Len Ziehm On Golf

Frittelli looks like a Spieth replica in winning his first JDC

Dylan Frittelli has won twice in Europe. Now he has his first win on the PGA Tour.

SILVIS, IL. – Jordan Spieth was one of the most popular champions in the history of the John Deere Classic. Spieth won ii in 2013 when he was just 19 and took the title again two years later.

Spieth has never been back, but one of his teammates on the University of Texas’ national championship team in 2012 made it to the event this year and did just fine. Dylan Frittelli used a final-round 64 to claim a two-stroke victory at TPC Deere Run.

Frittelli, 29, is a lot different player than Spieth. Spieth grew up in Texas, Frittelli in South Africa. Now Spieth lives in Dallas, Frittelli in Austin. They have lunch together frequently and play some practice rounds together as well, but Frittelli didn’t seek any advice from Spieth – winner of three major championships — as he prepared for his first visit to the JDC

They do share a great memory, though. Frittelli rolled in the winning putt for Texas in the NCAA Championships his senior season. Spieth was a freshman on that team and turned professional rather than return to Texas. He made the John Deere Classic his first professional victory the next year, and Sunday’s win was Frittelli’s first on the circuit. Frittelli said they’re “still good buddies.’’

“Jordan came in as the most highly recruited player. He had a chip on his shoulder,’’ said Frittelli. “We pushed each other. I beat him in more tournaments than he beat me at the college level.’’

As touring pros that hasn’t been the case. Frittelli has divided time between the European and PGA Tours and was worried that he could retain his membership in both. Sunday’s win quelled that fear. On Sunday night he was off on the tournament-sponsored jet to next week’s British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

Frittelli will be making his third straight appearance in The Open and he’s played in seven major championships.

But he’s no Spieth – yet.

“Jordan is the antithesis of me,’’ said Frittelli. “He has a burning desire to win at everything. I’d beat him four straight games in Ping Pong and he’d insist we play another one. I’m more methodical and thoughtful than him.’’

The connection with Spieth notwithstanding, Frittelli is different than most every player on the PGA Tour – not just Spieth. Frittelli is not afraid to wear long sleeves in steamy conditions, like he did in Sunday’s 90-degree plus conditions. He disdains contact lenses, and wears prescription glasses instead. He also prefers to leave the flagstick in on most every putt.

Until Sunday Frittelli’s unique status wasn’t so noticeable. His previous best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for 18th at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic in March.

The John Deere Classic was its usual wide-open affair on Sunday with 11 players within three shots of 54-hole co-leaders Andrew Landry and Cameron Tringale. Frittelli was two shots back in a tie for fifth.

Russell Henley made the only serious move among the players who teed off early – and his was an eye-catcher. Henley posted a sizzling 9-under-par 61 – the best round of the week – as Frittelli was walking to the No. 10 tee. Henley and Frittelli were tied for the lead at that time, and Frittelli took the lead – for good, as it turned out – with a birdie at No. 11.

His work wasn’t done, though. He drove the green on the 361-yard par-4 fourteenth but missed both his eagle and birdie putts. He missed a makeable birdie putt at No. 15, too, and the one-stroke lead was maintained through the par-3 sixteenth when Frittelli two-putted from 40 feet for another par.

Frittelli expanded his lead by two shots when he got up and down from a green-side bunker at No. 17, holing his birdie putt from 11 feet. He didn’t look at a leaderboard until he was lining up that putt.

No. 18 was a routine par – a drive in the fairway, an approach to the front of the green and two putts for the par. He finished at 21-under-par 263, two ahead of Henley and three in front of Landry.

Luke Donald, the lone player with Chicago connections in the field, faded on the weekend with rounds of 70-71. He fell 17 spots on Sunday and finished in a tie for 56th.

Dylan Meyer gets into this JDC thanks to a hot round in qualifier

Dylan Meyer, the former University of Illinois star, has been basically mediocre since turning professional at the 2018 U.S. Open. He took a big step forward on Monday, however, when he shot a 7-under-par 65 to survive the qualifying round for the John Deere Classic, this week’s PGA Tour stop at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis, IL

Meyer made a big splash in his first pro event, tying for 20th in the 2018 U.S. Open. He also finished seventh and earned $119,114 in the Sanderson Farms tournament in Mississippi at the end of the 2018 PGA Tour season.

His first full season as a touring pro hasn’t been encouraging, however. He missed the 36-hole cut at the Valspar Championship in Florida in March and made only one cut in 14 starts on the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour – the PGA’s alternate circuit.

Monday was different, however. Meyer finished fourth in the JDC qualifier at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan and will tee it up with the PGA Tour regulars when the tourney begins its 72-hole run on Thursday. The top four in Monday’s second stage of JDC qualifying advanced to the main event.

The Western Amateur champion in 2016, Meyer played in the JDC last two years on sponsor exemptions. Last year he played all four rounds, finishing in a tie for 43rd place.

Stricker opts for Champions’ major

JDC tournament director Clair Peterson came up 0-for-2 on popular players becoming last-minute entries into his field. Three-time winner Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth, who won the tournament twice, both told Peterson they were “50-50’’ on coming to TPC Deere Run last week but neither entered.

Stricker, coming off a six-stroke victory in the U.S. Senior Open in South Bend, opted to stay on the 50-and-over circuit. He’ll play in one of that tour’s major events — the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship this week in Akron, Ohio.

“The John Deere Classic will always, always have a special place in my heart,’’ Stricker said via Twitter. “It was a tough decision.’’

Milestone IWO starts with format change

The Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open will celebrate its 25th anniversary next week, and it’ll also undergo a change in format. Instead of being contested over three days the 54-hole competition will be played over just two at Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville.

In the past the tourney’s pro-am had been on a Sunday. This time it’s on Monday. The tournament calls for 36 holes on Tuesday with an 18-hole climax on Wednesday, July 17, for those who survive the 36-hole cut.

The IWO will highlight a big week for the top women players. The 119th Women’s Western Amateur will also be played next week at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove. The Western Golf Association will take over management of the tourney for the first time, and there’ll be a 120-player field of the nation’s top amateurs.

There’ll be stroke play rounds for the entire field on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16, to determine 32 qualifiers for the three-day match play portion of the tournament. Sarah Arnold of St. Charles, who won the Illinois Women’s State Amateur last month, and Megan Furtney, an 18-year old who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, head the local players in the field at Royal Melbourne.

Past champions include Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn

Big week for Szokol

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol enjoyed her best week yet in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour. Shooting a 65 on Sunday she tied for 26th place in the Thornberry Creek Classic in Oneida, Wis., and earned $17,341.

The LPGA competes in the Marathon Classic in Ohio this week and its developmental Symetra Tour has the Donald Ross Classic in French Lick, Ind. Both tee off on Thursday.

State Amateur returns to Cantigny

Cantigny, in Wheaton, has hosted the Illinois State Amateur four times in the last 22 years and will be the site for the tourney’s 89th staging next week. The format calls for 18 holes on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 17, and a 36-hole finale for those surviving the cut on Thursday, July 18.

The State Am figures to be a wide-open affair with recent stars Tee-K Kelly, Nick Hardy and Patrick Flavin now in the professional ranks and Spring Grove’s Jordan Hahn, the winner in 2018 at Bloomington Country Club, not among the entries.

Hahn, a tower of strength at 6-foot-8, shot a tournament record 61 while finishing second to Flavin at Calumet Country Club, in Homewood, in 2017 before getting the victory a year later. He completed a solid collegiate career at Wisconsin in June.

Defending JDC champion hopes to end streak of missed cuts

The PGA Tour returns to Illinois next week and will stage two tournaments in the state in a six-week span.

The 49th John Deere Classic is up first. Pre-tournament festivities begin Monday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, on the outskirts of Moline. Then the final BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event, comes to Medinah Country Club from Aug. 15-18.

It’ll be Medinah’s first PGA event since the 2012 Ryder Cup and it’ll also be the end of BMW’s run as the tournament sponsor. The Western Golf Association expects to have a new sponsor in place when the tournament moves to Olympia Fields in 2020.

As for the John Deere Classic, it’ll put the spotlight on a most unusual defending champion. Michael Kim, born in South Korea and raised in California, didn’t just notch his first win on the PGA Tour at last year’s JDC. He did it in extraordinary fashion.

Calling it “obviously the best golf I’ve ever played for a week,’’ Kim strung rounds of 63, 64, 64 and 66 at TPC Deere Run and his 27-under-par performance for the 72 holes smashed the tournament scoring record set by three-time winner Steve Stricker. Kim won that week by eight strokes over Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who would win the British Open the following week.

Kim’s big win came just a month after he named James Tillery his swing coach. The win assured Kim a two-year exemption into PGA Tour events and put him in a comfort zone that may not have been a good thing.

In the 2019 portion of the tour’s split season Kim has made just one 36-hole cut, and his tie for 32nd in January’s Tournament of Champions. He goes into this week’s 3M Classic in Minnesota with 17 straight missed cuts. Last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the new Detroit stop on the circuit, Kim shot 75-76 and didn’t come close to reaching the weekend rounds.

So what is going on?

“The win allowed me to make (swing) changes that we thought were needed,’’ he said. “There are definitely some growing pains. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped or wished. Obviously I’d like to play better, but I’m excited to see where my game will be.’’

Kim sounded optimistic during a pre-tournaments promotional event at TPC Deere Run in May, but the missed cut streak continued. Still, JDC tournament director Clair Peterson didn’t see signs of discouragement when he visited with Kim during the Memorial tournament in Ohio two weeks later.

“His spirits weren’t down at all,’’ said Peterson. “His psyche was totally upbeat. He felt there were things he needed to work on, and that freed him up to work hard. Whether or not that’s the case we’ll find out.’’

Peterson is still hoping for late entries from Stricker, who won the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday, and Jordan Spieth. Both have told him they’re “50-50’’ on coming to TPC Deere Run.

“Still, we have 59 players who have won PGA Tour events, 29 coming in the last two years,’’ said Peterson. “Five have won major championship, one (Bill Haas) won the FedEx Cup and another (Luke Donald) is a former world No. 1.’’

Super summer for Arnold

Sarah Arnold is making the most of her final months before starting college at Western Kentucky. A recent graduate of St. Charles North High School, Arnold made the Illinois State Women’s Amateur her latest success story at Illini Country Club in Springfield.

Prior to that victory Arnold reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Western Junior (after finishing second in stroke play qualifying) and qualified for the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur. She also has three wins and a runner-up finish on the Mid-American Junior Golf Tour this season.

Here and there

The Women’s Western Golf Association will honor former LPGA star and U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel with its Woman of Distinction award at the group’s annual meeting on Oct. 3 at Glen View Club in Golf.

Jordan Less, of Elmhurst, outlasted defending champion David Perkins, of East Peoria, to win the 100th Chicago District Amateur at Glen View. Less, a senior at Northern Illinois, took the title in 37 holes. Perkins, a senior-to-be at Illinois State, was bidding to be the tourney’s first repeat winner since Joe Affrunti in 2000-01. Perkins notched 10 birdies in the match’s final 22 holes, including four straight from holes 22-2,3 but it wasn’t enough.

Reagan Davis, director of golf at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena since 2013, is leaving that post to return to his native Texas.

Nicklaus (Gary, not Jack) spices up the field in U.S. Senior Open

The U.S. Golf Association doesn’t bring nearly as many of its championships to the Chicago area as it once did. That’s why this week’s U.S. Senior Open is worth savoring. It’ll begin its four-day run on Thursday at Notre Dame’s Warren course in South Bend.

Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago regular on PGA Tour Champions, is paired with Vijay Singh and Shaun Micheel in an 8:58 tee time in Thursday’s round. In the group ahead will be Scott McCarron, who has dominated PGA Tour Championship this season, and the threesome behind includes David Toms, the defending champion.

There’s another Chicago player in the field. Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow got in the field by winning his sectional qualifier and will begin play at 1:10 p.m.

This Senior Open has a special twist, however. Gary Nicklaus, the 50-year old son of the legendary Jack Nicklaus, was also a sectional qualifier. He did it in dramatic fashion at the Bear’s Club, his home course in Jupiter, FL. Gary Nicklaus birdied the final two holes of regulation play to get into a three-man playoff for one spot in the finals with Lance Ten Broeck, the former PGA Tour player and caddie who grew up in Chicago, and Don Bell.

Nicklaus survived on the third extra hole with his son as his caddie and his parents and friends in the gallery. Gary played several unsuccessful seasons on the PGA Tour before regaining his amateur status. Then he opted to go pro again and has been getting into PGA Tour Champions events occasionally.

Playing in the U.S. Senior Open has a more special special meaning, however. His father, who won a record 18 major titles, won the Senior Open in 1991 and 1993 but didn’t play in as many USGA national finals as Gary will once he tees off in South Bend.

“I always enjoyed USGA championships and I’ve had the opportunity to play in the U.S. Junior, U.S. Amateur, the Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Open,’’ said Nicklaus. “Getting in the Senior Open in the first year of being eligible has me super excited. I’ve been thinking about this tournament all year.’’

Jack Nicklaus played in only four of the USGA championships. The Mid-Amateur never fit the schedule.

“I know I’m not breaking any records, but it’s nice thought to do something my Dad didn’t do,’’ said Gary.

Like Jack, Gary played collegiately at Ohio State and was in a position to win on the PGA Tour when he lost the Atlanta Classic title in a playoff. He dropped off the circuit to enter his family’s other business ventures shortly thereafter.

“Hopefully I can carry the momentum (from the sectional qualifier) over to the championship at Notre Dame,’’ he said. “I never thought a Buckeye from Ohio State would be this happy about going to Notre Dame.’’

First pro win for Hardy

After a solid collegiate career at Illinois Northbrook’s Nick Hardy has no status on either the newly-named Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour or PGA Tour. While he’s had to go through Monday qualifiers or seek sponsor exemptions to play on those circuits he did post a rousing win on the APT (All Pro Tour) in the $110,000 Supreme Lending Classic in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Hardy put together rounds of 66, 62, 68 and 69 for a 23-under-par 265. It was good enough for a three-stroke victory and $20,000 payday.

Here and there

The 100th playing of the Chicago District Amateur concludes on Thursday at Glen View Club. Meanwhile, the CDGA Foundation has kicked off its 75-year anniversary festivities with an exhibition by newly-honored World Golf Hall of Famer Dennis Walters at Midwest Golf House in Lemont.

The Western Golf Association held its Junior tournaments concurrently last week with Piercen Hunt, a University of Illinois recruit from Hartland, Wis., winning the boys version by seven shots at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove and Gabriella Gilrowski of Westfield, Ind., taking the girls tournament in Carmel, Ind.

Schaumburg Golf Club’s three-stage renovation of its 27-hole facility has hit a snag. The second stage was to be completed on Saturday with the re-opening of the Baer nine. Only holes 10-16 will be ready for play, however. The time goal for opening the other two holes is Aug. 1. Meanwhile, work will begin on the first seven holes of the Tournament nine on July 1.

Former hockey stars Jeremy Roenick and Patrick Sharp will headline the Helping Hands Network’s celebrity tourney at Twin Orchard in Long Grove on July 18. Proceeds will go to Keshet of Northbrook, which offers programs for individuals with special needs.

Woodland is just the latest Wilson staff player to win a major title

The 119th U.S. Open ended on Sunday, but it won’t be forgotten – certainly not at Chicago’s biggest golf equipment company. Tim Clarke, who heads Wilson’s golf division, added Gary Woodland to the company’s player ambassador staff last winter and Woodland delivered big time.

Woodland won the title at Pebble Beach, and that should pay dividends to Wilson as well as Woodland.

“We couldn’t have a better story for our brand,’’ said Clarke. “It was unbelievable.’’

Kevin Streelman, who had been Wilson’s top gun on the PGA Tour though he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open, agreed via Twitter.

“I’m so happy for Gary and his entire family,’’ said Streelman. “I’m proud of the classiest company and the best-looking clubs in the business. I’m proud to be an ambassador and member of the team.’’

Back in golf’s good old days Wilson’s clubs were played by numerous champions. Woodland used Wilson’s irons and donned the company’s hat and glove en route to his dramatic victory.

“It was a pretty strong endorsement that our equipment works,’’ said Clarke. “ We still have had more major champions playing our clubs than any other company.’’

Woodland won the 62nd major title playing Wilson clubs. The first was Gene Sarazen in 1931.

“That was pretty much the starting point. It started the movement for companies to start stinging players,’’ said Clarke.

Others using Wilson clubs when they won a big one included Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper and Padraig Harrington.

It’s commonplace that major championship winners receive bonuses from their equipment companies, and Clarke said that’d be the case with Woodland – though he was coy about what that reward will be.

“It’s complicated,’’ said Clarke, “but everything has a price and obviously there’ll be a reward. I was 100 percent sure that he’d win a major when we signed him, and I even thought that it would be this year. We believe that elite athletes drive consumer awareness.’’

More Open aftermath

There were plenty of Chicago sidelights lost in the glory of Woodland’s victory. Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star, continued his comeback season despite a 77-73 finish in the weekend rounds. He tied for 58th place along with former University of Illinois golfer Charlie Danielson.

Danielson may have been the best sidebar at the tournament. He had been sidelined a year after major knee surgery but he survived sectional qualifying and had pairings with Phil Mickelson in the third round and Donald in the four. Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, who qualified for the finals for the fourth time in four years, also tied for 58th.

Away from Pebble Beach Northwestern alum Dylan Wu went to a playoff in the Web.com Tour’s Lincoln Land Championship in Springfield. He lost on the third extra hole to Xinjun Zhang but Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger finished in a solid tie for 15th and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, on a break from the PGA Latinoamerica circuit, tied for 49th.

On the women’s front LPGA rookie Elizabeth Szokol of Winnetka made her second straight cut in the Meijer Classic in Michigan. While the men’s majors are over in the U.S. thanks to the PGA Tour’s dramatic rescheduling in 2019 the women have one coming up this week. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, played at Olympia Fields and Kemper Lakes the last two years, is on tap for this week at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

WGA’s two-state doubleheader

The Western Golf Association will hold its two junior championships this week, but at courses in different states. The 102nd playing of the boys version will be at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The 93rd staging of the girls tournament is at Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Ind.

Formats and scheduling are a bit different, though. The boys started on Tuesday at Rich Harvest with the stroke play portion concluding today (WEDNESDAY). The low 44 and ties will compete over 36 holes on Thursday to determine the champion.

The girls completed two rounds of match play on Tuesday. Match play for the 16 survivors begins today. The semifinals and championship match are on Thursday.

Here and there

The Chicago District Amateur will be played for the 100th time beginning on Monday (JUNE 24) at Glen View Club in Golf. Four state-wide qualifying rounds determined the players in the four-day finals. They will compete over two days of stroke play to determine 16 match play qualifiers. The championship match is on June 27.

Weather problems led to the postponement of the 58th Radix Cup matches between the top professionals from the Illinois PGA and top amateurs from the Chicago District Golf Association. Both sides are trying to reschedule the event at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.

The 30th playing of the Thompson Cup matches is tomorrow (JUNE 20) on Olympia Fields’ South Course. The event matches eight-player teams of the top senior players from the IPGA and CDGA.

Troon Golf, which is opening a Chicago office, has taken over the management of Naperville Country Club.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flavin’s first pro win

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

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

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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

Tiger’s proposed Chicago course might be built in phases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A name-game at U.S. Women’s Open

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

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

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

Illini look ahead

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

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

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

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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

PGA’s date change also impacted Chicago area club professionals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Chicago Golf to Pine Needles

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

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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

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

College golf programs in Illinois couldn’t be much better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setback for Small

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

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

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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

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

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

Next on tap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Talk

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

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

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

Here and there

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

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

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