Len Ziehm On Golf

Sunset Valley’s re-opening had some special touches

Joel HIrsch (left) and Patrick Flavin lauded the renovation of the course they grew up on.

Not all new golf courses have the kind of re-opening celebration that Sunset Valley had this week.

Joel Hirsch, a legendary amateur in the Chicago golf ranks, and Patrick Flavin, winner of both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open just a year ago, were the featured attractions. Both started playing golf at Sunset Valley at age 11 and were happy that the Park District in Highland Park chose to upgrade Sunset and close its Highland Park Country Club instead of the other way around.

“I started as a caddie at Sunset Valley, and it’s always had a fond place in my heart,’’ said Hirsch, who led Highland Park High School to two state championships in the 1950s, won the Senior British Amateur and Illinois State Amateur titles twice and qualified for four Western Opens, the last when he was 58 years old.

Now 77, Hirsch lauded the work of Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson who supervised the 16-month renovation of a course designed by Indiana architect Bill Diddel in the 1920s.

“It’s absolutely sensation, as good if not better than a lot of private country clubs in this area,’’ said Hirsch.

Flavin, 22, turned pro two weeks ago and begins his bid for a Web.com Tour card next week in a qualifying event in Nebraska. He became the first official course record-holder on Sunset’s renovated course when he shot a 5-under-par 67 from the back tees.

There’s no question what Sunset Valley’s signature hole is. It’s the par-3 fourth.

Jacobson’s re-design touched all 18 holes and the finished product bears little resemblance to the original course, though the same routing is still in place. The overall renovation of both the clubhouse and course was a $7 million project.

Sunset Valley, in effect, is now Illinois’ newest golf course. Another park district facility, 27-hole Schaumburg Golf Club, is doing its renovation nine holes at a time and work on the first nine has been completed.

NEXT UP: The third of the Illinois PGA’s four major events, the 97th IPGA Championship, tees off on Monday (AUG 27) at Stonewall Orchard, in Grayslake. Illinois men’s coach Mike Small will seek his 13th title in the tournament before returning to his coaching duties with the Illini.

The battle for IPGA Player of the Year will heat up in the three-day 54-hole battle at Stonewall. Medinah director of instruction Travis Johns currently leads the Bernardi point standings, followed by Brian Carroll of Royal Hawk in St. Charles, Garrett Chaussard of Skokie in Glencoe, Dakun Chang of Twin Orchard in Long Grove and Chris Green of Glen View Club. The defending IPGA Championship winner, Adam Schumacher of Indian Hill in Winnetka, is seventh

Johns, the Player of the Year in 2010, 2014 and 2016, took the lead after a strong showing in the second major – the Illinois Open. Johns and Chang tied for ninth in that event, won by Web.com Tour player Vince India, but they shared low club pro honors and gained the most Bernardi points.

Chaussard won the IPGA Match Play Championship, the first major of the season in May, but missed the cut in the Illinois Open. Last year’s Player of the Year, Jim Billiter of Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, is 15th in the standings.

This year’s Player of the Year will be determined after the last major, the IPGA Players Championship on the North Course at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena. It’ll be held Sept. 24-25.

Being charitable

Johns has a big month coming up after the IPGA Championship. He’s co-chairman of the IPGA’s Birdies for Charity event that will be held Sept. 4 at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst.

The event, which raised $1.18 million for several charities in its first seven years, has been expanded for this year with 43 club professionals from 38 clubs participating, and the Central Illinois Section of the PGA is holding its own competition for the first time on the same day at Country Club of Decatur.

Last year’s Birdies for Charity at River Forest raised a record $280,000 and Johns and his co-chair, River Forest head pro Chris Gumbach, are expecting to hit $300,000 this time. Participants have donors making contributions for each birdie made, and the event has been expanded from 72 to 90 holes this year.

Also on the charity front, Luke Donald’s Taste of the First Tee fundraiser has been scheduled for Oct. 22 at Medinah.

Western Am, Illinois Open are a good one-two punch for Chicago golfers

Brace yourself. This is the last big crush of tournaments in a Chicago golf season filled with bunched-up scheduling.

The 116th Western Amateur teed off on Tuesday at Sunset Ridge, in Northfield. It’ll end with the championship match on Saturday afternoon, and then the 69th Illinois Open finals begin a three-day run on Monday at both The Glen Club in Glenview and Ravinia Green in Riverwoods.

Usually the golf season extends into September, and sometimes-even October. This year, though, the only big event left after the upcoming “Big Two’’ is the 96th playing of the Illinois PGA Championship at Stonewall Orchard, in Grayslake, from Aug. 27-29. This fall will be a quiet one.

First cut is today (WEDNESDAY) in the Western, annually one of the most prestigious amateur events in the country. The 156 starters will be whittled to the low 44 and ties for Thursday’s 36-hole conclusion to the stroke play portion of the tournament. This day of competition could extend well into the evening, as playoffs may be needed to determine the Sweet 16 qualifiers for the match play portion of the event.

Locally the players to watch are Spring Grove’s Jordan Hahn, the 6-foot-8 University of Wisconsin golfer who won the Illinois State Amateur after being the runner-up in 2017, and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, who will conclude a solid amateur career at Sunset Ridge.

Flavin won both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open last year, a feat no golfer had accomplished in the previous 37 years, but he missed the cut in his State Am title defense. He’ll make his professional debut when he defends his Open title. Both Hahn and Flavin, though, will have their hands full keeping up with the Western field that features top amateurs from 21 countries in addition to the top American players.

The setting will be different at the Illinois Open, which is limited to state residents. This year it’s an unusual family affair with three father-son combinations and 10 sets of brothers among the 156 starters, and more could be added depending on the results of today’s (WEDNESDAY) Last Chance Qualifier at Willow Crest in Oak Brook.

On the father-son side the spotlight is on the Baumans, from Biltmore in Barrington. Father Doug, Biltmore’s long-time head professional, and son Greg are both exempt players while son Riley got into the field through one of the state-wide qualifying rounds.

Fathers are also head pros in the other two teams. Danny Mulhearn runs the shop at Glen Oak in Glen Ellyn and son Zach was a survivor of qualifying. David Paeglow is head professional at Kishwaukee, in DeKalb, and son Jack is a qualifier.

The brother combos are Luke and Nicholas Ambrust of Wheaton, Jim and John Billiter of Gurnee, Brian and Kevin Bullington of Frankfort, Tommy and Scott Dunsire of Naperville, Kevin and Cameron Karney of Crystal Lake, Tee-K and Will Kelly of Wheaton, Tommy and Pete Kuhl of Morton, Michael and Brandon Mounce of El Paso, Jarrett and Quinlan Prchal of Northbrook and Kurt and Kraig Rogers of Decatur.

The focus at the Illinois Open, though, will be on Flavin’s title defense – no player has successfully defended a title since Illinois men’s coach Mike Small completed a three-peat in 2007. Small, meanwhile, will make another bid to win the tournament for a record-tying fifth time.

Finalists will have rounds on both The Glen Club and Ravinia Green in the first two rounds and the final 18 on Aug. 8, for the low 50 and ties, will be at The Glen.

Here and there

Former Northwestern star Hannah Kim followed up her first professional win in the Illinois Women’s Open with another victory 10 days later at the 20th annual Golf Capital of Tennessee Women’s Open on the Stonehenge course in Crossville, Tenn. Her 4-under-par 212 score for 54 holes was enough for a one-stroke victory.

The course re-opening at Sunset Valley, in Highland Park, has been set for Aug.17. Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson handled the course work as part of a $7 million renovation that included both the course and clubhouse.

The Lake Bluff Golf Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Aug. 10 with a party designed to help meet the fund-raising goal of $265,000 needed for club improvements.

White Eagle, in Naperville, will host a PGA Junior League sectional qualifier on Thursday. It’ll feature 17 teams from all parts of Illinois and the top two will advance to the next round, on Aug. 18 at Pine Meadow in Mundelein.

The First Tee of Greater Chicago will hold its Birdies, Brews and BBQ event on Friday at Countryside, in Mundelein.

Western Amateur presents a big step up in competition for Chicago stars

Imagine an Illinois amateur golfer shooting a 61 in a state-wide tournament and not winning. That’s what happened to Jordan Hahn at last year’s Illinois State Amateur. Hahn claimed the course record at Calumet Country Club, but he finished one stroke behind Patrick Flavin.

Hahn got even last week, winning the 88th playing of the State Am at Bloomington Country Club by a one-stroke margin over Bloomington’s Rob Wuethrich. That was a big win for Hahn, who – at 6-foot-8 – is Illinois’ tallest champion-caliber golfer, and he’ll go after an even bigger prize next week.

Hahn, a Spring Grove resident who is about to enter his senior year at Wisconsin, is part of the very select 156-man field that tees off on Monday in the 116th playing of the Western Amateur at Sunset Ridge, in Northfield.

Flavin will be there, too, but his projected final days as an amateur didn’t produce the desired first results. The Highwood resident who played collegiately at Miami of Ohio missed the 36-hole cut in defense of his Illinois State Amateur title and failed to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in an elimination event on Monday in Indiana.

Last year Flavin became the first golfer in 37 years — and only the second ever – to win the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year and he delayed turning pro because of it. He wanted to defend both those titles and turn pro after playing in next month’s U.S. Amateur at California’s famed Pebble Beach.

Now Flavin’s plans have changed. The Western will mark the end of his amateur career, and he’ll turn pro for the Illinois Open, which has an Aug. 6-8 run at The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Ravinia Green, in Riverwoods.

“It’s been a bummer, but I’m pumped up for that,’’ said Flavin.

Both Hahn and Flavin will face a huge challenge at Sunset Ridge, which last hosted a major event in 1972 when Jim Jamieson won the Western Open there.

“Man for man we’ll have the deepest field in amateur golf,’’ said Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association. “The best of the best will be here.’’

The 156-man starting field will feature players from 21 countries outside of the United States. Heading the cast is Braden Thornberry, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, and No. 2 Collin Morikawa. Thornbery was last year’s NCAA titlist for Mississipi and Morikawa, who played collegiately for California, was a Western Am quarterfinalist last year at Skokie Country Club, in Glencoe.

Also in the field are U.S. Open qualifiers Chun An Yu, Philip Barbaree, Franklin Huange, Stewart Hagestad and Will Grimmer as well as Min Woo Lee, the 2016 U.S. Junior champion from Australia.

The Western offers the most grueling test in golf with the eventual champion needing to play the equivalent of two 72-hole tournaments in a five-day stretch. There’ll be a practice round on Monday and 18-hole rounds o Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 1, before the field is cut to the low 44 and ties. The survivors will play 36 holes on Thursday, Aug. 2, to determine 16 qualifiers for the match play portion of the tournament. Two rounds of matches will be played on Friday, Aug. 3, and the semifinals and championship match are on Saturday, Aug. 4.

Past Western champions include Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Justin Leonard, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods.

Bits and pieces

Kyle English, of Crestwicke in Bloomington, posted a 5-under-par 139 at Westmoreland, in Wilmette, to win the Illinois PGA Assistants Championship. He was two shots ahead of Chris French, of Aldeen in Rockford, and Andy Mickelson, of Mistwood, in Romeoville. All qualify for the PGA Assistant Professionals Championship in November at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

Ex-Illinois golfer Dylan Meyer, who won the 2016 Western Amateur, is a late sponsor’s exemption into this week’s RBC Canadian Open.

Only two qualifying rounds remain for the Illinois Open. One is today (WEDNESDAY) at Royal Hawk in St. Charles. The other is the Last Chance qualifier next Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Willow Crest in Oak Brook. Players who didn’t advance through the first seven eliminations will be able to try again at Willow Crest.

The 17th Chicago District Senior Amateur at Itasca has been rescheduled. The 18-hole stroke play portion will be on Monday (JULY 30) with the low 16 deciding the title in match play over the following three days.

Patrick Flavin is Mr. Golf in Illinois for the next few weeks

Patrick Flavin has surrounded himself with some of the trophies he’d like to win in the next few weeks.

The star of last year’s Chicago golf season is about to strike again. While University of Illinois friends Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer opted to turn pro as soon as the NCAA tournament ended in June, Highwoods’ Patrick Flavin decided to wait a while. Now it’s his turn to take the spotlight.

Last year Flavin, who played collegiately at Miami of Ohio, became the first golfer in 37 years to win both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year. David Ogrin, in 1980, is the only other one to do it.

Now Flavin wants to do something Ogrin didn’t do — defend both titles — and he also wants a final crack at winning the prestigious Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur as well.

Flavin opened defense of his Illinois State Amateur crown on Tuesday, posting a 1-over-par 71 at Bloomington Country Club. There’ll be another 18-hole round there today before Thursday’s 36-hole session decides the champion.

Bloomington, interestingly, is where Ogrin completed his sweep of the state’s premier titles. He won the Illinois Open there before becoming a journeyman on the PGA Tour from 1983-99. The highlight of his pro career was a victory in the 1996 LaCantera Texas Open, when he whipped Tiger Woods in one of Woods’ first tournaments as a pro.

Flavin wants to take his game to the premier pro tour eventually, but there’s some work to do first.

On Monday he will try to qualifying for the U.S. Amateur at Sand Creek, in Chesterton, Ind., and the week after that he’ll be a featured performer in the 116th Western Am at Sunset Ridge in Northfield. The Illinois Open title defense comes at The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Ravinia Green, in Riverwoods, from Aug. 6-8.

Flavin says his game is solid after spending the summer playing in some of the top amateur events around the country, so he has no regrets about remaining an amateur a little while longer.

“Definitely it was a difficult decision. What it really came down to was, there’s just so much more to play as an amateur,’’ said Flavin. “I’m trying to think about it in the long run. If I put myself in position to make the Sweet 16 of the Western Am or defend my title in the Illinois State Am or Illinois Open, that would be a great experience for me. In the long run it would really pay off. I’m going to give it a shot, for sure.’’

The U.S. Amateur final is at California’s famed Pebble Beach from Aug. 13-19. Assuming Flavin qualifies, that’ll be his last amateur event. He would turn pro in time to play in the Web.com Tour qualifying school starting in late September. While admittedly looking forward to playing at the next level Flavin has no regrets about spending another summer as an amateur.

“Some of my best buddies, like Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer, are already out playing on the PGA Tour and playing well,’’ said Flavin. “That gives me some ants in my pants to get out there, too. But I’m really happy, really enjoying it.’’

Kim leads in IWO

Hannah Kim, the former Northwestern star, takes a six-stroke lead into today’s final round of the 23rd annual Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood, in Romeoville. Kim is at 11-under-par 133 after rounds of 68 and 65 in the first two rounds of the 54-hole tournament.

Amateur Tristyn Nowlin, a University of Illinois golfer who was the runner-up in the Women’s Western Amateur at Mistwood last month, is Kim’s closest pursuer after rounds of 71 and 68.

Crystal Lake’s Lexi Harkins and Samantha Postillion, of Burr Ridge, are another stroke back in a tie for third and two-time champion Nicole Jeray, of Berwyn, is alone in sixth at 141. Jeray is a member of the LPGA’s Legends Tour.

This IWO also has a celebrity caddie. PGA and Champions Tour veteran Steve Stricker has also been on the bag for his daughter Bobbi.

llini Meyer is cashing in

Dylan Meyer is adding quickly to his fast-growing bank account since finishing his collegiate eligibility at Illinois.

Meyer tied for 46th place at the John Deere Classic on Sunday, which meant an $18,096 paycheck. That boosted his winnings in three tournaments since turning pro to $236,569. He also just signed a contract to join Callaway’s Tour Staff.

“I played with Callaway equipment in college and amateur golf, and I know that this is the best decision for me,’’ said Meyer. “It was a natural choice to join Callaway.’’

Hardy, his Illini teammate the last four years, is four-for-four in surviving the cuts in pro events. He received invites to two tournaments on the PGA Tour and two on the Web.com circuit, and his winnings in barely a month as a pro is $37,671.

Meyer, Hardy and Stricker all finished at 10-under-par in the John Deere Classic. Stricker, also an Illinois alum, won that tournament three times and opted to return to the Quad Cities’ PGA Tour stop rather than play in the PGA Tour Champions major – the Constellation Senior Players Championship – at Exmoor.

Conway Farms pro carries Chicago hopes in U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The only Chicago area qualifier for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club is also the youngest in the 120-player field. Gurnee’s Jamie Fischer, who got in through the sectional qualifying round at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest, turned 50 on May 13.

Fischer grew up in Ohio and qualified for three U.S. Women’s Opens — the first when she was just 18 – and four LPGA Championships. Her mother, Andy Cohn-Fischer, played on the LPGA Tour in the 1960s after her graduation from Northwestern.

“When my mother went to Northwestern they had a girls’ team, but it wasn’t run the way the college teams are today,’’ said Fischer. “The Gleacher Center (the indoor practice facility for NU golf teams now) was a swimming pool back then. My mother had a different experience than the kids have today.’’

Jamie went to Texas on a golf scholarship and was an assistant women’s coach at Northwestern under then-head coach Chris Regenberg for several years before beginning her 11-year stint as director of instruction at Conway Farms.

While she has rarely competed in recent years, Fischer decided to try it after learning the Senior Women’s Open was coming, and it didn’t hurt that a sectional qualifier was at Conway Farms either. She shot 77 to finish third to claim one of the 62 finalists’ berths awarded to sectional qualifiers. Both her parents will be attending the finals.

In addition to the tournament practice days Fischer played Chicago Golf Club twice with members in recent weeks. Her mother played against Senior Women’s Open entrants JoAnne Carner, Hollis Stacey and Pat Bradley during her time on tour and Jamie has two college teammates in the field who also survived sectional qualifiers in Sue Ginter and Lisa DePaolo.

Oldest player in the field is Murle Breer, who is 79. Carner, the only woman to win the U.S. Girls Junior, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open titles, is also 79. Carner will hit the first tee shot off the No. 1 tee at 7 a.m. on Thursday. The field includes players from 12 countries. Ten are 65 or older, and 29 are amateurs.

Bullington, India in JDC

Frankfort’s Brian Bullington and Deerfield’s Vince India survived Monday’s final qualifying round to earn spots in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event begins its four-day run at TPC Deere Run in Silvis on Thursday.

JDC qualifying has become a popular affair. An abundance of entrance necessitated two pre-qualifiers being held last week before Monday’s final elimination at Pinnacle Golf Club in Milan. Bullington was low man with an 8-under-par 63 and India tied for second after posting a 65. Both played collegiately at Iowa and have been struggling to get into tournaments on the Web.com Tour this season.

The PGA Tour also announced its 2018-19 schedule on Tuesday and it produced no change for the JDC. It will be held July 8-14 and remain the week before the British Open. As expected, the BMW Championship, which returns to the Chicago area in 2019 — but at Medinah instead of Conway Farms — shifts from September dates to Aug. 12-18 as the second event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Here and there

The U.S. Golf Association will collaborate with the Chicago District Golf Association and Illinois Junior Golf Association on a Play9 Community Day on Saturday at Cantigny’s Youth Links in Wheaton. There’ll be a nine-hole round in the morning and a clinic for the participants at Chicago Golf Club from noon-2 p.m. while the Senior Women’s Open is in progress.

Tournament play won’t stop after the Senior Women’s Open and Constellation Senior Players Championship at Exmoor, in Highland Park, end on Sunday. The 24th Illinois Women’s Open begins its three-day run at Mistwood, in Romeoville, on Monday and the three-day 88th Illinois State Amateur starts the following day at Bloomington Country Club.

The Illinois PGA Senior Masters tournament will be held on Monday at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest. This year’s honorees are Don Habjan, from Makray Memorial in Barrington, and Ron Skubisz, from Pottawatomie in St. Charles.

Ex-Illini Dylan Meyer is this JDC’s sponsor exemption to watch

This is an ideal time for the top college golf stars to get a jump-start on their professional careers, and Illinois’ Dylan Meyer has already done just that.

After four years of stardom for the Illini Meyer made his professional debut at the U.S. Open. After surviving sectional qualifying he finished in a tie for 20th place, and that was worth $122,387. Then, like many of the top collegians, he received a sponsor’s exemption into a PGA Tour event, last week’s Quickens National. He tied for 17th and picked up another $96,086.

Meyer has at least one more chance to cash in next week, along with former Illini teammate Nick Hardy and Arlington Heights resident Doug Ghim – the national collegiate player-of-the-year for Texas. They are among the invitees to Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour stop, the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.

The JDC, in its usual spot on the PGA Tour schedule – a week before the British Open, has a $5.8 million purse on the line for its July 12-15 tournament rounds.

Hardy, who survived the 36-hole cut at last year’s JDC while competing as an amateur, is three-for-three in making cuts since turning pro at the Rust-Oleum Championship last month at Ivanhoe Club. Combining his invites to two Web.com Tour events and the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship Hardy has pocketed $19,575 in his first month as a pro.

Ghim, who played in the U.S. Open as an amateur, earned his first check at the Quicken Loans National — $13,987 for a tie for 71st. Sponsor’s exemptions are an annual sidelight to the JDC, as tournament director Clair Peterson pays special attention to the collegiate ranks in awarding his invitations.

This year, though, the young pros will be part of one of the strongest fields in JDC history. Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion, and he’s adjusted quickly to the professional ranks after winning the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields. He claimed his second professional victory last month at the Memorial tournament and is already a strong contender to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for this fall’s matches in France.

Steve Stricker, who won the JDC three times before turning 50 and eligible for PGA Tour Champions, has opted to return the John Deere rather than play in the Constellation Senior Players Championship – one of the five majors on the 50-and-over circuit. It’ll be played at Exmoor, in Highland Park, the same days as the JDC.

In addition to veterans like Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Ryan Moore and Kevin Streelman, the JDC has picked up Brandt Snedeker, who tied for second in his last appearance in the tourney in 2009, and two notable foreign stars – Italy’s Francesco Molinari and 19-year old Chilean sensation Joaquin Niemann. Molinari claimed his first win on the PGA Tour at the Quicken Loans National last Sunday.

Young at heart

Ellen Port, who has won four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles and three U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur crowns, competed against much younger players in last week’s Women’s Western Amateur at Mistwood in Romeoville. The St. Louis resident did it for one big reason – she wanted to get ready for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, also July 12-15 at Chicago Golf Club.

Port, 57, hadn’t played in the Western Amateur since 2005 and her 119 rivals were mainly elite college players. Port had won the St. Louis Women’s Metro Championship for the 17th time before heading to Mistwood, because she needed a bigger challenge to tune up for the Senior Open.

“Every tournament is big, and the Women’s Western Amateur is wonderful,’’ said Port, a high school teacher and coach for 32 years before spending the last three as the women’s golf coach at Washington University. “But the inaugural U.S. Women’s Senior Open – there’s only one of them, so it’s a big one. I love the Western, and I’ve jumped into events before that I wasn’t really ready for. That’s why I got as good as I was as quickly as I did.’’

Posting scores of 78 and 81 on a par-72 course set up at 6,131 yards, Port wasn’t among the 32 players who qualified for the match play portion of the Western Am but she’s excited about competing against legendary touring pros like Pat Bradley, Jane Blalock, Juli Inkster and Jan Stephenson on a par-73 course 46 yards shorter than the one she played at Mistwood.

Exmoor update

The third event sharing the July 12-15 dates, the Constellation Senior Players Championship, is the second of three consecutive majors for PGA Tour Champions players. David Tomas won the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado on Sunday and the British Senior Open follows the Exmoor stop from July 23-29 at St. Andrews, in Scotland.

The Western Golf Association will conduct the Exmoor tourney, the first major in the Chicago area for senior men since the 1997 U.S. Senior Open at Olympia Fields. Gates at Exmoor open to the public on Wednesday, July 11 for the Accenture Pro-Am, and the tournament rounds will be held the next four days.

Ryu-Henderson shootout in final round will start early at Kemper Lakes

Korean star So Yeon Ryu enjoyed her big day at Kemper Lakes.

An imposing weather forecast for Sunday will create a viewers’ headache for the climax to the 64th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and that’s a shame. The expected duel for the title between Korean So Yeon Ryu and Canadian Brooke Henderson should be a dandy, based on how both performed in Saturday’s third round.

Normally players are sent off in twosomes off the No. 1 hole in major tournaments, but that won’t be the case Sunday. With heavy afternoon rain expected tournament officials opted to get both players and spectators off the Kemper Lakes course as early as possible.

So, players will be sent off in threesome off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. Starting times will run from 7:19 to 9:31 a.m. and both NBC Sports and Golf Channel apps and digital platforms will stream the action live from 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. NBC will provide taped coverage, as originally planned, at 2 p.m.

There’s always the possibility of a player charging into contention after starting the round well before the leaders, but there was no indication that would happen on Saturday. The same three players that shared the 36-hole lead still hold the top three positions on the leaderboard. There’s just no longer a tie at the top.

Ryu, who shot the best score in Round 3 – a 5-under-par 67 – owns a three-stroke lead on Henderson, who posted a 70 after fading in the late stages of the back nine on Saturday. Ryu stands at 11-under 205 for the 54 holes.

Henderson led for most of the day, and the only other player to get to the top of the leaderboard was Sun Hyun Park, another Korean who started the day tied with Ryu and Henderson for the top spot. Park claimed it for herself after making a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 1. That triggered a day of momentum shifts, and Park – one stroke behind Henderson – could also be a factor on Sunday.

Henderson pulled even with Park with an eight-foot birdie putt at No. 2 and took solo possession of the lead with two more birds at Nos. 6 and 7. At the turn she owned a two-stroke lead on Ryu and kept it for four more holes.

Though Henderson stayed in front, a key moment came at the par-5 11th. Ryu got up-and-down for birdie from a green-side bunker, sinking a 15-foot putt.

“That was really, really important momentum for me,’’ “ said Ryu. “After that I felt more comfortable on the putting greens, and I was able to make some birdies.’’

Once Ryu’s putter started working Henderson’s didn’t. She had an eight-footer for eagle on No. 11 but missed so her lead remained at two, and it stayed there when Henderson missed a five-birdie try at No. 12.

With those opportunities to pad her lead gone, Henderson struggled. A birdie by Ryu and a bogey by Henderson at the short par-4 14th created a two-shot swing that created a tie at the top of the leaderboard and Ryu took sole possession of the lead when her 20-foot putt dropped for birdie on its last revolution at No. 15. Henderson couldn’t answer, missing her 15-footer for bird.

Ryu added two strokes to her advantage on the three holes of The Gauntlet – the toughest finishing stretch in Chicago golf. A par was good enough to add a stroke to her lead at No. 16 because Henderson missed her par putt from five feet. Then Ryu made a spectacular birdie at the finishing hole, smacking a perfect drive around the dogleg left before putting her approach to five feet.

Henderson, playing with a new putter this week, missed from 10 feet before Ryu finished off her birdie. She needed only 12 putts on the back nine.

“I struggled with my putter, which is disappointing, but hopefully I can just get better in my mind and go out tomorrow and make some birdies. Hopefully I can get the speed of the greens down in the morning and get confident with my putting again.’’

Henderson has the better record in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She tied for fifth as a sponsor’s exemption in 2015, won it in 2016 and was runner-up last year at Olympia Fields.

Ryu, seven years older after celebrating her 28th birthday on Friday, has the better overall record. She has won two of the women’s majors – the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open and 2017 ANA Inspiration. She’s also been second in the Evian Championship, third in the British Open and fourth in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. That was in 2016.

With those near-misses, Ryu is starting to think about winning the women’s Grand Slam.

“Winning this tournament would be huge,’’ she said. “I’ve started to dream about becoming a Grand Slammer and right now I’m in a good position to achieve another dream (winning the second-oldest tournament in women’s golf). I definitely want to be part of the history.’’

First round at Kemper Lakes proves a walk in the park

There are four players named Park on the Ladies PGA tour roster, and they’re all good.

The best known in Inbee Park, three-time winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the current No. 1-ranked player in the Rolex World Rankings. Hee Young Park has won twice on the circuit and Jane Park calls Chicago her hometown though she lives in Georgia. She has career winnings over $2 million.

It was Sung Hyun Park who ruled the day in the first round of the 64th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes, however. A late starter, she toured the course that also hosted the 1989 men’s PGA Championship in 6-under-par 66.

This Park, 24, won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open en route to becoming the first player to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same year since Nancy Lopez in 1978. She also became the fastest player in LPGA history to reach $2 million in career earnings, doing it in 19 starts spanning barely seven months.

A change in putters triggered Park’s hot round. She changed TaylorMade models, switching from a Spider to a Black version that – at 34 inches – is an inch longer than the one she had been using.

“It’s going to get hotter and more difficult as the rounds go on,’’ said Park. “It’s a major tournament and I’m getting more nervous, but I’m doing my best.’’

Softened by four inches of rain earlier this week, Kemper was somewhat of a walk in the park for the 156 women who teed off in the LPGA’s third major championship of 2018.

Park, born in Korea but residing in Orlando, Fla., held only a one-stroke lead on five players headed by Canadian Brooke Henderson. Only 20, Henderson already has a sterling record in the tournament, finishing fifth while playing on a sponsor’s exemption in 2016, winning the title in 2017 and finishing one stroke behind winner Danielle Kang last year at Olympia Fields.

Henderson, also an afternoon starter, came charging midway through her round. She made birdies on seven of her last 10 holes to pull into a tie with long-hitting American Jessica Korda and Jaye Marie Green, who said she’s struggling with “family troubles at home’’ but wouldn’t elaborate further. Another American, Brittany Altomare, joined the group at 5-under late in the day.

The low scoring – 50 players bettered par — was no surprise. The softened greens were helpful, there was little wind and the course setup was 102 yards shorter than the listed tournament yardage. Henderson said she had mud balls on “like every hole’’ but the lift, clean and place rule wasn’t in effect.

Despite the array of low scores, none of the three players in the featured group – Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn and Kang – could finish in red numbers. Inbee and Jutanugarn are 1-2 in the Rolex World Rankings. Jutanugarn’s sister Moriya finished at 4-under and in a four-way tie for sixth.

Though Lexi Thompson and Brittany Marchand makes holes-in-one and Michelle Wie had a hot streak with four birdies in a five-hole stretch, it was Henderson who made the fastest climb up the leaderboard after a slow start.

She missed the fairway on her first tee shot and missed the first two greens, leading to a pair of quick bogeys, but she recovered quickly. She shot 30 on her back nine (actually holes 1-9 because Henderson started play at No. 10).

“That gives me a lot of confidence and momentum going into (Friday), which is nice,’’ she said. “I was just trying to have a really good, solid score but — starting the first two holes like I did – that drops your momentum. Brit (her sister and caddie) helped me through it. We started grinding away, then slowly things started to turn around.’’

The turn-around was climaxed by a 50-foot birdie putt at No. 9, the last hole of her round. Like Sung Hun Park, Henderson benefitted from a putting change made this week. It worked playing with men pros in a Rhode Island exhibition on Monday and there was a carryover to her play at Kemper Lakes.

“One putter was a blade and this one is a mallet, so it was a pretty big change,’’ said Henderson. “The one I’m using now might be an inch or two longer and has a different grip. It’s like everything is different, which is a good thing.’’

Inbee Park benefits from a lighter tournament schedule

The world’s No. 1-ranked woman’s golfer has barely played half the tournaments as her leading rivals have, but don’t worry about Korean Inbee Park heading into Thursday’s start of the 64th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Park has played in only nine tournaments this season, and that was by design. At 29 she’s learned that her body is more vulnerable to injury than it was from 2013 to 2015 when she won this – the second-oldest tournament in women’s golf — three years in a row. Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, retired since 2008, is the only other player to win three in a row, pulling off the feat from 2003-05.

With 19 career wins on the LPGA tour, including seven major titles, Park was unquestionably the dominant player in women’s golf during her three-year hot streak.

But that was then, and this is now.

“I learned an expensive lesson the last couple years. I just can’t play every week now,’’ said Park during a break in Wednesday’s last day of pre-tournament preparation for the 156 starters. “A couple of injuries the last couple of years got me worried and more cautious of what I can play. Scheduling-wise I didn’t want to push myself so hard.’’

Her tournaments leading in to the third of the LPGA’s five annual majors may only number nine, but they’ve been a good nine. She’s yet to miss a cut and has five top-10 finishes which include a win at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and a runner-up at the ANA Inspiration — one of the other majors.

Park will be in the featured group on Thursday, teeing off with No. 2-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn, the U.S. Women’s Open champion from Thailand, and defending champion Danielle Kang, who became the first American winner in the tourney in seven years when she triumphed last year at Olympia Fields.

“I’m really happy to play with them,’’ said Park. “They both have good momentum going into this week, and momentum is always a good thing to have in a group.’’

Park and Jutanugarn are among only three players who have top 10 finishes in both of the two majors contested so far this year. In addition to her runner-up finish in the Inspiration Park was ninth in the U.S. Open. Jutanugarn, who tied for fourth in the Inspiration, is the only player to win twice in the LPGA’s first 16 tournaments of 2018.

The only other player to crack the top 10 in the year’s first two majors was England’s Charley Hull, who tied for sixth in the Inspiration and tied for 10th in the Open.

Park, Jutanugarn and Kang will go off Kemper’s No. 1 hole at 8:10 a.m., and tee times will run though 2:40 p.m. so it’ll be a long day of challenging golf. All the players have shown respect for the 39-year old Kemper Lakes course that hosted the late Payne Stewart’s victory in the men’s PGA Championship of 1989.

“It’s a true major championship golf course setting,’’ said Park. “Even par all week is going to be a very good score. I really love this golf course.’’

Park fears that this week’s heavy rains will soften the Kildeer layout and give an advantage to longer hitters like Jutanugarn, but that isn’t really her major concern. Park’s Las Vegas home was burglarized last week. That’s been a bigger worry than the golf tournament.

“I’ve been really stressing about that the last four days,’’ said Park. “Talking to the police, it’s so hard trying to figure out what’s lost when you’re not there — but this is the life we get on the road. A lot of our things are in Korea, so we have to figure that out a little more.’’

Returning to competition at least provides a respite from that problem.

This year’s field is again the strongest and deepest in women’s golf. For the third straight year it includes all of the top 100 money-winners on the LPGA tour this season. It also includes 29 winners of major championships, and those 29 have combined to claim 62 such titles.

Besides Park three of the other starters have won this tournament multiple times – Laura Davies (1994 and 1996), Juli Inkster (1999 and 2000) and Yani Tseng (2008, 2011).

The tourney was known as the LPGA Championship from 1955 until 2016, when KPMG took over sponsorship duties and the PGA of America replaced the LPGA as tournament organizer. Prize money is up to $3,650,000 and Sunday’s champion will pocket $547,500.

Jutanugarn says Kemper Lakes has harder course than Olympia Fields

How time flies. In 2011 Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn won the U.S. Junior Girls tournament at Olympia Fields. Now she’s one of the very best players in women’s golf with a No. 2 world ranking, winner of nine LPGA tournaments the champion in two majors including this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Olympia wasn’t so kind to Jutanugarn in last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, however. After finishing third in the tourney in 2016 she missed the cut at the south suburban private club and her prospects in this week’s staging of the tournament at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer are precarious at best.

On Monday she played the back nine – her first look at the course that hosted the men’s PGA Championship in 1989 – and on Tuesday her afternoon pro-am round was delayed by heavy morning rains.

Her first comparison of the two Chicago area courses hosting the event in consecutive years suggests a tough week is ahead.

“I didn’t play much golf in this tournament last year – only two rounds,’’ she said. “Both the courses are pretty hard, but this one is even harder. The fairways are really tight. The rough is really thick and the greens are very, very big and really slow. Actually, everything is pretty hard.’’

Already she’s decided that the driver won’t be in her game plan for the start of tournament play on Thursday.

“No chance,’’ she said. “I can’t hit it here. I’m just going to keep hitting 2-iron and 3-wood.’’

She quickly came to appreciate The Gauntlet, the name the Kemper membership recently gave to the last three holes. Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are considered the toughest finishing stretch in all of Chicago golf and Jutanugarn won’t argue with that.

“Every hole is pretty tough, and the last three are really, really tough,’’ she said. “It’s going to be a really great finish because of that.’’

Here and there

Arlington Heights resident Doug Ghim, the collegiate player-of-the-year at the University of Texas, played his first event as a professional with a new caddie. Lance Bennett was on Ghim’s bag at last week’s Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct., and will carry for him again this week in the Quicken Loans National in the Washington D.C., area. Bennett had previously carried for Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas and Daniel Berger on the PGA Tour while Ghim used his father Jeff as his caddie when he played as an amateur.

The Illinois PGA had not one but two near-misses in last week’s PGA Professionals Championship in Oregon. The top 20 in the field earned berths in August’s PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis. Brian Carroll, head professional at Royal Hawk in St. Charles, and Dakun Chang, assistant pro at Twin Orchard in Long Grove, were in a nine-way tie for 16th place. Both were eliminated in a playoff for the final five spots in the field reserved for club professionals.

Weather problems severely hampered last week’s major amateur events. The 101st Western Junior at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie was reduced from 72 to 36 and Jeff Doty of Carmel, Ind., was awarded the title by virtue of being the 36-hole leader. In the 99th Chicago District Amateur the final between Illinois State teammates David Perkins of East Peoria and Trent Wallace of Joliet was reduced from 36 to 18 holes. Perkins won on the fifth extra hole.

PGA Tour player Kevin Streelman will host a day of stories, golf and fun for junior golfers at Cantigny, in Wheaton, on July 9. Pre-registration is required.

The renovation of the Players Nine at Schaumburg Golf Club has been completed and those holes will re-open on Saturday.