Don’t sell golf short in the Wisconsin Dells

The entry to 12North opens the way to a whole new golf experience.

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – The Wisconsin Dells area never grew much in population.  Its namesake city has never had more than 3,000 residents.  Still, the Dells has been one of the Midwest’s most popular travel destinations since its founding in 1856.

Boats trips brought tourists in first because they liked the scenery.  A wide variety of attractions followed, probably the best known being the Tommy Bartlett Thrill Show, which arrived in 1952 and just closed in 2020. Now the area justifiably bills itself as “The Waterpark Capital of the World” also has — among other things —  a casino, fishing, wineries, go-kart tracks, zipline tours and horseback riding.

Oh, yes.  There’s golf, too.  There are 12 different golf experiences available, and don’t sell them short – literally.

There’s a nationwide trend to make courses more accessible, more appealing and less time-consuming, and the Dells is up front in shifting the focus from “traditional’’ play into a new direction.

The first course in the Dells was a nine-holer, Cold Water Canyon, at the Chula Vista Resort. It opened in 1923 and was later expanded to 18 holes. Despite its longevity Cold Water Canyon has become up to date thanks to shifts in the game. Short courses are the new in thing.

General manager Patrick Steffes spent the pandemic helping to create a new course at Trappers Turn.

J.C. Wilson, who designed the front nine at Cold Water Canyon, and Dan Fleck, who created the back, put together a course that measures 6,027 yards from the back tees. That would be an extremely short course by any standards today, but the layout has tight driving holes and tricky greens. It’s no pushover.

The newest course isn’t, either, but it much better reflects the sign of the times.  Trappers Turn, which already had three nine-holers, just opened 12North – the latest in the national movement towards the unusual.  It doesn’t have nine or 18 holes; it has 12, and by next year it won’t even have any tees.

Trappers Turn’s nine-holers were designed by two-time U.S. Open champion and long-time Wisconsin native Andy North and the late Roger Packard.  North was brought back to work with Craig Haltom in creating 12North. Haltom, owner of Oliphant Golf, found the site for Sand Valley, another Wisconsin facility that became a big hit after Chicago entrepreneur Mike Keiser became an investor.

A $1 million project, 12North was constructed during the heart of the pandemic.

“We were all going through Covid and had a whole lot of time,’’ said Patrick Steffes, general manager and director of golf at Trappers Turn.  “We had a lot of fun with it.  It gave us something to do when there wasn’t anything to do at all.’’

Could there be more colorful landscaping in golf than this one at Trappers Turn?

Land from one of the holes of the original 18 was used in the construction of 12North. The longest hole is No. 12 – a 114-yard finisher.  The shortest is No. 10 at 54 yards. There were seven holes-in-one made in the first six weeks the course was open.

All the tees have mats now, but Steffes says they’ll be gone in the spring. Then the 12North will play like the tee-less H-O-R-S-E Course in Nebraska, where each player decides where to tee off.

“We travel a lot and steal some things,’’ said Steffes.  “I don’t know if we copied from there or not, but we want golfers to play where they want.  If they want to hit from 120 yards to these crazy greens, so be it.’’

Originally the plan was for a walking course.  While some players do walk 12North cart paths have been installed and will remain, as the footing can be tricky on some points of the hilly property.

Trappers Turn, marked by some beautiful landscaping on and near the courses, also will soon open a one-acre lighted putting green and adding  lodging is a strong consideration for down the road. Trappers Turn  is the most complete golf facility in the Dells and has the longest hole – the 600-yard third on its Lake Course, but the best 18  holes may be at Wild Rock at Wilderness Resort, an early work of architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. They later teamed up to created 2017 U.S. Open site Erin Hills, another Wisconsin gem.

Wild Rock also has a nine-hole short course, The Woods, that features an island green. Overall, the Dells has 142 holes of golf, and short is the byword.  Christmas Mountain Village has a challenging par-3 course that measures 2,881 yards to supplement its championship 18-holer.

Fairfield Hills, in Baraboo, is owned by Barrington, Ill., resident Jim Tracy. Its 12-hole course can be played in three, six, nine, 12 or 18 hole loops and its practice range is the largest in the Dells area. Fairfield Hills also offers disc golf on a limited play basis.

“A very playable course,” said Tracy, who bought the place eight years ago.  It depends on your interest in golf and the time you have available.”

Pinecrest, located  near the downtown area of the Dells, has a par-3 course mixed in with an archery course with multiple shooting stations. Longest hole on the Pinecrest links is only 150 yards.  Another nine-holer, Spring Brook, is situated amidst tall pines and can be more challenging.

Wild Rock, a Mike Hurdzan/Dana Fry design, may be the best 18-holer in the Wisconsin Dells.

 

A big win for Mistwood’s Mickelson

Mistwood’s Andy Mickelson dominated the Illinois PGA Championship at Ivanhoe. (Illinois PGA Photo)

The Illinois PGA Championship dates back to 1922, but rarely has it had a tournament like the one that Andy Mickelson won on Wednesday at Ivanhoe Club.

Mickelson, the director of golf at Mistwood in Romeoville, was the only player to complete the 54 holes under par.  He was at 3-under 213. That was the highest score to win since Mike Small’s 2-over was good enough in the 2003 staging at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove.

A 36-hole score of 16-over-par was good enough to qualify for the final round, and 7-over was all that was needed to crack the top 10 and earn a berth in next year’s PGA National Professionals Championship in Texas.

With the title on the line in the final round only seven of the 62 players could break par, the low scorers being Jim Billiter, Ivanhoe’s new head professional, and Steve Gillie, of Randall Oaks, at 2-under 70.

“It’s a tour-quality golf course,’’ said Jim Sobb, Ivanhoe’s director of golf and a three-time IPGA champion.  “You can’t rest on this course.  There’s not a breather hole.’’

The finalists wouldn’t argue that. Ivanhoe, designed by the late Chicago architect Dick Nugent, was a three-time site for the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour events but had never hosted the Illinois PGA Championship. Ivanhoe opened in 1991.

Mickelson is not a conventional champion.  He turned pro briefly after competing successfully in the Chicago amateur events, then regained his amateur status after entering the business world at a packing company.  The late Mistwood owner Jim McWethy convinced Mickelson to return to golf at his course that has blossomed into one of Chicago’s most popular public facilities.

Chaussard, director of instruction at Skokie Country Club, owned a one-shot lead on Mickelson entering the final round. Chaussard got off to a bad start and shot 76 while Mickelson had his third straight 71. Joining Chaussard in the runner-up spot was 60-year old Kurt Rogers of downstate Forsyth.  He’s a former coach at Millikin University, in Decatur.

The final round, though, belonged to Mickelson. He was in charge from the third hole on and won the $8,160 first prize by a four-stroke margin.

“I might have hit every green but two,’’ he said.  “This was as good as I’ve played over the last two days tee to green in a long time. I had control of my golf ball, and when I have that I can beat anybody.’’

The tournament was not without a touch of controversy. A two-hour rain delay late Tuesday caused a suspension in play and IPGA officials opted to bring the players back on the course after the rain subsided.  In a departure from protocol, they weren’t allowed a warmup period on the practice range. Once back on the course, they played only 30 minutes before play was called for the day.  Round 2 still had to be completed before the final round could begin on Wednesday.

There were a number of players who didn’t like that, and it certainly didn’t help Small, who was going after his 14th title in the event.  The 55-year old head coach of the University of Illinois men’s team made eagle at No. 15 to move into a tie for the lead just before play was stopped on Tuesday.  When it resumed he finished his round double bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey and that shaky play carried over to Wednesday when he made a triple bogey on his first hole.

Small, a three-time champion in the PGA National Professionals Championship, regrouped after that and wound up in seventh place.

 

 

 

 

 

Senior LPGA awaits farewell at French Lick

An era of women’s golf is ending this week.  Indiana’s French Lick Resort, a favorite destination for golfers since the 1920s, will host the Senior LPGA Championship for the final time. the The tournament tees off on Friday on the Pete Dye Course.

“This is our ninth year working with the senior women,’’ said Dave Harner, French Lick’s director of golf.  “It’s been a great run for them and a great run for us. This week is bittersweet, and we wish them the best.’’

French Lick, known as the high school home of basketball legend Larry Bird, was the site of Walter Hagen’s first of five straight PGA Championships in 1924 and hosted the LPGA Championship in 1959 and 1960 with Kathy Whitworth and Betsy Rawls the winners.

The little southern Indiana town fell on hard times after that but began a terrific recovery after its Donald Ross Course was renovated and the Pete Dye Course created in 2010. Women’s golf became a focus then. The Legends Tour, created by 25 veteran LPGA players headed by Jane Blalock, was formed in 2000 but never received much support of the LPGA hierarchy.

French Lick stepped forward to create a Legends Championship and Hall of Fame in 2013.  After four playings of The Legends Championship the LPGA agreed to have its own championship for senior women, and the Senior LPGA Championship was first held in 2017. It was the first designated major for senior women, defined as those 45 and older.

Scotland’s Trish Johnson won both the last Legends and first Senior LPGA tourneys.  Players from across the pond – Laura Davies in 2018 and Helen Alfreddson in 2019 – won the next before the pandemic forced cancelation of the 2020 event.

The French Lick farewell will be without the first and last champions of its senior women’s events.  Canadian Lorie Kane, who won the first Legends in 2013, withdrew due to illness and Sweden’s Alfreddson, according to French Lick officials, simply failed meet the entry deadline for her title defense.  Alfreddson won both senior women’s majors in 2020, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open being the other.

Harner announced big plans for French Lick’s stop on the LPGA’s developmental Symetra Tour.  It’s been held on the Ross course the past four years and is contracted for three more.

“Next year it’ll be a four-round tournament (it had been only 54 holes) and it’ll be there stroke play championship,’’ said Harner.  “It’ll also have their biggest purse ($330,000 with $50,000 to the winner).’’

 

Streelman still alive

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman remained the only Illinois player remaining in the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs. Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim was eliminated in the weather-delayed wrapup of The Northern Trust in New Jersey.

Ghim, who shot the best round of his rookie PGA season – a 63 – in the third round, couldn’t maintain the hot pace in Monday’s final round.  He tied for 31st in the tournament but wound up No. 86 in the FedEx standings.  Only the top 70 in the rankings advance to the BMW Championship, which tees off on Thursday at Cave’s Valley in Maryland.

Streelman didn’t play as well as Ghim did in The Northern Trust, finishing tied for 64th, but he came into the event with a higher ranking (No. 53).  That number dropped to 64 after Monday’s showing, but he remained eligible to play in the BMW event.

 

HERE AND THERE:  Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, who will chase his 14th title in the Illinois PGA Championship Wednesday at Ivanhoe Club, has announced his team’s schedule for the 2020-21 season and it has an interesting start.  The Illini opener is the Indiana Collegiate Invitational.  It’ll be played the Hoosiers’ new, well-received Pfau Golf course.  Two weeks later the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational will return for its 15th staging after being canceled because of the pandemic….Architect Greg Martin, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Chicago area-based design firm, has produced a book, “Magic Is Not Obvious’’ – an interesting series of essays on all phases of the sport….Kevin Lind, formerly golf operations manager at White Pines in Bensenville, has been named general manager at the Vernon Hills nine-holer.

Hardy will become the next Chicago area PGA Tour player

Chicago has another PGA Tour player. Northbrook’s Nick Hardy earned his membership for the 2021-22 season by finishing No. 20 in the point standings during the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular season.  It ended on Sunday at the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, Neb.

Hardy missed the cut in that tournament but maintained his spot among the 25 who earned PGA Tour cards.  Two Northwestern alums, David Lipsky and Dylan Wu, also were in The 25.  Lipsky, a 2011 NU graduate, is from California and Wu, a 2018 graduate, is from Oregon.

A stalwart for coach Mike Small’s Illinois teams from 2014-18, Hardy had 10 top-10 finishes on the PGA’s satellite circuit during the pandemic-impacted 2019-21 season. He becomes the seventh Illini player coached by Small to earn full playing privileges on either the PGA or European pro tours.

Though he failed to earn membership in his first attempt at the Korn Ferry circuit Hardy bounced back strong this season. He’ll begin his membership on the PGA Tour when the Fortinet Championship tees off at California’s Silverado course on Sept. 16.

“Nick is going to have a great career,’’ said Small.  “He deserves everything that he achieves in life because he’s a thoughtful, considerate and humble young man with world class talent, discipline and commitment.’’

The Korn Ferry Tour begins its three-event playoff series this week and by the time it ends another Chicago player could join Hardy on the PGA Tour roster.  Deerfield’s Vince India, a champion in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open who played collegiately at Iowa, is No. 43 among the 75 qualifiers for the Korn Ferry Playoffs.  The top 25 when it’s over also get PGA Tour cards.

 

Streelman ready for FedEX Playoffs

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman came up a shot short of making a six-man playoff for the Wyndham Championship title on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., but the strong showing suggests he’s ready for a big run in the ultra-lucrative FedEx Cup postseason series.  The first of its three tournaments is The Northern Trust, which tees off on Thursday in New Jersey.

Streelman boosted his FedEx standing from 58 to 53 with a tie for seventh in the Wyndham and he’s well rested after after taking a three-week break after July’s British Open.

The Northern Trust has a 125-player field, all based on the season-long rankings, and the top 70 after its 72-hole run advance to the $9.6 million BMW Championship, which will be played this year at Cave’s Valley in Maryland.  It has been held at Chicago courses nine times since the series began in 2007, the last time being at Olympia Fields in 2020.

Only the top 70 in the standings qualifier to play at Cave’s Valley and the top 30 there go to the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta the following week.

While Streelman’s ranking makes him a safe bet to advance to the BMW Championship, Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, needs a strong showing this week to stay alive in the playoffs.  He missed the cut by one stroke at the Wyndham to drop from 83 to 86 in the FedEx standings.

 

HERE AND THERE

While Small will be keeping his eyes on Hardy’s progress he’ll have a big event of his own to compete in beginning on Monday (AUG 23).  He’s a 13-time winner of the Illinois PGA Championship, which begins its three-day run at Ivanhoe Club.  Small shook off a sub-showing in the Illinois Open to win the Illinois PGA Senior Championship for the fifth time last week at Bryn Mawr, in Chicago…..Former Hinsdale Central teammates Josh Lundmark and Mac McClear captured the Chicago District Golf Association’s Four-Ball title, beating Crystal Lake’s Ethan Farnam and Wheeling’s Michael Fastert 1-up in the title match at Flossmoor.  Farnam is the reigning Illinois State Amateur champion.

 

 

Heritage Oaks, Oak Meadows projects show major progress

Two of the biggest golf projects in the history of the Chicago area reach milestones this week.

The Northbrook Park District’s new Heritage Oaks course holds its dedication ceremony on Thursday while the DuPage Forest Preserve District’s Preserve at Oak Meadows, in Addison, has announced the opening of its new clubhouse.

Both were a long time coming.  Heritage Oaks is the new name for Sportsman’s, a 27-hole facility that has been in operation since 1931. Sportsman’s was closed for the 2020 season as Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson conducted a complete renovation of the courses and range. A new clubhouse was also  part of the massive project. While there’ll be some limited play over the weekend, the courses open for public play on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Preserve of Oak Meadows is on the brink of completing an overhaul that started in 2009 when the old clubhouse was destroyed in a lightning attack and the course was beset with major flooding issues. Oak Meadows was a more lengthy process than Heritage Oaks because of that until Aurora architect Greg Martin supervised a lengthy renovation of the property.

That was a $16 million project, and the results have been well-received, but the construction of the new clubhouse wasn’t  started until the course work was done. Now director of golf Ed Stevenson is ready to declare the clubhouse open, though full-service dining is still in limbo.

“We very quietly opened our doors in the middle of the night`and transferred the old pro shop to the new clubhouse,’’ said Stevenson.

Head professional Jamie Nieto now has his office there and golf merchandise is on sale.

Crunch time for Streelman, Ghim

This week’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina concludes the PGA Tour’s regular season and Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim are both in the field with berths in the lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs already assured.

The top 125 in the FedEx Cup point standings are in The Northern Trust  next week at Liberty National in New Jersey. Streelman in No. 56 and Ghim No. 80. The top 70 after that tournament will advance to the BMW Championship, played this year at Cave’s Valley in Maryland. Streelman appears a safe bet to make it there but Ghim needs a strong showing over the next two weeks to cash in big-time.

HERE AND THERE: Only three Chicago area players teed off Monday in this week’s 312-player field in the  U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, in Pennsylvania – Charlie Nikitas of Glenview, University of Illinois player Brendan OJ’Reilly of Hinsdale and Kenilworth veteran Charles Waddell, the Glen View Club champion….Nikitas, who played collegiately at Miami of Ohio, will take advantage of an extra year of eligibility and will play next season at Alabama.  He made the move after his coach at Miami, Zac Zedrick, was named associate head job at Notre Dame by head man John Handrigan…..Mistwood teaching pro Nicole Jeray was assured after her strong showing in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open that she will have a spot in the Senior LPGA Championship.  The other major championship for senior women will conclude its three-year run at Indiana’s French Lick Resort later this month….The Chicago District Four-Ball Championship concludes Wednesday (TODAY) at Flossmoor Golf Club.

 

Illinois Open has put Stonebridge back on the golf tournament scene

 

Stonebridge Country Club, which is hosting the 72nd Illinois Open this week, has an interesting history.

The Aurora private club opened in 1989 with a course designed by the well-respected Tom Fazio. His other Illinois creations include The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Conway Farms, in Lake Forest.   The latter two have been frequent sites of the biggest Chicago tournaments in recent years, but not Stonebridge.

Stonebridge came on like gangbusters immediately after it opened. The Senior PGA Tour (now PGA Tour Champions) had its stars on the layout barely two years after its opening, and the Ameritech Senior Open made a home there from 1991-95.

Champions during that run were Mike Hill, Dale Douglas, George Archer, John Paul Cain and – saving the best for last – Hale Irwin, who would also win a Western Open and a U.S. Open at Chicago courses.

Those tournaments didn’t even produce the most notable day of golf during those five years.  That one came in a pro-am, when Arnold Palmer and Michael Jordan were paired together and fans turned out in droves to follow those legends around the course.

Stonebridge wasn’t idle for long after the senior stars moved on.  The LPGA brought its Kellogg-Keebler Classic to Stonebridge in 2002, and the first winner was another legend, Annika Sorenstam.  She won the next year as well and Australian Karrie Webb, who had captured the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open at Merit Club in Libertyville, won the third and last visit from the best women players.

That stretch of tournament golf was virtually unheard of for a course as young as Stonebridge was then. After that blitz of tournaments – and with the homesites around the course pretty much all sold – the club was bought by the members from a developer.  Holding tournaments was no longer a priority.

That mindset changed in 2018 when the club’s 30th anniversary was approaching. An upgrade of the course was in order, and – rather than bring back the Fazio team – the greens committee interviewed four local architects before hiring Mike Benkusky, of Lake in the Hills. He was to get the course ready for the 2020 Illinois Open, when Stonebridge was scheduled to co-host with Naperville neighbor White Eagle.

Stonebridge happened to have a former Illinois Open champion as its greens chairman.  Joe Emerich was a Palatine amateur when he won the 2008 Illinois Open at Hawthorn Woods. He turned pro shortly after that, and three years later he was a regular on the Canadian PGA Tour.

“I learned how good I wasn’t,’’ said Emerich, who became a Stonebridge member in 2018 and has been heavily involved in course projects while transitioning to a job in the commercial insurance brokerage business.

“The course is certainly different,’’ he said.  “The renovation added 400 yards. We were very excited to co-host with White Eagle in hopes that we’d be the main site eventually.’’

Pandemic concerns changed everything.  The Illinois PGA opted to reduce the number of players and  drop its two-course format for the tournament finals.  White Eagle was the sole host in 2020 but Stonebridge was selected for that prestigious role this year.  This week marked the first time the club had hosted a big event in 17 years.

The pre-renovation yardage was fine for senior and women’s tournaments, but not for the young PGA Tour wannabes.  Now it measures 7,168 yards from the championship tees and was tested in qualifiers for the Illinois State Mid-Amateur and U.S. Amateur before landing the Illinois Open.

Benkusky also emerged in a changing world.  His work had been almost entirely on Midwest courses, but this year he landed a job in Florida for the “re-imagining’’ of a Dick Wilson design at Palm-Aire Country Club in Sarasota. Rarely do Illinois-based designers venture so far south, but Benkusky’s knowledge of the work of Wilson and Joe Lee, who designed the other 18-holer at Palm-Aire, helped land him the job.  Wilson and Lee had co-designed the famed Dubsdread course at Cog Hill in Palos Park.

Now, with another Illinois Open wrapping up, the future of Stonebridge as a tournament site is up for grabs. Available roads and parking areas nearby might make it attractive for bigger events again.

“Championship golf is something Chicagoland yearns for,’’ said Emerich. “Stonebridge came out of nowhere to host its first big events.  If we could do that once, we’re capable of doing it again.’’

 

 

 

 

 

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.