Munoz makes another big splash in regaining John Deere Classic lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Munoz had no complaints about losing the lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Illinois Women’s Open returns minus Western Junior champ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Here’s three surprising qualifiers for the U.S. Open

Nobody is going to pick Andy Pope, Dylan Frittelli or Dylan Meyer to win the 121st U.S. Open when it tees off Thursday at Torrey Pines in California. Still, all three have tee times and high hopes.

All were survivors of what has been dubbed “Golf’s Longest Day,’’ when nine 36-hole qualifiers played across the country determine the last of the 156 qualifiers for the Open proper.

For Pope, from Glen Ellyn, being ready for the U.S. Open is nothing new. The 37-year old Korn Ferry Tour veteran didn’t have much momentum going into last week’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier, having missed three straight cuts and tying for 66th place in the two Korn Ferry tourneys leading into his elimination in New York.

So what happened? Pope shot 67-70 and finished third in a qualifier that had four spots at Torrey Pines available. Pope has had only limited success on the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit, but he’s been consistent at U.S. Open time.

With entries world-wide annually in the 10,000 range Pope has made it into the 156 starters in five of the last six U.S. Opens that included qualifying (the field for the pandemic-impacted 2020 tourney was all invitees).  And Pope made the cut in two of the four Opens he played in.

And then there’s Frittelli, the South African-born reigning champion of the John Deere Classic. His chances for playing in the U.S. Open weren’t promising before his sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.  With his title defense in the JDC coming up next month Frittelli had missed the cut in four straight PGA Tour stops before his qualifier.

So what happened? Playing in a field that featured a big contingent of PGA Tour players who had not met U.S. Open qualifications, Frittelli got hot in his afternoon round, shooting a 65.  That put him at 8-under-par 136 for his 36 holes and in a tie for sixth place.  Sixteen spots at Torrey Pines were available in Columbus.

“It was a long day, and my first time in Columbus,’’ Frittelli said in a media session last week designed to preview the 50th anniversary celebration of the July 8-11 John Deere Classic in Silvis, IL. “I made two eagles in the afternoon round and was in the last group to finish before sunset. It was a pretty magical day.’’

Unlike most every player in this week’s field, Frittelli has a victory on the Torrey Pines course. He won the 2007 World Junior title there – and by a five-stroke margin, no less.

“I went there to get the attention of college coaches,’’ said Frittelli, who went on to play on an NCAA championship team at Texas.  “That golf course has changed a little since then.’’

The other Dylan – ex-lllinois star Dylan Meyer – was also an unlikely qualifier in that he has no pro tour membership this year and has had trouble getting into tournaments.  He qualified in a sectional in Springfield, Ohio.

Unlike Pope and Frittelli, Meyer has already proven himself in the U.S. Open.  He made his professional debut in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, in New York, and tied for 20th.

JDC EXEMPTIONS: Michael Feagles of Illinois and David Perkins of Illinois State headed six collegiate players awarded sponsor exemptions into next month’s John Deere Classic.  Others were Tripp Kinney, of Iowa State; Alex Schaake,  Iowa; Luke Kluger, Kansas; and Willie Mack, Bethune-Cookman.

Meanwhile, Illinois alums Nick Hardy and Brian Campbell had top-10 finishes in the BMW Charity Championship  on the Korn Ferry Tour, and Illini coach Mike Small, making a rare appearance on PGA Tour Champions, tied for 37th in the American Family Insurance Championship in Wisconsin.

BITS AND PIECES:  Team USA took a 33-17 victory over the International team in last weekend’s Arnold Palmer Cup matches at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove….Mark Hensby, a past champion in the Illinois State Amateur, Illinois Open and John Deere Classic, trying to make his first cut on the PGA Tour in five years at the Palmetto Championship, withdrew after getting 10 penalty strokes for playing the wrong ball in the first round…..The 59th Radix Cup matches between the top players in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Association is on tap for Thursday at Oak Park Country Club…The 88th Illinois Women’s State Amateur completes its three-day run on Thursday at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein.

 

 

Arnold Palmer Cup has a new look for its return to Rich Harvest

Jerry Rich, owner of Rich Harvest Farms, has never been reluctant to bring big amateur golf events to his private club in Sugar Grove, and this week is one of the biggest.

The 25th anniversary of the Arnold Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition that will be staged from Friday through Sunday. It’ll mark the second time Rich Harvest has hosted the event, the first being in 2015 when the United States team of collegiate stars defeated an International squad, 18-12.

This week’s matches will be much different than six years ago, however.  The first was all-men. This one will have men and women playing side by side as partners, the result of a format change made four years ago.  The last staging at Rich Harvest welcomed spectators.  This one is closed to the public due to pandemic concerns.

Competitors in previous Arnold Palmer Cups have included nine winners of major championships, and over 100 have gone on to careers on the PGA or LPGA tours. Regardless of the format used, the competition has been tightly contested with the U.S. leading the series 12-11-1.

This year’s  competition includes two players with Illinois connections. Northwestern sophomore Irene Kim, the Big Ten women’s golfer of the year, is on the U.S. team and Adrien Dumont de Chassart, from Belgium, was a stalwart on the Illinois team that reached the match play portion of last week’s NCAA Championship. He’ll play for the International squad.

U.S. OPEN-BOUND: Monday was the annual “The Longest Day in Golf,’’ with nine 36-hole sectional qualifiers for the June 17-20 U.S. Open at California’s Torrey Pines. Twenty-two players with Illinois connections were among the 837 nation-wide who either survived local qualifiers or were exempt for the sectionals, and only three earned spots at Torrey Pines.

Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, a journeyman on the Korn Ferry Tour, continued his extraordinary success in Open qualifiers.  He shot 67, the low score in the morning round at the sectional in Purchase, N.Y., then followed up with a 70 in the afternoon to finish third.  His sectional offered four spots at Torrey Pines, so Pope becomes a U.S. Open finalist for the fifth time in the last six years of qualifying.

There were no qualifiers last year due to pandemic concerns.  The U.S. Golf Association filled out the field by issuing invitations to players its committee deemed deserving, and Pope wasn’t among them.

Another Korn Ferry Tour member, Northwestern alum Dylan Wu, advanced through a sectional in Rockville, Md.,l shooting 66-71 to finish second. Dylan Meyer, a former star for Illinois who hasn’t earned membership on any tour for this season, was among seven qualifiers in a sectional at Springfield, Ohio. He tied for fifth there while former Illini teammate Nick Hardy came up one shot short of advancing to a playoff that determined the final survivors.

Bryce Emory, the reigning Illinois Open champion from Aurora, was a similar near-miss in the Columbus, Ohio, elimination. Due to a costly bogey on the 17th hole of his afternoon round he finished one shot out of a five-man playoff to decide the final four qualifiers for Torrey Pines. That sectional, which included most of the PGA Tour players who were not otherwise qualified for the Open, offered 16 spots at Torrey Pines.

Tyler Isenhart, a redshirt freshman at Baylor University who attended high school at Geneva, appeared on the brink of advancing after leading the morning round at Springfield with a 66.  He faded to a 79 in the afternoon to drop out of contention.

HERE AND THERE: The Baths of Blackwolf Run, the new 10-hole par-3 course that includes a two-acre putting green, opened this week in Kohler, Wis…..The Chicago District Senior Amateur concludes its four-day run on Thursday at Merit Club, in Libertyville….A new season of Dave Lockhart’s Golf360 TV show started this week on NBC Sports Chicago.  The CDGA has taken over as presenting sponsor and ex-Bears’ center Patrick Mannelly returns as host….Bolingbrook Golf Club will host one of eight 72-hole tournaments on the new Forme Tour.  The professional circuit has players from 21 countries and provides a path to the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour.  The Bolingbrook stop is July 20-23.

 

 

One good showing could pay big dividends for Patrick Flavin

The PGA Tour’s developmental circuit has gone by various names – Ben Hogan, Nationwide, Nike, Web.com — over its 32-year history, but the just-concluded Evans Scholars Invitational on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour was an event like no other.

Chicago has hosted various events over the years, but local players never made the impact that they did last week at The Glen Club, in Glenview.

Patrick Flavin and Nick Hardy tied for fifth.  David Lipsky and Vince India tied for 12th.  Luke Guthrie tied for 18th after enduring a string of 23 missed cuts.  Brad Hopfinger, Brian Campbell and Andy Pope also made the cut and went away with paychecks.

Flavin, from Highwood, was the happiest because the strong showing meant he could keep playing on the circuit, at least for one more week.  He’s not a Korn Ferry member and hopes the points he made will enable him to play beyond the REX Hospital Championship, which tees off on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. He earned a spot in Raleigh because he was in the top 25 at The Glen.

“It felt incredible to get a sponsor’s exemption and then capitalize,’’ said Flavin. “It definitely got my juices flowing.  I was bogey-free on the weekend, and I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I’m hoping to make enough points to play the rest of the year.’’

Flavin has gotten into only six Korn Ferry events and, prior to the ESI, had made the cut in only one. The Glen, though, had been good to him in the past.  He won the 2017 Illinois Open there to complete a sweep of that year’s Open and Illinois  State Amateur titles.  Only David Ogrin, 37 years earlier, won those two titles in the same year.

Hardy, from Northbrook, wasn’t as ecstatic as Flavin.  He hovered near the top of the leaderboard for three rounds and played in the last group with eventual champion Cameron Young on Sunday. In the end two double bogeys on the par-3 ninth hole led to Hardy’s undoing, but he still notched his third top-five finish and fourth top-10 in his last six starts.

“I learned a lot about handling my emotions,’’ said Hardy.  “I’m getting closer to winning out here.  I know it’s going to come.’’

Hardy maintained his No. 14 spot in the Korn Ferry standings. The top 25 get PGA Tour cards at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season in August.  With nine tournaments remaining that comfortable spot in the standings has led to Hardy skipping the Raleigh stop and return to action on June 7 in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio.

ILLINI FEAGLES IS FOURTH: Illinois’ Michael Feagles, a fifth-year senior, finished fourth in the individual portion of the NCAA men’s Division I tournament played in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz.  Clemson’s Turk Pettit was the individual champion but that paled in comparison to what’s on the line Wednesday.

The top eight teams following the wrapup of the individual competition on Monday advanced to the match play portion.  Illinois was fifth, trailing Arizona, Oklahoma State. Pepperdine and Oklahoma. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches were played on Tuesday with the national champion to be determined on Wednesday (TODAY).

HERE AND THERE: Doug Ghim tied for 14th and Kevin Streelman tied for 20th in the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on Sunday. Both are in the field for this week’s Memorial tournament in Ohio and Streelman has learned that he can bypass next week’s U.S. Open sectional qualifying because his status on the Official World Golf Rankings (No. 57) gives him an automatic berth among the 156 starters in the Open finals at Torrey Pines, in California, later this month….Brian Tulk has departed Royal Fox, in St. Charles, and is now general manager at Klein Creek, in Winfield….Foxford Hills, in Cary, will hold a two-person scramble event on Saturday.

Meet the next induction class into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame

The next induction class into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame will be much different than the last one, which was enshrined in 2019.  The next class celebrates the playing accomplishments of both the male and female stars.

On the women’s  side there was Bessie Anthony, who was one of the nation’s top stars in the early years of American golf.  On the men’s there’s Gary Pinns – the only player to win the Illinois Open five times. While Illinois has had some great players since the sport was first played here in 1892, few have rivaled the playing success of Anthony and Pinns.

Also being enshrined at The Glen Club in October will be renowned swing guru Dr. Jim Suttie; Mason Phelps, a two-time Western Amateur champion; Herbert James Tweedie, who designed the first nine holes of the original Chicago Golf Club; and Phil Kosin, creator of both Chicagoland Golf magazine and the Illinois Women’s Open.

The IWO celebrates its 26th staging in July at Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville, but it may never have a player the caliber of Anthony. Playing out of the long gone Westward Ho club, she was the first Chicago area woman to make her mark on the world stage.

An Evanston resident and the daughter of a Chicago lawyer, Anthony Helped found the Women’s Western Golf Association and then won its first three tournaments from 1901-03.  In 1903 she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chicago Golf Club, beating another Chicago player – Anna Carpenter – by a whopping 7 and 6 margin in the title match.

That was basically it for Anthony’s golf career.  She had announced her engagement before winning the national title and opted not to made a title defense after getting married. There’s no telling how many more titles she might have won had she remained competitive.

Pinns remained competitive for a long time. He strung his five Illinois Open titles over three decades, winning the first as an amateur in 1978, then winning the next three in the 1980s.  The last one – in 1990 – was especially memorable as it came at Village Links of Glen Ellyn, his home course and the club where his brother Doug was a teaching pro.

Among Pinns’ other victories were the 1974 Illinois high school title and the 1977 Illinois State Amateur crown.

After a solid amateur career Pinns took a crack at the PGA Tour before returning to Chicago where he established himself as one of the area’s top teaching pros. He was the 2014 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year and was director of instruction at Oak Brook Golf Club for 27 years.

This year’s 27 nominees were whittled to the final 10 in the first selection meeting of a state-wide panel representing all of Illinois’ major golf organization.  The six survivors were chosen after the second selection session on Tuesday night.

“The committee worked very hard to select this group from an outstanding roster of candidates,’’ said selection committee chairman Tim Cronin.  “They range from the early days of the game in the state to today.  Each has been recognized as a leader in their aspect of golf.’’

The inductees will be enshrined on Oct. 1 at The Glen Club, in Glenview, which houses the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.