Unexpected problems didn’t faze Biancalana at Senior PGA tourney

In this chaotic year for scheduling golf tournaments the Illinois PGA did the best of the three major local organizations.  The pandemic forced the cancelation of the Western Golf Association’s two national junior championships and the Chicago District Golf Association had to call off its two biggest events – the Illinois State Amateur and Chicago District Amateur.

The IPGA, though, was able to salvage its four major events even though its tournament schedule couldn’t begin until July.

Last of the section’s majors was last week’s IPGA Senior Players Championship at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove. Black Sheep’s Kevin Healy won it, then led eight other of his competitors to O’Hare for a flight to the Senior PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, FL. A 10th IPGA member, Illinois coach Mike Small, was already there after opting to bypass the Players event.

Then things got very interesting – especially for Roy Biancalana, a veteran teaching pro who divided his time between St. Andrews, in West Chicago, and Blackberry Oaks, in Bristol, this year.

The Illinois contingent had to test negative for the Covid virus before they were allowed at the PGA Golf Club, where its Wanamaker and Ryder courses were used for the 32nd playing of the senior national championship. Their flight arrived in Florida at midnight on Tuesday and their tests were at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.  Results weren’t available until 7 p.m., meaning none of the players at Twin Orchard could get in a practice round.

Small did, but he had his problems, too.  He started the first round in spectacular fashion, going eagle-birdie on the first two holes, but – after finishing the first 18 in a tie 27th of the 266 starters – he became ill and had to withdraw from the tournament.

The field was cut from the 266 starters to the low 90 and ties after the second round, and only Biancalana; IPGA Senior Player of the Year David Paeglow, of Kishwaukee in DeKalb and David Hannon, a teaching pro at Links & Tees in Addison, survived to play in the third round. Paeglow and Hannon didn’t advance to Sunday’s final 18, when the field was limited to the low 70 and ties after 54 holes.

Biancalana didn’t think he did either when he finished his third round, but winds picked up after he was done and he managed to squeak into the field for the last round.  By then, though, the week had taken an understandable toll on him.

When he arrived in Florida he learned that his laptop was missing – and that was just for starters. His rental car broke down the same day he picked it up and a tooth that had been bothering him for awhile was acting up as well.

“It took two days to get a new rental car,’’ said Biancalana, “and I was on the phone trying to get the computer six-eight times a day.  That was distracting.  By the time I started the first round I felt tired.’’

Plus, he was also out $1,800 for the computer that was never located.

Though he had played the tournament courses many times in past years, the lack of a practice round was a problem.  Biancalana, who won two Illinois Opens and made the cut in a PGA Championship, has been a tournament player for 45 years and this was the first time he went into competition without a practice round.

“I did feel a little uncomfortable. I didn’t feel I read the greens right,’’ said Biancalana.  “I’ve played these courses hundreds of times, but it was a problem getting used to the grass.’’

He eventually did. Biancalana finished in a tie for 49th place, finishing at 5-over-par 292 for the 72 holes.  He was 23 shots behind champion Omar Uresti, who set a tournament scoring record with an 18-under performance and won by six strokes. The top 35 qualified for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2021.

Biancalana, though, will be back to PGA Golf Club’s courses.  Thanks to a fifth-place finish in the IPGA Championship he’s qualified for the PGA Professional Championship there in April where he will be “playing against the kids.’’ Now 60, he plans to beef up through weight-training and diet changes in time for that competition



Healy wins, but Paeglow is IPGA Senior Player of the Year

Kishwaukee’s David Paeglow didn’t win the last Illinois PGA event of the season but still clinched Senior Player of the Year honors. (Photo by Rory Spears)


It’ll be the senior members of the Illinois PGA in the spotlight this week as the Chicago golf tournament season wraps up.

The IPGA Senior Players Championship concluded on Tuesday at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove, and the key players in it headed for Port St. Lucie, FL., for the Senior PGA Professional Championship, which begins its 72-hole run on Thursday.

Ten IPGA members are in the field for the 50-and-over national tourney at PGA Golf Club, and they included five of the top seven on the Errie Ball Player of the Year point race prior to the 36-hole competition at Twin Orchard. David Paeglow, head pro at Kishawakee in DeKalb had the local award all but locked up before play began at Twin Orchard with only second place Roy Biancalana, a teaching pro at Blackberry Oaks in Bristol, having a remote chance to catch him.

Paeglow protected his lead by finishing fifth  at Twin Orchard. Biancalana was third as Kevin Healy, of Black Sheep in Sugar Grove, won the title. Healy was the only player to finish under par in the 36-hole competition.  All three hurried to O’Hare afterwards to catching their flights for the national event in Florida.

Last year Biancalana tied for 22nd and Paeglow tied for 49th in the national tournament. Paeglow, 53, won the Illinois Senior Open this year, was second in the IPGA Senior Match Play and tied for second in the IPGA Senior Championship.  He also won two of the section’s senior stroke play events. The highlight of Biancalana’s season was a victory in the Illinois Super Seniors Championship.

While the IPGA doesn’t make its Player of the Year awards official until a banquet in mid-November, the winners are determined on point standings after the tournament season is over.

Ironically neither Paeglow, Healy nor Biancalana may be the section’s best bet in the national event in Florida.  Mike Small, though beaten out by Paeglow for senior honors, still was the IPGA over-all Player of the Year.  A 13-time winner of the IPGA Championship, he skipped the local finale at Twin Orchard to get ready for another run at a national title.

Small, the University of Illinois men’s coach, is a three-time winner of the PGA Professional National Championship.

Illinois club pros also qualified for the national event in Florida are Ivanhoe’s Jim Sobb, Bilmore’s Doug Bauman, Chicago Golf Club’s John Guyton and Beverly’s John Varner.  Also making the trip to Florida were David Hannon, from Links & Tees, and Kevin Rafferty, of Golf Galaxy in Vernon Hills.


Tim Sheppard, of East Peoria, and Tom Kearfoot, of El Paso, won the Chicago District Senior Amateur Four-Ball title for the third time in the event’s five-year history, beating Mike Karney, of Crystal Lake, and Mike Mcloone, of Arlington Heights, in the championship match. The event at Aurora Country Club was the fourth and final championship on a CDGA schedule that was heavily modified by pandemic issues.

Onwentsia, in Lake Forest, has agreed to host the Western Junior championship in 2021.  The club was to host this year but was canceled because of the pandemic.  Naperville Country Club, which was to host in 2021, will now be the site in 2022 and Midlothian will take it in 2023.

Toptracer — a popular attraction at the Mistwood Golf Dome, in Bolinbrook — is being added to the Mistwood Performance Center, in Romeoville, as well.  The Performance Center will also have winter hours this year.


PGA’s fall tournaments have been good to rookie Doug Ghim


The PGA Tour’s top stars generally sit out the fall tournaments after the FedEx Cup Playoffs are over. That’s been the case again this season, even though the Masters – rescheduled from April until Nov. 12-15 because of pandemic issues – is still to be played.

Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, is benefitting from the absence of golf’s big guns as the circuit’s season winds down.  He’s had two of his best tournaments in the last three weeks.

His best finish on the premier circuit was a tie for 14th in the Safeway Open in California the first week of the 2020-21 campaign.  It was played a week after the Fed Cup Playoffs concluded last month.  Last week he added a tie for 23rd in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

The money he earned from those two events was $159,720 and that gives him the No. 46 spot on the 2020-21 money list for the PGA Tour’s next wrap-around season that won’t conclude until the 2021 FedEx Cup Playoffs are over in August.

Ghim’s rookie season didn’t matched those of Cameron Champ, Matt Wolff and Collin Morikawa – all college rivals who have already won tournaments on the PGA Tour.  Ghim, 24, was the 2018 Ben Hogan Award winner at the best male collegiate golfer during his senior season at Texas.

“Watching them win tells me I also have the game,’’ said Ghim during his strong showing in the Sanderson tourney.  “We’ve played countless rounds together and I know I can compete with those guys. It is an added sense of relief that it’s possible, and that we have the game.  It’s just a matter of being more consistent week in and week out.’’

Ghim isn’t in the field for this week’s tournament in Las Vegas and may not get into an event until the Bermuda Open, which tees off on Oct. 29.

“Just this whole fall in general is a big opportunity, especially for us rookies, to get settled in and cement our place within our category,’’ said Ghim.  “Hopefully we get into a lot of events next spring. I’ve set a lot of goals for this season, then you try to get better every single day and hopefully those goals will become a reality.  Each week is its own battle.’’

LPGA: Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, the only Chicago player on the LPGA Tour, will be in the field for that circuit’s third major event of the year – the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. It tees off Thursday at Aronimink, in Philadelphia.

Szokol, 26, made 10 cuts in 20 starts last year in her rookie season on the circuit, earning $105,814 for No. 108 on the year’s money list.  She retained her playing privileges with a tie for 11th in the eight-round qualifying series and made her fourth cut in 10 starts in the 2020 campaign in last week’s Shop-Rite Classic in New Jersey.  Szokol is No. 86 on this season’s money list with $57,157.

CDGA: Libertyville resident Connie Kowal, a former executive with the Cubs and New Orleans Saints, is in the field for the last championship of the Chicago District Golf Association season this week, and those in his playing groups might find him a good luck charm.

Kowal witnessed two holes-in-one by playing partners in a four-day span recently.  Both were named Ray and both made their first aces.  Ray Burg of Mundelein did it at Arrowhead, in Wheaton, and Ray Bening, of Des Moines, had his ace at Western Illinois University’s Harry Mussatto course.  Kowal will partner with James Duszak, a former teammate on the WIU baseball team, in the CDGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship that runs through Thursday at Aurora Country Club.

IPGA: The Illinois PGA Players Championship concluded on Tuesday at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest.  Now the Senior version of that event takes the spotlight starting Monday at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove. The two-day event  features Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, the IPGA and IPGA Senior titlist this year; Kishwakee’s David Paeglow, who edged Small for the Illinois Senior Open crown last week; and Zigfield Golf Club’s Michael Troy, who won the Senior Match Play event.





Revised Players tourney will determine IPGA Player of the Year


In moves that are sure to bring more drama, the Illinois PGA will unveil a new format for its Players Championship next week at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest.

Only the top 35 players on the season-long Bernardi Player of the Year standings, plus the host professional, received invitations to the 36-hole event that runs next Monday and Tuesday.  (OCT  5 AND 6). While the final field has not been announced, the battle for the title as well as Player of the Year honors figures to center around the top five in the standings going into the competition.

Leader is Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, who won the IPGA Championship for the 13th time this year.  Second is  Medinah’s Travis Johnson who was the Player of the Year in 2018 and runner-up to Skokie’s Garrett Chaussard last year.

Mistwood’s Andy Mickelson, who defeated Small in the last of the IPGA majors — the Match Play Championship at Elgin Country Club – is third and Butler National’s Jeff Kellen is fourth.  Chaussard lost the title match to Elgin’s Jon Duppler in his bid for a Match Play three-peat but – being  in fifth place in the standings –he’s in position to retain Player of the Year honors with a good showing at Conway Farms.

Conway has been a frequent site for big competitions, most notably hosting the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship three times.  The IPGA Players had been held at either Eagle Ridge, in Galena, or Metamora Fields in recent years.

The section’s Senior division is having an even busier wrapup to its season.  Michael Troy, of Zigfield Golf Club in Woodridge, defeated David Paeglow, of Kishwaukee in DeKalb in the title match of the IPGA Senior Match Play Championship last week at Biltmore, in Barrington.

Making that title match unique was the fact that the sons of Troy and Paeglow are roommates at Illinois State and teammates on the Redbirds’ golf team.

The Match Play was the last regular season event on IPGA Seniors’ schedule, but hardly the end of the tournament run.

Virtually the same field of players battled for the Illinois Senior Open title at Royal Fox, in St. Charles. Paeglow edged Small by one stroke for that title on Tuesday. After the Errie Ball Senior Player of the Year standings are updated the top 32 on the point list will advance to the IPGA Senior Players Championship Oct. 12-13 at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove.

CDGA: The Chicago District Golf Association usually hosts the bulk of state and national qualifying tournaments each year.  Pandemic restrictions led to most of them being cancelled this year, but one was held last week with Michael Fastert, of Wheeling, and Dusty Drench, of Davenport, IA,  capturing the lone berth offered in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. That qualifier was held at Odyssey, in Tinley Park.

Meanwhile, the CDGA is preparing for its Members Appreciation Day on Oct. 8 at Glenview Park.  Entries close on Thursday (OCT 1).

COLLEGIATE:  The pandemic has virtually wiped out the fall season, but not at Northern Illinois.  Men’s coach John Carlson has scheduled the Heidi Wealth Management Series, which consists of five fall events at top local courses.

Next event is Oct. 3-4 at Michigan’s Kingsley Club and sites of the remaining events include Rich Harvest Farms, the Huskies’ home course in Sugar Grove; Crystal Tree, in Orland Park; White Eagle, in Naperville;  The Glen Club, in Glenview; Black Sheep, in Sugar Grove; and Chicago Highlands, in Westchester.

FIRST TEE:  The First Tee of Greater Chicago is on a fundraising mission, the main goal being to raise $1.5 million for its Waveland Capital Campaign. Its designed to renovate and operate the First Tee’s facility at Chicago’s Marovitz course. Over $230,00 was raised in a Corporate Challenge event at North Shore Country Club, in Glenview.

Luke Donald — the former Northwestern star, world No. 1 player and long time First Tee benefactor – has agreed to assist in the designing of an outdoor short game area.

“First Tee provides so many kids with the opportunities that I was so lucky to have growing up,’’ said Donald.  “This is an unbelievable site, and we have an opportunity to create something really amazing for the kids.’’

COMING SOON: Tour Edge, the Batavia club manufacturer, plans to launch its largest product launch in the company’s 34-year history. It’ll be done in stages beginning on Oct. 6.






Tournament golf — locally and nationally — is far from over this fall

At least there’s one nice thing that came out of this dreaded pandemic. Thanks to all the postponements from March through June,  it necessitated an extension of the tournament season for golfers. Now the schedule of big events will carry all the way in December.

In previous years the Chicago area campaign concluded with the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in late August, meaning golf was basically a recreational activity in these parts through the fall month and then winter set in. The other pro tours were winding down, too, with only a few smaller tournaments remaining at distant locations before their winter break.

That’s not the case now.

Locally,  Illinois PGA Match Play Championship – usually the first major competition for in-state players – was contested in May.  Last week, thanks to the pandemic, it was played at a new site — Elgin Country Club — with host club pro Jonathan Duppler beating  two-time defending champion Garrett Chaussard of Skokie Country Club in the title match.

There’s still more to come, too.

The Illinois PGA changed both the format and site of its fourth and final major event of the season, and that’ll create a much more captivating conclusion to the Chicago season.  The IPGA Player Championship will be limited to 35 players based on their rankings in the Bernardi player-of-the-year standings.  They’ll play a 36-hole tournament on Oct. 5-6 at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest with the coveted player-of-the-year honor on the line.

Conway has hosted more than its share of tpp level amateur tournaments over the years and was also the site of three BMW Championships.  Holding the season finale there can only help the event.

Meanwhile, Bryson DeChambeau’s win in the U.S. Open on Sunday at New York’s Winged Foot course was only the second major championship of 2020.  The Masters, postponed in April, is still to come, in November.

The women’s tour will play its biggest events even later than that.  The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, at Aronimink in Pennsylvania, is Oct. 8-11 and the U.S. Women’s Open, in Houston, is Dec. 10-13.






Last week’s U.S. Open coincided with the season-ending broadcast of the Golfers on Golf Radio show, which had a 22-week run on WCPT-820 AM. The weekly Ziehm & Spears Podcast Series, which has 27 shows this season, will continue through the bulk of the tournament play.

Next big event on the Illinois PGA calendar is the Illinois Senior Open, at Royal Fox in St. Charles on Sept. 28-29.

DeChambeau’s run-away win in the U.S. Open had an Illinois connection.  Before turning pro he won the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields and his first PGA Tour victory came at the 2017 John Deere Classic.

East Peoria’s Tim Sheppard was the champion in the Chicago District Golf Association’s final major event of 2020.  He won the 34th Illinois State Senior Amateur at Mt. Hawley in Peoria, beating Taylorville’s Dave Ryan by six shots. The CDGA season ends on Oct. 8 with the CDGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball at Aurora Country Club.

Chaussard goes after third straight IPGA Match Play title


It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The Illinois PGA Match Play Championship had long been played in May as the section’s first major championship of the season, and the site was traditionally Kemper Lakes in Long Grove.  This week, though, it’ll be the IPGA’s third major of the year and it won’t be at Kemper.

Pandemic concerns necessitated a change in scheduling as well as a switch to Elgin Country Club because Kemper wasn’t available. The format for the event was changed, too, with a Tuesday qualifying round determining the seeding for the 64 players who begin the matches today (WEDNESDAY).

One thing hasn’t changed, though.  Garrett Chaussard is back as the defending champion. The teaching pro at Skokie Country Club, in Glencoe, is going after his third straight title — a feat accomplished by only three other players.

Bob Harris, the former head man at Sunset Ridge in Northfield, won six straight times from 1958-63.  Two others strung three wins in a row. North Shore legend  Bill Ogden, who won the first staging of the tourney in 1952, was a five-time winner and took his last three from 1970-72. Curtis Malm, of White Eagle in Naperville, notched three straight from 2012-14.

If Chaussard, a former University of Illinois golfer, is to get his third straight he’ll have to adjust to a much different course. Measuring only 6,450 yards from the back tees, Elgin is much shorter than Kemper Lakes. Elgin, though, has a much more hilly terrain than Kemper, which was the site of the 1989 PGA Championship for men and  2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship among many big tournaments.

Chaussard, who tied for 25th in Tuesday’s qualifying round to determine the seedings for this week’s event, doesn’t think the change in venue is a big deal.

“Match play is more of a hit or miss thing. It doesn’t matter much where you play,’’ he said.  “At Kemper it’d come down to all that water on the last three holes. Elgin is a different type of challenge.  Hopefully I can keep the trophy at Skokie for another year.’’

He wasn’t a major factor in the first two IPGA majors of 2020, tying for 25th in the Illinois Open and tying for 14th at the IPGA Championship. He finished a strong tied for fourth, however, in the last of his four IPGA stroke play competitions, on Aug. 17 at Ivanhoe. Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, who won the IPGA Championship for the 13th time last month, shot a 66 and was the low man  in Tuesday’s qualifying session.

There’ll be two rounds of matches each day of this IPGA Match Play event.  The field will be cut from 64 to 32 on Wednesday morning and from 32 to 16 in the afternoon.  Thursday’s matches will whittle the field from 16 in  the morning to eight for the afternoon quarter-finals.  Friday’s wrapup has the semifinals beginning at 8 a.m. and the championship match at noon.


Streelman is ready for U.S. Open


Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman couldn’t survive the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields during last month’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, but he looked sharp in last week’s Safeway Open. That was both the opening event of the PGA Tour’s 2020-21 season and the last tuneup for the 120th U.S. Open, which tees off on Thursday at New York’s Winged Foot course.

Streelman tied for third in the Safeway Open, which suggests he could contend at Winged Foot. Streelman, who turned pro in 2001, will make his seventh U.S. Open appearance with his best showing a tie for 13th in 2016.

The Safeway Open, at Silverado in California, also produced a good showing for Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights. A non-qualifier for the U.S. Open, Ghim hovered near the top of the leaderboard for three rounds in the Safeway before a 71 on Sunday left him in a tie for 14th place. That was still worth a $100,650 payday for the 24-year old, his second best showing on the premier circuit.  He tied for 12tth in the Byron Nelson tournament in 2019.


Here and there


Cog Hill, in Palos Heights, was to host the National Long Drive Championship this year until pandemic issues led to the event’s postponement. This week Ultimate Long Drive named Cog as the site of national championships for both its Amateur Long Drive and Xtreme Long Drive World Championships.  They’ll be held between Sept. 11 and 19 in 2021.

Curtis Thompson, who had been caddying for his sister Lexi on the LPGA Tour, won the Korn Ferry Tour’s Evans Scholars Invitational on Sunday at Chicago Highlands in Westchester. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger tied for fourth and Northbrook’s Nick Hardy tied for 13th.

Greg Sands of Texas Tech and Kim Lewellen of Wake Forest were named the coaches for the U.S. team in  next year’s Arnold Palmer Cup matches at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.  J.C. Deacon of Canada and Sofia Aagard of Sweden will coach the International side.

The 34th Illinois State Senior Amateur concludes its three-day run Wedneseday (TODAY) at Mt. Hawley in Peoria.







Chicago’s Korn Ferry stop is latest tour event to include a pro-am


Slowly but surely the pro golf tours are getting back to normal.

PGA Tour Champions, the 50-and-over circuit, will be the first major one to welcome spectators at this week’s Sanford International in South Dakota. The PGA Tour itself, which has gone 14 straight weeks without fans since ending a three-month break over pandemic concerns, isn’t taking spectators yet  and they won’t be allowed at the year’s final two major championships – this month’s U.S. Open and November’s Masters – either.

The PGA, however, will hold its first pro-am since resuming tournament play at the Sept. 21-27 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, and this week’s Korn Ferry Tour stop at Chicago Highlands, in Westchester, is also an indication that progress is being made. The Korn Ferry provides its players a direct path to the premier circuit.

Chicago Highlands will be the site of a pro-am Wednesday, minus spectators, and some very limited VIP viewing opportunities will be available for the 72-hole Evans Scholars Invitational, which tees off on Thursday. Contact Connor Claxton at the Western Golf Association (claxton@wgaesf.org) for details.  No daily admission tickets will be available.

Last year’s ESI was held at The Glen Club, in Glenview, and the event was to return there in May until the pandemic halted play.  The ESI was given new dates but, with The Glen not available, the  $600,000 tournament was moved to Chicago Highlands.

Scottie Scheffler, who finished play in the PGA’s Tour Championship in Atlanta on Monday, won last year’s inaugural playing of the ESI at The Glen.  The new dates put the Korn Ferry’s two Illinois tournaments on consecutive weeks with Australian Brett Drewitt winning the Lincoln Land Championship, also a $600,000 event, at Panther Creek, in Springfield, on Sunday.

While the Korn Ferry has its largest-ever contingent of Illinois members, the Lincoln Land event didn’t  bring out the best in them.  Only Northbrook’s Nick Hardy (tie for 35th) and Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger (tie for 42nd) played all 72 holes at Panther Creek.

Hardy, in his rookie season on the tour, is No. 17 on the circuit’s all-important point list.  The top 25 after the current season ends in 2021 gain membership to the PGA Tour.  Hardy doesn’t have a win but he has five top-10 finishes and made the cut in 15 of 18 tournaments.  That steady play has him one spot ahead of Drewitt, last week’s winner, in the point race.

Two Northwestern alums – David Lipsky (7) and Dylan Wu (12) — are also inside the top 25 and Deerfield’s Vince India (32) and Hopfinger (36) aren’t far off.


CDGA renovates Sunshine Course

Renovation work has begun on the three-hole Sunshine Course at the Chicago District Golf Association’s Midwest Golf House complex in Lemont. The facility, which opened in 2004, offers programing for individuals with special needs, military veterans and youth.

Wadsworth Construction Co. is spearheading the project.  Turf and bunker varieties as well as a variable depth practice green will be added.  The course is scheduled to re-open in the summer of 2021.


Here and there

While final totals are not in, the Illinois PGA reports that Tuesday’s Birdies for Charity event at River Forest Country Club pushed the money raised in its 10-year history to over $2 million.

Roy Biancalana, of St. Charles, was a three-stroke winner over Glencoe amateur Ted Pecora and Chicago teaching pro Mike Harrigan in the Illinois  Super Senior Open at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein. The CDGA Super Senior event is Thursday at Glenview Park.

The PGA Tour announced its 2020-21 schedule with the John Deere Classic, the only stop in Illinois, retaining its July 5-11 spot on the calendar, a week before the British Open.  The BMW Championship, played at Medinah and Olympia Fields the last two years, goes on the road again with Caves Valley in Maryland the site for the FedEx Cup Playoff event.




Small back on top in time for another Illinois PGA title run

These have been quiet times for Mike Small, but that’s changing.  The University of Illinois men’s coach is back in the spotlight going into the Illinois PGA Championship, which tees off on Monday on Medinah Country Club’s No. 1 course.

Small, 54,  has won the tournament 12 times and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t do it again even though Medinah teaching instructor Travis Johns is the defending champion and will be competing for a repeat title on his home course.

Johns has been IPGA’s player-of-the-year four times in the last eight years.  Small won the last of his three player-of-the-year awards in 2008, as his coaching duties have limited his participation in section events. Small, however, leads the Bernardi point standings heading into next week’s 54-hole tournament.

Stymied as a coach by pandemic issues which have negatively impacted the collegiate season, Small has stayed at the top level in tournament play this month.  He was low club pro in the Illinois Open, finishing in a tie for ninth, then won the Illinois Senior Open for the fourth straight year last week. Next up is the section’s oldest tournament.  The Illinois PGA Championship dates back to 1922.

“I’m just grateful that we have places to play and tournaments to play in,’’ said Small.  “We haven’t been able to play much this year so any chance you get to play in an event, as a professional, you have to take advantage of it.’’

After the Illinois Open Small has an event bigger event. He’s one of nine IPGA qualifiers for the Senior PGA Professional Championship Oct.  15-18 at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.  Among the other local qualifiers for the national event were Ivanhoe’s Jim Sobb and Biltmore’s Doug Bauman.

As a coach Small has created a collegiate powerhouse, but when and where his Illini will compete again is uncertain as college administrators debate how to handle pandemic concerns relating to all sports.

“Who knows what the future holds,’’ said Small.  “It’s a horrible pandemic, but life’s got to go on. I’m a proactive person living in a reactive world right now.  We’ll play where they tell us to play. We’re just trying to figure out how to help the kids get better while waiting to hear from the NCAA.’’




Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman is in position to cash in big-time with the PGA Tour’s FedEx Playoffs teeing off on Thursday.  He goes into the three-event series at No. 22 so he was easily into this week’s 125-player  Northern Trust tourney in Boston and it would take a horrible collapse for Streelman to not advance to the Aug. 27-30 BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club.

The top 70 in the FedEx standings after the Northern Trust advance to Olympia Fields, and the top 30 after that event go to The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta Sept. 4-7. The Northern Trust and BMW Championship both have purses of $9.5 million.  Prize money for The Tour Championship hasn’t been announced.

Even though the U.S. Open and Masters have yet to be played the FedEx Playoffs officially end the PGA Tour’s 2019-20 season.




Mistwood, in Romeoville, has taken over management duties at 36-hole White Pines, owned by the Bensenville Park District, and Andrew Godfrey has moved over from Mistwood to be White Pine’s new head professional.  Godfrey is second to Small in the Bernardi point standings.

Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, is in the field at this week’s 100th playing of the Wisconsin State Open. Wilson, who has had trouble getting into tour events in recent years, won the Wisconsin State Open in 2001.

Pandemic issues have been far-reaching in the golf world, and Jerry Rich’s Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, has been a victim twice.  The Big Ten Championship had to be called off there in May and now – following the Mid-American Conference’s decision to forego fall sports – the Sept. 25-28 Rich Harvest Farms Intercollegiate, hosted by Northern Illinois University, has been canceled as well.  Next up at Rich Harvest is the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2021.





Illinois Open, PGA run back-to-back this week


Most golf tournaments didn’t allow spectators this year, but they turned out for the Illinois Open at White Eagle. (Rory Spears Photo)

The biggest tournament for Illinois residents, the 71st Illinois Open, concludes today at White Eagle in Naperville.   A day later the PGA Tour’s major championships for 2020, the PGA Championship, tees off at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Before August is over the PGA Tour will have completed its FedEx Cup Playoffs, which conclude the 2019-20 season, but this year’s U.S. Open and Masters still won’t have been played.  The Open was postponed until September and the Masters to November.

Locally, the Illinois PGA didn’t have a tournament until July due to pandemic concerns.  Now its second biggest of the section’s four major tournaments, the IPGA Championship, falls just three weeks after the Illinois Open.

Given all the postponements and cancelations caused by pandemic concerns, tournament pileups like this were inevitable. Big events for both pros and amateurs, local and national, will come fast and furious now and they’ll run all the way into December.  The Ladies PGA Tour has its two biggest events – the U.S. Women’s Open and Tour Championship – scheduled on back-to-back weeks that month.

Here’s some things to keep in mind from the standpoint of Illinois players while these tournaments seemingly run almost together:

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP:  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman has handled the scheduling pileups better than most of his tour colleagues.  With two runner-up finishes and four top 10s, Streelman could contend for his first major title in this week’s PGA Championship.  He’s also No. 19 in the FedEx standings, so he’s in good position to stay in the top 30 and make it all the way to the Tour Championship, which concludes on Sept. 7. The three playoff tournaments are huge money events, and Streelman looks ready to cash in big-time. One of them is the $9.5 million BMW Championship, at Olympia Fields Country Club August 27-30.

PGA TOUR: Doug Ghim, the Arlington Heights product in his rookie season on golf’s biggest stage, has been struggling.  He’s survived only five of 15 cuts but things are looking up.  Though he didn’t qualify for the PGA Championship Ghim cashed the last two weeks in tour stops – a tie for 18th (his best showing of the season) at the 3M Championship in Minnesota and a tie for 48th in last week’s Barracuda Championship in California.

KORN FERRY TOUR:  PGA Tour cards won’t be awarded until the end of the 2021 season but Northwestern alums Dylan Wu (4) and David Lipsky (16) and Illinois product Nick Hardy (19) are all in the coveted Top 25 spots in the rankings now, and in position to move up to the premier circuit if they can stay there.  The Korn Ferry has two Illinois stops coming up next month – the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek in Springfield Sept. 3-6 and the Evans Scholars Invitational at Chicago Highlands in Westchester Sept. 10-13.

ILLINOIS OPEN:  Whoever wins the title today didn’t have to beat the defending champion. Bolingbrook’s David Cooke, a two-time winner, had to call off his title defense when Chesson Hadley made the 36-hole cut (and finished in a tie for 17th) at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship on Sunday.  Cooke is Hadley’s caddie now.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: The 50-and-over circuit finally re-started its season last week with The Ally Championship in Michigan.  Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago player on the circuit, withdrew after a 74-72 start.

WOMEN: Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol suffered a similar fate as Sluman when the LPGA re-started its season with the Drive On Championship in Ohio.  Szokol shot 80-74 and missed the cut.




Defending champ Cooke has a dilemma going into the Illinois Open

David Cooke won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2015 and last year as a professional. He may well have problems just making his first-round tee time to open his title defense when the 71st playing of the tourney tees off on Monday at White Eagle Club in Naperville.

Cooke’s win last year was special.  After holding off Northbrook’s Nick Hardy – now a member of the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, for the title at The Glen Club in Glenview – Cooke was off to his wedding in North Carolina and then what he hoped would be the start of a career as a touring pro in Europe.

The wedding went off fine, the European venture not so much.  Cooke, who grew up in Bolingbrook and  starred in college at North Carolina State, missed the cut in the German Open (won by Paul Casey), the KLM Open (won by Sergio Garcia) and the Spanish Open (won by Jon Rahm).  Then he didn’t play well in the European Tour qualifying school.

“I loved Europe but played terrible, so I didn’t pursue it,’’ said Cooke, who returned to Chicago and  planned to enter qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour.  It was canceled because of pandemic concerns, but Cooke proved he can still play.  He finished second in an event on the Tour Red mini-tour at Flossmoor Country Club and shot a course record 64 in an informal round with Andy Krajewski, his long-time swing instructor, at Naperville Country Club.

A married man needs a job, though, and Cooke didn’t have a tour to play on so he did the next best thing.  He became a caddie.

He started on the Korn Ferry Tour and Daved Kocher, one of his first players, won a tournament in Mexico on March 1 – the circuit’s last event before all the golf tours were shut down for three months because of the coronavirus issue.  That immediate success led to Cooke getting work with Chesson Hadley on the PGA Tour.

Cooke carried for Hadley in the 3M Open last week in Minnesota and is on his bag again this week in the Barracuda Championship in California.

“I love caddying, and I’m getting exposure to the PGA Tour,’’ said Cooke.  “If I can get a full-time job I’m going to do it. I’ve got to stick with a full-time thing.’’

Cooke left his clubs in Chicago, and — if Hadley survives the 36-hole cut on Friday  — he’ll have a tough time getting back for the Illinois Open since the Barracuda Championship concludes on Sunday. Cooke will try, though.

“I love the Illinois Open, but there aren’t enough tournaments like that,’’ said Cooke. Winning the Illinois Open – even winning it twice – doesn’t get Cooke into any other professional events and this week’s Illinois Open isn’t like the won he won last year. Because of pandemic concerns the field for the finals was cut from 264 to 156 and White Eagle is the new host site instead of The Glen.


STATE OF MIND: The Wisconsin State Golf Association allowed out-of-state residents to compete in its State Amateur this week, and Illinois players took full advantage since the Chicago District Golf Association had previously canceled its own state championship over pandemic concerns.

About 20 Illinois players were among the 156 to tee off Monday at Milwaukee Country Club.  They were allowed in the Wisconsin event if they were members of clubs in the Badger state and promised they wouldn’t play in a corresponding championship in another state.

Wisconsin, though, lost some players, too.  Three of that state’s best amateurs opted for the Western Amateur, being contested at Crooked Stick in Indiana.  That trio includes three top college players – Hunter Eichorn (Marquette), Piercen Hunt (Illinois) and Harrison Ott (Vanderbilt).  Eichorn was the Wisconsin Amateur champion last year and Ott won the title in 2018 .

The Wisconsin Amateur ends on Thursday and the Western Am, with only two players from Illinois among its starters, runs through Saturday.  The Western is a national championship put on by the Chicago area-based Western Golf Association.

CDGA OPENER: The 107th tournament season of the Chicago District Golf Association finally got started on Monday with the CDGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe.  The tourney concludes on Wednesday (today).  The bulk of the CDGA season — including the State Amateur and CDGA Amateur — was wiped out by pandemic concerns.