with a 6-2 lead, the country’s biggest first-day lead in 46 years, but there’s a long way to go.  There’ll be another day on Saturday like Day 1 – four foursome matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon.  Then all 12 players on each team will decide the outcome in singles play on Sunday.

Friday was an extraordinary one on a day in which late afternoon winds topped 30 miles per  hour.  In the last Ryder Cup three years ago in Paris the U.S. took a 3-1 lead after the first morning session but the Europeans swept the afternoon matches and went on to a one-sided victory.  This year’s Day 1 was much different.

The high profile Spanish pairing of Jon Rahm. the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Sergio Garcia, the highest point-scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup, opened the day with a 3 and 1 win over Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

Europe had won four of the last five Ryder Cups and seven of the last nine , and that start didn’t bode well for the Americans. After that, though, it was a banner day for Team USA.  The U.S. won the last three foursome matches of the morning session and went 2-0-2 in the afternoon four-ball play.

What was particularly notable was the drubbing the U.S. administered to the fearsome Ian Poulter and his partner, Rory McElroy. England’s Poulter became a Ryder Cup legend after his showing at Medinah in 2012.  That year he won all four of his matches in dramatic fashion.

Poulter, with McIlroy as his partner,  birdied the last five holes of a critical four-ball match and then won in singles on the final day when the Europeans pulled off “the Miracle at Medinah’’ or – as the American fans call it — “The Meltdown at Medinah.’’  Europe came from 10-6 down after the two days of team play to pull off the victory with a Poulter-inspired run in singles.“

Despite his 14-6-2 career record in Ryder Cup play and his 5-0-1 mark in singles, the U.S. had no trouble with Poulter on Friday. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, both playing in their first Ryder Cup matches, won the first five holes – four of them with birdies – and took a 5 and 3 win over Poulter and McIlroy.  Euro captain Padraig Harrington sat Poulter in the afternoon four-ball matches.

“It was a shame, because we actually played quite well,’’ said Poulter.  “It’s not nice to get off to a 5-down start after five.  It’s not easy to come back from that, and they finished the match off.’’

McIlroy was called on to play again in the afternoon and he (along with partner Shane Lowry) were hammered again, this time 4 and 3 by Ryder Cup rookies Tony Finau and Harris English.  Finau and English weren’t part of the morning matches.

A couple oddities:  American Cantlay and Norway’s Viktor Hovland of Europe played most of the day without caps. It could be both feared the wind would blow off their caps in a crucial situation.  Also, for the first time in Ryder Cup history, no pairings from the morning session were brought back intact for the afternoon.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker and Harrington both used their entire roster on Day 1.

 

 

Stricker in the spotlight at Ryder Cup Opening Ceremonies

HAVEN, Wis. – Thursday’s Opening Ceremonies for the 43rd Ryder Cup was not without the unexpected.  U.S. captain Steve Stricker provided it.

First Stricker broke into tears while introducing his wife and daughters to a standing room only crowd who ignored a late afternoon rain to gather at the Dye Pavilion at Whistling Straits.

“I had a couple beers to help me get through that,’’ said Stricker, “but I just couldn’t do it.’’

Then Stricker told a gathering of mostly Green Bay Packers’ fans that he preferred the Bears.  He got some jeers for that one, causing Stricker to plead “Don’t turn on us now. I cheer for the Packers except when they play the Bears.’’

Stricker, one of the most popular American players, grew up in Wisconsin but played college golf for the University of Illinois. And he was not done with surprises when it came time to naming the eight players who would kick off the competition in Friday’s morning best ball matches.  Bryson DeChambeau, one of the U.S. teams strongest players and No. 7 in the world rankings, will sit out while Europe will lead off with its strongest pair – the Spanish team of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.

Rahm is the first No. 1-ranked player in the world to play for Europe since Rory McIlroy did it in 2014. Garcia has long been a stalwart for the Euros in the biennial matches.

“Being from Spain, you learn about the Ryder Cup early,’’ said Rahm, the latest in the line of Ryder stars from the country that previously contributed the late Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.  “It’s a lot to live up to.’’

Rahm and Garcia will take on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. While DeChambeau sits out, Brooks Koepka will go out in Match 3 with Ryder Cup rookie Daniel Berger. They’ll square off with 48-year old Lee Westwood, Europe’s veteran player, and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Koepka dismissed the silly feud he’s been having all season with DeChambeau in a morning interview but he wasn’t surprised about Stricker’s show of emotion.

“He’s so passionate.  He’s a softie, he cares so much,’’ Koepka said of his captain.“It’d be nice to see him cry on Sunday.’’

That might happen if the U.S. team wins. While the American side is rated the favorite in some betting organizations, Team Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups.

Match 2 will have the oldest U.S. player, 37-year old Dustin Johnson, and rookie Collin Morikawa taking on Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, the first Norwegian golfer to play in the Ryder Cup. The morning session will wrap up with the powerful European duo of McIlroy and Ian Poulter facing Patrick Cantlay, winner of the FedEx Cup Playoffs two weeks ago, and Xander Schauffele.

There’ll be four more best ball matches in the afternoon, and Stricker and European captain Padraig Harrington will announce their participants after the first four matches are completed. In addition to DeChambeau, the rested players available to Stricker include Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler – all on the Ryder Cup team for the first time.

The four Europeans sitting out Friday’s morning matches are Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger – the first golfer from Austria to make a Ryder Cup squad..

Euros made a good move in donning Packers’ gear at Ryder Cup

HAVEN, Wis. – The fun is over – well almost – and things are getting serious at the 43rd Ryder Cup.

Clearly the European team, which has won four of the last five Ryder Cups, is well prepared.  Captain Padraig Harrington, in a clear move to soften the passions of the partisan  American crowd, had his players walk out to practice on Wednesday wearing the colors of the Green Bay Packers. Not only that, but the players sported  Cheeseheads gear instead of golf caps and then – once the stunt was warmly received – tossed their Cheeseheads into the crowd.

“It was respectful of the Green Bay Packers, and they were very much on board with it,’’ said Harrington. “We got a nice reception with it.  Obviously business starts on Friday but, at the moment, the players are enjoying it.’’

“Business’’ really starts on Thursday. Friday’s pairings and matchups for the morning rounds will be announced on Thursday afternoon prior to the Opening Ceremonies at Whistling Straits.

With a roster filled with veteran players who have enjoyed great success in recent Ryder Cups, Harrington isn’t expected to do anything extraordinary.  U.S. captain Steve Stricker could, however.

One possibility is a pairing, at some point in the three-day competition, of Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.  They’ve been feuding for months, which presents an unnecessary diversion for the U.S.

This week, though, they met on the practice range and talked briefly.  When their chat ended the gallery cheered, clearly suggesting that they wanted peace between the two – at least for this week.

Koepka wasn’t available for comment, but DeChambeau was.

“A lot of this social media stuff has definitely been driven by external factors, not necessarily between us two,’’ he said.  “We had some great conversations Tour Championship Week when we had dinner, and then this week as well.  I had dinner with him last night, and it was fine.’’

Then DeChambeau suggested what was once unthinkable a few weeks ago.

“There might be something up here moving forward, but I won’t speak too much more on that,’’ said DeChambeau, leading some to suggest they might compete as a team this week.

Stricker called the DeChambeau-Koepka feud “a non-issue.’’

“As for them playing together, probably not,’’ said Stricker.  “But that could change.’’

This American side needs a spark with two of its most popular stars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, not competing.  Had the matches gone on as scheduled in 2020 both might well of have been on the U.S. team but things changed a lot since then.  Woods, has been sidelined since a Feb. 27 auto accident and Mickelson is here only as one of Stricker’s vice captains.

Woods has no official role on the team, but there’s some speculation he could be called in for emergency help. He could make a surprise visit to give the team a pep talk, but Stricker is being coy about that.

“Having him come here is probably not going to happen,’’ said Stricker.  “He’s been in my ear a lot, and he’s part of what we do.  It’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation.  His focus is on getting back to play, and we don’t want to get in the way of that.’

The reigning PGA champion, Mickelson’s mediocre play in the fall prevented Stricker from choosing him as a player even though Mickelson holds two American records for Ryder longevity.

No American has played in more Ryder Cups than Mickelson, who has been in 12,  and none have played in more matches. MIckelson has been in 47 but, despite all those opportunities, his 18-22-7 record leaves him down the list as far as points and wins are concerned.

That leaves Stricker with only four players over 30 years old, Dustin Johnson being the oldest at 38.  Being his team’s senior citizen doesn’t bother Johnson, but the recent Ryder Cup results do.

“They’ve played better than us,’’ said Johnson.  “It isn’t rocket science. Definitely our team is a little different.  We’re young, but we still have a lot of experience. Teams of the past had tons of experience, and that didn’t work out so well.’’

 

 

 

 

Who’s the real team to beat in this Ryder Cup?

HAVEN, Wis. – Most of the world golf media is labelling the United States the favorite in the 43rd Ryder Cup matches, which tee off on Friday at Whistling Straits. I’m not part of that group. Frankly, it’d be shocking if this U.S. Ryder Cup team even made a game of it against the Europeans.

Here’s why:

The 12-man team that U.S. captain Steve Stricker is working with is much different than the U.S. teams of the past. Six of the 12 are Ryder Cup rookies.and three of the others have appeared in only one previous Ryder Cup.

Stricker’s choices for the six captain’s picks for the squad were questionable, too. He picked four Ryder Cup rookies among his six selections – Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler. (The other two rookies on the team are Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay, both of whom had great seasons and earned automatic spots on the team).

In going for Schauffele, English, Berger and Scheffler as his picks, Sticker bypassed Patrick Reed, who was such a stalwart on recent Ryder Cup teams that he earned the nickname of “Captain America.’’  Reed had health issues later in the season, and that impacted Stricker’s decision to exclude him.

Stricker also bypassed Webb Simpson, who owns titles in both the U.S. Open and Players Championship, and Kevin Kisner, a great match play competitor. He was runner-up in the World Match Play in 2018, won the event in 2019 and captured the Wyndham Championship – last event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season – in a playoff.  Match play success is critical in any Ryder Cup.

If Stricker’s team needs some seasoning Phil Mickelson, the reigning PGA champion, might have been a consideration.  Mickelson, whose game faded late in the season, was made Stricker’s fifth vice captain.

The U.S. team is young, with an average age of 29.  Europe’s, with an average agoe of 34.6, is filled with veterans who are proven Ryder Cup winners., The 12-man European squad has 38 players who played in previous Ryder Cups and 28 were on winning teams. The U.S. roster, by comparison, has a roster with a combined 12 Ryder Cup appearances and three were on winning teams.

Both captains addressed the experience factor during this week’s first on-site media season at Whistling Straits. Clearly it’s an issue that will be closely scrutinized this week.

“We’ve got some young guys, and they bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy and have no bad experiences (in the Ryder Cup),’’ said Stricker.  “We’re using that as a positive.’’

“We’re very comfortable that our team has that experience,’’ answered Europe captain Padraig Harrington. “We’re strongly relying on experience.’’

Stricker, who grew up in Wisconsin before playing collegiately at Illinois, believes Whistling Straits will provide a home course advantage. In a departure from previous Ryder Cups, Stricker brought his team together two weeks ago for two-day preparatory session. He hopes that will help, but Whistling Straits has hosted three major championships and U.S golfers didn’t win any of them.  The three PGA Championships held there went to Vijay Singh of Fuji in 2004, Martin Kaymer of Germany in 2010 and Jason Day of Australia in 2015.

Harrington knows the gallery will be against his team, but is playing down its importance.

“We want the noise, the excitement,’’ he said.  “It’s much better than no fans.’’

That would have been the case had the matches been played as scheduled last year.  They were canceled because of pandemic issues but that doesn’t detract form Europe’s success in the series.

The U.S. may hold a 26-14-2 edge in the Ryder Cup, but most of that success came when the opponent was Great Britain-Ireland.  Since the opponent was all of Europe the Europeans led 11-6-2. Europe has won seven of the last nine Ryders Cups, 12 of the last 17 and four of the last five.  The most disheartening loss came at Medinah in 2012, when Europe trailed 10-6 before Sunday’s singles matches and then mounted a rousing comeback to win the competition.

So,maybe it is good the U.S. has a “different’’ team in this Ryder Cup. Their immediate predecessors were hardly world-beaters. I don’t expect this U.S. team to be one either.

 

HERE AND THERE: The last big event on the Illinois tournament calendar immediately follows the Ryder Cup.  The top 35 on the Illinois PGA’s Bernard point standings will battle in 36-hole IPGA Players Championship at Knollwood, in Lake Forest, with Player-of-the-Year honors on the line….Northbrook’s Nick Hardy started his career as a PGA Tour member with a tie for 36th (along with veterans stars Mickelson and Matt Kuchar) in California’s Fortinet Championship in California, first event of the 2021-22 season…..Lincolnshire’s David Feder won the Illinois State Senior Amateur at the Preserve at Oak Meadows.

 

 

 

 

Tour Edge makes early introduction of its new golf clubs

Tour Edge is using PGA Tour Champions stars to promote its new clubs.

It’s obvious that the pandemic changed golf.  Play increased nation-wide last year because the sport was a safe outlet for people in need of exercise and this year, according to industry reports, play is up another 15 percent over that.

“There’s been a 40 percent bump in new golfers coming into the game or players taking it up again,’’ said Jon Claffey, vice president of marketing for Batavia-based club manufacturer Tour Edge.  “That’s bigger than any Tiger (Woods) effect we ever saw.’’

The changes within the golf industry have been broader than that, however, and Tour Edge – though not one of the bigger equipment companies – is in the forefront. On Tuesday the company kicked off Hot Launch 522. All the company’s new clubs were introduced nation-wide far earlier than previous years, and well ahead of most all Tour Edge competitors.

“It’s the biggest launch in our company’s history and we wanted to get it out in front of everyone else,’’ said Claffey.  “We’re putting the focus on game improvement, which no one else does in this industry. It’s all about making the easiest clubs you’ll ever hit. It’s all about playability.’’

Tour Edge is on a roll, thanks in large part to a decision made in 2018 to establish a strong relationship with players on PGA Tour Champions, the 50-and-over circuit. Six players – among them top stars Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Scott McCarron – joined the company’s staff. Their success boosted the Tour Edge brand with all  golfers.

At last week’s Ascension Charity Classic Tour Edge had 68 clubs in play, a company record.  Over the last four seasons the company has seen 2,027 of its clubs put in play by 129 professionals on three PGA Tours. Players using those clubs have had 13 wins, 76 top-5 finishes and 152 top-10s.

More recently the company made a huge expansion of its research and development department, bringing in three new engineers as well as a robot called Ted.

“He’s swinging all day long, testing shafts,’’ said Claffey. The company is excited about its new lines of equipment and took the unusual step of announcing them to the public early.  In past years most companies used the massive PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL., to do that.

Tour Edge has been one of the most active company participants in that late January closed-to-the-public show, which drew about 40,000 visitors annually to the Orange County Convention Center. After a 66-year run the pandemic forced cancelation of the show this year but it is on the schedule for 2022. Tour Edge won’t be there, and neither will many other equipment manufacturers.  Callaway and Titleist are expected to be the main attendees.

In previous buying cycles the club manufacturers wanted their products introduced well in advance of the Masters in April, so the January dates were ideal.  Now that’s not the case.

“The ebb and flow has changed when it comes to purchasing,’’ said Claffey.  “The PGA Show was falling behind in the sales cycle. We had been an industry trying to find a way to get rid of excess inventory.  Now it’s the opposite. We can’t get our stuff out the door fast enough to meet all this demand. There are other industries experiencing the same thing.’’

New Korn Ferry sponsor

The tournament that had been called the Evans Scholars Invitational will know be know as the NV5 Invitational presented by First Midwest Bank for at least the next five years.  The Western Golf Association announced the new sponsorship agreement for the Korn Ferry Tour event that will be played Maay 23-29 at The Glen Club, in Glenview.

NV5, with over 100 offices world-wide, is a leading provider of compliance, technology, engineering and environmental consulting solutions.

 

HERE AND THERE:  The Ultimate Long Drive World Championship begins its four-day run today  at Cog Hill, in Palos Park….The University of Illinois men’s team hosts its annual invitational on Olympia Fields’ North course Friday-Sunday…..The Illinois PGA’s Birdies for Charity event raised over $300,000 last week at Oak Park Country Club….Four Chicago area youngsters were winners in the Drive, Chip & Putt Regional at Medinah last week – Ledius Felipe, of Poplar Grove (Boys 10-11); Eloise Fetzer, LaGrange (Girls 7-9); Michael Jorski (Boys 12-13) Lisa Copeland, Naperville (Girls 12-13); and Martha Kuwahara, Northbrook (Girls 14-15).  They advanced to the national finals, to be held at Georgia’s Augusta National on the Sunday before next year’s Masters tournament…..The Illinois State Senior Amateur concludes its three-day run today (WEDNESDAY) at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison…..Carbondale’s Britt Pavelonis’ 6-under-par 138 for 36 holes won last week’s Illinois Senior Open at Flossmoor.

 

 

 

Whistling Straits is ready as the Ryder Cup closes in

 

KOHLER, Wis. –Patrick Cantlay dominated the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs and the final PGA Tour cards were determined at  the Korn Ferry Tour Championship on Sunday. Coupled with Team Europe’s 14 l/2-13 l/2 win in the LPGA’s Solheim Cup on Monday, the golf season would seem to have reached its climax, right?

WRONG!

Last weekend only triggered the prelude to golf’s most emotional event. The 43rd Ryder Cup matches are Sept. 24-26 at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, and that area was hopping over the Labor Day weekend.

The pro shops at both Whistling Straits and nearby Blackwolf Run were buzzing with golf fans wanting to pick up Ryder Cup merchandise early. The courses at both resorts had heavy play as well, including The Baths — the new, unique short course that was squeezed in between the existing courses at Blackwolf.

What separates The Baths from the array of other innovative short courses being built around the country is that owner and co-designer Herb Kohler wanted the water holes to be open to those wanting to take a dip when play was in progress.  The Baths, a walking-only course, has 10 fun holes, ranging in length from 62 to 171 yards.

I’ve played most all of these new, non-traditional short courses around the country, and The Baths may  be the most beautiful.  It is also one of the more difficult and the bathers weren’t in evidence, at least not on the day we played. That will likely change over the next few weeks as visitors from all parts of the U.S. and Europe start arriving.

There’ll be plenty of those.  That’s been the case since the matches became competitive. That became the case starting in 1979 when players from Europe expanded their roster possibilities.  Though the U.S. holds a 26-14-2  overall edge in the series, the Europeans have an 11-8-1 edge since the most recent  of several format changes and have won four of the last five meetings.

No loss was more disheartening for the U.S. side than the 2012 event at Medinah, when Europe needed to win eight of the 12 singles matches on the final day to just retain the cup.  They wound up getting 8 ½ points to win it again, and that event became known – depending on your loyalties – as either “The Miracle at Medinah’’  or “The Meltdown at  Medinah.’’

Europe won the last staging two years ago in Paris by a whopping 17 ½ -10 ½ margin and that affected U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s planning for the next one at Whistling Straits.  Six players are assured on Stricker’s roster – Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

Stricker will name the other six at a press conference today (WEDNESDAY) and then wants all of them to report to Whistling Straits Sept. 12-13 for an early team practice session.

“(Europe) had us over a barrel because we didn’t have enough practice rounds (in Paris),’’ said Stricker. “The other team knew the course better than we did.’’

The Paris course was a frequent site of the French Open, a boost for the European Tour players.  Whistling Straits has been the site of the PGA Championships – 2004, 2010 and 2015 – but this will be a young U.S. squad and many of the U.S. players haven’t been at the course.

As the excitement builds over the next few weeks lodging will become scarce, and very expensive, here.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday that almost all area hotels and rentals are already completely booked for Ryder Cup Week and prices are starting at $300 per day in secondary markets.

At Sheboygan’s Blue Harbor Resort rooms that ranged from $190 to $330 per night are now going for $4,500. Most local options are expected to go for more than $1,000 per night by the time the event tees off.

HERE AND THERE:  Medinah will host a regional qualifier the the nation-wide Drive, Chip and Putt finals on Saturday (SEPT. 11). Those competing will be survivors of 316 local qualifying rounds, which began in May, and 60 sub-regionals.  Four boys and four girls will advance from Medinah to the national finals, to be held on April 3 – the Sunday before Masters Week begins  — at Georgia’s Augusta National….Roy Biancalana repeated as champion of the Illinois Super Seniors tournament at Pine Meadow in Mundelein.  The St. Charles-based professional shot an 8-under-par 136 for 36 holes and won by three strokes over North Barrington amateur Vince Antoniou…..Mistwood, in Romeoville, will hold a Celebration of Life next Wednesday (SEPT 15) to honor the facility’s late owner, Jim McWethy. The reception will be held from 2-8 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Korn Ferry finale could be a stepping stone for Vince India

Golf’s post season playoffs haven’t been kind to Chicago area players.  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman was eliminated from the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs on Sunday and now Deerfield’s Vince India faces a tough battle in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

The Korn Ferry event at Indiana’s Victoria National determines the final 25 from the PGA’s alternate tour to earn PGA Tour membership for the 2021-22 season.

India, one of 10 golfers to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur (2010) and Illinois Open (2018), has toiled on the Korn Ferry for eight years and made a run at his PGA Tour card in this pandemic-impacted season that started in 2020 and concludes on Sunday.

The Top 25 on the Korn Ferry’s regular season point list received their PGA Tour cards two weeks ago.  They included Northbrook’s Nick Hardy and Northwestern alums David Lipsky and Dylan Wu.  India was No. 43, his career best, on the point list then and in good position to succeed in the second phase of PGA Tour eligibility.

India, 32,  was safely into the Korn Ferry’s three-tournament playoff series, and the Finals 25 get their PGA Tour cards, too.  Unfortunately, India didn’t perform well in the first two playoff events, finishing tied for 77th in the Boise Open and tied for 58th in last week’s Nationwide Championship in Ohio. His ranking is No. 66 on the Finals 25 list so India needs a high finish to have a chance at a PGA Tour card for the 2021-22 season.

There’s hope, though.  India’s best finish last year, when the PGA opted not to award PGA Tour cards due to the shortened season, was a tie for third at Victoria National.  A repeat this week might give him a chance at moving up to golf’s premier circuit after all.

Streelman bows out

Only the top 30 in the FedEx Cup point standings will compete in this week’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta. Streelman entered the playoffs with a No. 53 ranking and he finishes the season at No. 64 after a tie for 64th in The Northern Trust and and a tie for 52nd in last week’s BMW Championship.

Still, the 42-year old Streelman had another solid season.  He qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the 14th straight year and enjoyed his best year in the major championships.  His tie for eighth in the PGA Championship was his first top-10 in 26 appearances in the major events. He also tied for 15th in the U.S. Open and tied for 19th in the British Open.  He didn’t qualify for the Masters.

 

HERE AND THERE: Chicago’s Larry Blatt, who played collegiately at Illinois before giving up golf for three years to become a financial trader, will turn pro after this month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur.  He announced that decision after winning last week’s Illinois State Mid-Amateur at Bloomington Country Club.  Local qualifying for the national event is Thursday at Prestwick, in Frankfort….The Illinois PGA’s Super Senior Open concludes its 36-hole run today (WEDNESDAY) at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein, and the Birdies for Charity event is Sept. 7 at River Forest, in Elmhurst….Inverness Golf Club has broken ground on a new family activity enter that will include indoor golf simulators, pickle and paddle ball courts, a restaurant, sports bar and wifi lounge.  It’s expected to open in early 2022….The Arlington Amateur will be held Sept. 11-12 at both Arlington Lakes and the nine-hole Nickol Knoll course.