This week’s golf focus will be entirely on the Masters. No other pro tours are playing, and the Chicago influence at Augusta National will be minimal. Kevin Streelman, Doug Ghim and Luke Donald – the PGA Tour members with Chicago connections – didn’t qualify.
Sunday’s Drive, Chip & Putt national finals staged at Augusta National did have two Chicago qualifiers – Reese Wallace of South Barrington and Logan Keeter of Northbrook. Reese finished sixth and Logan eighth in the 10-11 age division.
There is one recent round to celebrate, though. On Sunday Northbrook’s Nick Hardy shot a sizzling 60 in the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s Emerald Coast Classic in Sandestin, FL. With nines of 30-30, Hardy was 10-under-par on the par-70 Raven Golf Club course.
Hardy, 25, is a rookie on the Korn Ferry circuit, which is a direct feeder to the PGA Tour. The top 25 on the circuit’s point list at the end of the season get PGA Tour privileges for the 2021-22 season and Hardy stands 19th at the moment.
Sunday’s round was by far the career best for the University of Illinois graduate. His previous low on the Korn Ferry circuit was a 63. The hot round enabled Hardy to climb 47 places on the leaderboard in the final 18 on Sunday, as he finished in a tie for 17th place.
On the all-important point list, though, he moved up only one spot – from No. 20 to No. 19 in the battle for next season’s PGA Tour cards.
Germany’s Stephan Jaeger, who won the Emerald Classic, finished eight shots ahead of Hardy. Jaeger, who was at 14 -under for the 72 holes, needed an extra hole to get the win. He got it when Northwestern alum David Lipsky made bogey on the first hole of a two-man playoff. That made Jaeger’s par good enough for the victory, his sixth on the Korn Ferry circuit. In 2017 he captured the Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe.
Hardy, though, got a big boost from his hot round. Since the season resumed in February he had struggled a bit, making the cut in two of three tournaments prior to the Emerald Coast Classic. He finished down the leaderboard in both and dropped two places on the point list.
Prior to the resumption of Korn Ferry play, however Hardy survived two of three Monday qualifiers for PGA Tour events and made his chances on the more lucrative premier circuit count. He won the final spot in a three-man playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and then tied for 14th in the main event, which meant a $113,850 payday. He also Monday qualified at Phoenix and tied for 42nd after a 68-67 start. The money earned in those events help his bank account, but not his Korn Ferry standing. He’ll have to keep playing well to keep his spot in the top 25.
Lipsky (No. 8) and Dylan Wu, another Northwestern alum who is No. 20, are also in good position to move up to the next level. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, at No. 30, is also close to advancing to the PGA Tour with 19 Korn Ferry events remaining. The next is the MGM Resorts Championship, which tees off in Las Vegas on April 15.
The Korn Ferry’s annual Chicago stop, the Evans Scholars Invitational, begins its four-day run at The Glen Club in Glenview on May 27.