Seven didn’t turn out a lucky number for Small, Wu

This was a weird first tournament week of the season for two of Chicago’s most prominent golfers. Both Mike Small and Dylan Wu blew seven-stroke leads in their 2020 tournament debuts but still finished as runner-ups in their events.

Small, the University of Illinois men’s coach who owns 12 wins in the Illinois PGA Championship and four titles in the Illinois Open, didn’t compete much in 2019. There was a good reason for that. A shoulder injury that required extensive rehab limited his tournament play, but Small is on the comeback trail now.

This week he competed in the PGA Winter Series for the first time and opened 65-66 in the PGA’s Senior Stroke Play Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL. The hot start gave Small a seven-stroke lead in the 54-hole event for players from across the nation in the 50-59 age group.

The 76 he shot in Tuesday’s final round cost him the championship but was hardly deflating. Small finished a stroke behind New York teaching pro Frank Esposito.

“I just came down here to see how the shoulder was,’’ said Small. “I had no expectations and was thrilled to be 13-under and make eight birdies in the first two rounds. I showed some resiliency.’’

GAINEY’S DAY: Wu, a 23-year old former Northwestern star, was seven ahead after two rounds in the first tournament of the Korn Ferry Tour season but he couldn’t hold his lead in the opener of the PGA Tour’s alternate circuit.

After opening 67-66 Wu slumped to 76-72 in the final two rounds and wound up in a tie for second, four strokes behind champion Tommy Gainey in the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. It was Wu’s second runner-up finish on the Korn Ferry circuit, the first coming in the Lincoln Land Classic in Springfield last year.

Andy Pope of Glen Ellyn, back on the Korn Ferry Tour for the first time since 2012, tied for 44th in the season opener while the Korn Ferry’s other two Illinois players, Vince India and Nick Hardy, missed the 36-hole cut. They’ll be back in action quickly, as the second tournament – also in the Bahamas – tees off on Sunday.

CLOSINGS: Chicago’s local golf media contingent took a big hit this week when two long-time outlets announced their closings on the same day. Chicagoland Golf had published for 31 years as an in-season print publication, and The Scorecard on the Score was featured on WSCR Radio for 10. Both closed up shop in Monday and will be missed once the next season kicks in.

Chicagoland Golf was founded by the late Phil Kosin in 1989, and publisher Val Russell took it over following Kosin’s death in 2009. Russell directed the operation for 11 years. Ed Sherman and Steve Olken were co-hosts of The Scorecard, a popular weekend show throughout the local golf season.

HERE AND THERE: Kevin Buggy, a seven-time club champion at Park Ridge Country Club, is the new chairman of the Western Golf Assn. The 68th chairman in WGA history, Buggy succeeds Glen View’s Frank Morley.

Batavia-based Tour Edge has renewed its endorsement contracts with PGA Champions Tour stars Tom Lehman, Scott McCarron, Tom Petrovic and Duffy Waldorf.

Andy Micheli has left Cantigny as the Wheaton facility’s sales manager to become assistant general manager at Butler National in Oak Brook.

World Handicap System will have a unifying effect for golfers

No, Tiger Woods didn’t win his record PGA Tour record 83rd tournament this week to break a tie with Sam Snead. In fact, Woods didn’t even play in the Sentry Tournament of Champions – the PGA Tour’s first event of 2020 that concluded on Sunday with Justin Thomas’ playoff win in Hawaii.

What did happen this week is — in many ways — more important to more golfers than all that. The new World Handicap System went into effect.

A five-day blackout throughout the U.S. for posting scores came to an end on Monday following the updating of computer systems world-wide. Players who have their handicaps computed now have different numbers to use in competition.

CDGA executive director Robert Markionni was part of the 25-member committee that spent four years creating the World Handicap System.
My handicap climbed a half-stroke in the transition, and locally the change will affect 80,000 players in Illinois and parts of Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan who have their handicaps computed by the Chicago District Golf Association. The CDGA has been computing handicaps since the 1930s, but the way of doing it is different now.

Robert Markionni, the executive director of the CDGA, was on the 25-member committee that implemented the transition to the World Handicap System.

“It was about four years worth of work, but a privilege to sit in on this committee and see how the world came together,’’ said Markionni. “The handicapping system was the last aspect of golf to be globally administered.’’

Golf is a global game, and the various organizers had already dealt with alterations to the Rules of Golf and requirements for amateur standing. Six different associations, however, had their own methods for handicapping the players who form the bulk of the game’s participants. Now the associations are operating under the same set of guidelines.

Here are the major ways the new handicap system will affect the most serious Chicago golfers:

The maximum score accepted on a hole for handicap purposes is now net double bogey, regardless of ability. In the past some players (me included) could post a triple bogey. For high handicap players this would seem to make a major difference, but Markionni downplays that.

“When all the research was done by a bunch of PhDs who calculated all this stuff the reality was that it probably will have little effect,’’ said Markionni.

Handicaps will be posted on a daily basis instead of the every-two-weeks system the CDGA had been using, and it’s doubly important for players to post scores on the day they play rather than wait a day or two.

“Computers will now calculate playing conditions into the handicapping process,’’ said Markionni. “This is new to the U.S, but not new in other parts of the world. It’ll intrigue people.’’

Post late and a player’s score won’t reflect the playing conditions on the day he played his round.

Eight rounds, instead of the previous 10, will be used to calculate a handicap and a cap will go into effect to determine how high a handicap index can climb in a 12-month period. A soft cap is three shots and a hard cap is five.

There is no need for American courses to be re-rated, as the World Handicap System adopted the course rating system that has been used in the U.S. for many years.

“The important thing is that it’s good for the game,’’ said Markionni. “I’m not sure it will have a huge impact, but it brings consistency. We will all play under the same rules.

Hardy, Pope, India are ready to go on Korn Ferry Tour

It was unusual for the Chicago area to get six players into last week’s final stage of qualifying for the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour. It was even more unusual that three of them – Nick Hardy, Andy Pope and Vince India – finished in the top 40 of the 154-man field and earned immediate playing privileges when the tournaments begin next month in The Bahamas.

Formally called the Ben Hogan, Nationwide and tour, the circuit offers the most direct path to the PGA Tour. Northbrook’s Hardy, who didn’t qualifying for the circuit last year after a stellar career at the University of Illinois, tied for fifth in the 72-hole final qualifier, which concluded on Sunday at Orange County National in Winter Park, FL.

By being in the top 10 Hardy is assured spots in the first 12 tournaments of the Korn Ferry season. Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope tied for 13th and Deerfield’s Vince India tied for 30th. That means both can play in the first eight events of the campaign. Also gaining the right to play immediately was Dawson Armstrong, who won the 2015 Western Amateur title at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. He tied for seventh at Orange County National.

The other three local competitors at Orange County National – Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger and Spring Grove’s Jordan Hahn – will have to get in the tournaments through Monday qualifiers. Flavin, who tied for 76th at Orange County National, has other playing options. He finished sixth in the PGA Latinoamerica Tour and could compete there again.

Hopfinger, who has spent several seasons on the Korn Hardy circuit, tied for 90th and Hahn, a rookie pro out of the University of Wisconsin, tied for 121st. In qualifying for the third and final stage of Korn Ferry qualifying they will be able to compete in the Monday qualifiers without going into the pre-qualifying events.

India, Flavin and Hopfinger are among just 10 players who own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. Hardy was runner-up in that tournament last year.

Here and there

Sportsman’s Country Club, a fixture on the Chicago golf scene since 1931, won’t be available to golfers again until the summer of 2021. That’s the project re-opening date now that a massive $12.5 million renovation and restoration project is scheduled to begin at the Northbrook facility. Libertyville golf course architect Rick Jacobson, who previously did work on the property in 2005 and 2006, will oversee the rebuilding of the course. A new clubhouse will also be built at a different location on the property than the present one and the practice area will be greatly enhanced.

Troy Newport, the new general manager at Cog Hill, in Lemont, has announced the addition of Toptracer technology at the 72-hole complex that was a long-time home for the Western Open championship. With 21 heated hitting bays Toptracer allows for practice sessions, virtual golf and a variety of games during the offseason months. “It’s a great fit for our Grow the Game initiatives at Cog Hill,’’ said Newport. Cog Hill is keeping its Nos. 1 and 3 courses open throughout the winter and will host the Eskimo Open there on Jan. 5.

Northwestern University has unveiled its new version of the Gleacher Center, which has allowed for indoor practice for its men’s and women’s teams. The new version includes a 5,400 square-foot short game and putting area with raised ceilings, a video-equipped three-bay hitting area and a digitally adjustable putting platform.

Eagle Ridge Resort, in Galena, following its recent ownership change, has named Ryan Brown as its a new director of golf and announced plans to remodel the pro shop at The General course.

Rarely — if ever — has Chicago been so well represented in a golf tour qualifier

This week’s President’s Cup matches in Australia may be the last big golf event of 2019 world-wide, but it’s certainly not the most important for six Chicago area pro tour hopefuls.

The third and final stage of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour is on tap from Thursday through Sunday (DEC 12-15) at Orange County National in Orlando, FL., and six Chicago area players face a 72-hole test that could be career-changing. The Korn Ferry (formerly circuit offers a direct path to the PGA Tour and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim used it to make it to golf’s premier circuit earlier this year.

Now some other Chicago stars hope to do the same. Deerfield’s Vince India and Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger hope to retain their status as full-time Korn Ferry members. The former University of Iowa teammates are among only 10 players owning titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, but that doesn’t carry any weight when it comes to the pro tours.

Both have had their moments in several seasons on the satellite circuit but not played well enough to earn promotion to the PGA Tour. While they are assured some starts on the Korn Ferry circuit in 2020 neither met the standards for full-time membership. That’s why they’re in the nail-biting qualifying session.

Last year Hopfinger was No. 79 on the Korn Ferry money list and India was No. 85. Only the top 75 qualified for last fall’s Korn Ferry Playoffs. India’s bid to reach those playoffs ended with a heart-breaking double bogey on the last hole of the last regular season tournament.

Both are ready to give it another try, however, and they’ll be joined by four other local players – Nick Hardy of Northbrook, Andy Pope of Glen Ellyn, Jordan Hahn of Sugar Grove and Patrick Flavin of Highwood. Hardy, Flavin and Hahn are former Illinois State Amateur champions who survived the first two stages of Korn Ferry qualifying. Pope has had good success in U.S. Open qualifiers, reaching the finals four times, but has been largely unsuccessful in his other tour endeavors.

All four, though may be peeking at the right time for this week’s important test. Pope finished second in his Korn Ferry Stage II qualifier in Plantation, FL., last month. Hardy tied for fifth in his Stage II challenge in McKinney, TX, and Hahn, who just finished off a solid amateur career at the University of Wisconsin, reached the Korn Ferry finals with a tie for 18th in his Stage II test in Brooksville, FL.

Flavin, though, may be the best prepared of them all. As an amateur he became only the second player to win both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year (2017), then opted for a different approach to turning pro. He tested himself on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour and concluded his season with a third-place finish on Sunday in its Shell Championship. He did it with a 68-67 finish in the weekend rounds and that padded his season winnings to $68,130, the strong finish boosting him from ninth to sixth on the tour’s season money list.

Korn Ferry players can get to the PGA Tour immediately by winning three tournaments in a season. The top 25 in the regular season money list also advance to the premier circuit as do the top 25 following the season-ending playoff events.

CDGA milestones

The Chicago District Golf Association had a tie in its player-of-the-year race for the first time since the award was presented in 1993. Jordan Less, a Northern Illinois University player from Elmhurst, and David Perkins, from Illinois State and East Peoria, shared the award. Another East Peoria resident, Tim Sheppard, became the fifth player to repeat at CDGA Senior Player of the Year.

The CDGA also announced next year’s sites for its two biggest championships. The 90th Illinois State Amateur will be July 21-23 at Wynstone, in Barrington, and the 101st Chicago District Amateur with be at Bull Valley, in Woodstock, from June 22-25. The organization also has made major changes in its CDGA Golfer. The magazine will now be produced by Greater Golf Resorts of the World, which also publishes New York’s Met Golfer, and Chicago golf media veteran Barry Cronin will be the new editor.

Seconds in Florida

Carlos Sainz Jr., winner of both the Illinois Open and Chicago Open when he was an Elgin resident, was a regular on both the PGA and tours. Now based in Houston, Sainz may be on a different career path but he can still play. He finished second in the PGA Assistants Championship earlier this month in Port St. Lucie, FL

PGA Golf Club, where Sainz made his strong showing in the national event, is also the site of the PGA of America’s Winter Tournament Series, and Dakun Chang, assistant professional at Twin Orchard in Long Grove and the 2018 Illinois PGA champion, was runner-up in the second event.

Ghim overcame his nerves to earn PGA Tour card

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman will have Chicago area company on the PGA Tour next season. Doug Ghim, former Arlington Heights resident and Buffalo Grove High School graduate, has earned playing privileges for the circuit’s 2019-20 campaign.

Ghim did it by finishing in the top 25 money winners in the Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs, a three-tournament competition matching the top players on the Korn Ferry (formerly circuit and the PGA Tour players who failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

For Ghim it came down to the last putt on Monday in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National in Evansville, Ind. After making a bogey on the 17th hole Ghim needed a par on the 72nd hole of the tournament to secure his card on golf’s premier circuit. He got it by getting up and down from a green-side bunker. It gave him a tie for 19th in the tournament and the No. 23 spot in the playoff standings.

Ghim’s elation after that last 10-foot putt dropped was captured on video and passed along widely on social media. He broke down in tears while leaving the green, then tweeted “IT HAPPENED.’’

Given time to reflect, Ghim admitted the pressure was intense.

“I’ve never felt nerves like that before,’’ he said. “To have it all come down to one putt is pretty surreal.’’

Given the solid amateur career that Ghim had, his qualifying for the PGA Tour in his rookie season as a touring pro shouldn’t be a surprise.

Though playing high school golf only as a freshman, he earned a scholarship to collegiate powerhouse Texas and was a mainstay for the Longhorns for four seasons. Working with his father Jeff as his swing instructor, Ghim preferred to play in the bigger junior tournaments around the country rather than be limited to high school events. He competed very rarely in Illinois as an amateur and that decision paid off.

Ghim made the U.S. teams for both the Walker Cup and Arnold Palmer Cup matches and a runner-up finish in the 2017 U.S. Amateur earned him a berth in the 2018 Masters tournament. Ghim didn’t let that opportunity get away, either. He was low amateur, finishing in a tie for 50th place, and brought home some coveted crystal by making three eagles during the tournament.

After finishing up at Texas he turned pro, moved to Las Vegas and earned a berth on the Korn Ferry circuit through its three-stage qualifying tournament last fall. His play during the regular season, though, wasn’t noteworthy. He had a tie for third in Colombia in the second tournament of the season in February and two top-10s in June but was only No. 52 on the point list at the conclusion of the regular season.

That left him out of the top 25 who gained automatic PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 campaign, and he was trending in the wrong direction entering the season-ending playoff series. He had three missed cuts to conclude the regular season but was steady in the playoff events, finishing tied for 23rd and tied for 37th before his nail-biting finish on Monday.

Chances are Ghim won’t get much of a rest before the next PGA Tour season begins. It’ll tee off on Thursday with A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier event in West Virginia. While most of the established PGA Tour players will compete only sparingly for the rest of 2019, the young players will want to get their seasons off to a good start.

The fall events will provide a chance for Ghim and the other Korn Ferry Tour graduates to get into a series of big-money tournaments and earn FedEx Cup points before the top stars return full-time.

Illinois PGA moves its championship to Ruth Lake next week

Play in next week’s Illinois PGA Championship won’t resemble the birdie blitz that was witnessed by visitors to the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship at Medinah last week, but this IPGA has been conducting the event since 1922 and the golf is plenty good.

Since 2001 the IPGA Championship has been dominated by University of Illinois coach Mike Small, who has won the event 12 times. Small won the Illinois PGA Senior Championship for the third straight year last week by a nine-stroke margin at Merit Club in Libertyville, but he’s had trouble getting into PGA Tour Champions events this year and has had – for him – a quiet season.

Several factors suggest the 54-hole IPGA tourney could be in for a changing of the guard this year. Small didn’t win the event the last two years and had a sub-par Illinois Open, tying for 40th place. Add to that the fact that the IPGA Championship will be played at a new site, Ruth Lake in Hinsdale beginning on Monday. (AUGUST 26)

Ruth Lake is replacing Olympia Fields’ South in the three-course rotation used for the IPGA Championship. The switch doesn’t help Small. He’s an Olympia honorary member and won three of his IPGA titles there. Ruth Lake, home base of immediate past IPGA president Mark Labiak, doesn’t have the same tournament history but it’s been used for smaller IPGA events and U.S. Golf Association qualifiers.

While Dakun Chang, of Twin Orchard in Long Grove, is the defending champion, the player to watch next week could be Frank Hohenadel. The head professional at Mistwood, in Romeoville, finished a solid third in the Illinois Open – an event in which the state’s club professionals have had only limited success in recent years.

Hohenadel has an historic win in the IPGA Championship. In 2011 he snapped Small’s eight tournament winning streak on Medinah’s No. 1 course.

“That was eight years ago now, and it feels longer to me,’’ said Hohenadel, who was encouraged by his strong showing in the Illinois Open. That tourney was played earlier this month at usual site The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Chicago’s Ridgemoor, which was used as the alternate site for the finals.

“I’d never contended in the Illinois Open, and it felt awesome,’’ he said. “I had been having trouble playing in it. I had no luck . I played too safe to compete.’’

Hohenadel’s colleagues – particularly those on the teaching staff at Mistwood – urged him to use his driver more often.

“I’d been hearing it from everybody that `You’ve just got to hit it if you want to compete with these guys.’ ‘’ said Hohenadel. “I’ve become a little more confident with it and getting rid of the demons from the past.’’

Slowly Hohenadel became a believer. The driver came out much more at the Illinois Open.

“I used to be the longest hitter by far,’’ he said. “Now I’m in the middle of the pack. I’m getting outdriven by kids 15 years younger than me.’’

If his good play continues at Ruth Lake Hohenadel will be in the hunt for IPGA Player of the Year honors and could also earn a spot in the Professional Players National Championship. The IPGA Championship doubles as a qualifier for the club pros’ national tournament.

Hohenadel is second, behind Skokie director of instruction Garrett Chaussard, in the Player of the Year race with only one major event remaining after the IPGA Championship. Chaussard won the IPGA Match Play title in May. Hohenadel was the best section pro at the Illinois Open. The final major is the IPGA Players Championship at Eagle Ridge, in Galena, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.

Here and there

Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim is in position to earn his PGA Tour card after the first of three Korn Ferry Tour Playoff events. He tied for 23rd in the first one on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. The top 25 at the end of the series get PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season. This week’s playoff event is the Albertson’s Boise Open, and the series concludes with the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National in Indiana.

Three Illinois players are in the field for the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, on Aug. 24-29 at Cedar Rapids Country Club in Iowa. fMaureen Sheehan of Grayslake, Hui Chong Doffelemyer of Belvisdere and Jessica Lederhausen of Chicago survived a qualifying session at the Glenview Park course. The Illinois State Senior Women’s Amateur is Sept. 10-12 at Bolinbrook Golf Club.

The 27th Illinois State Mid-Amateur ends Wednesday at Stonebridge, in Aurora.

WGA reaches a milestone in caddie scholarships

No matter what happens in the BMW Championship at Medinah the week will have been a success as far as John Kaczkowski, the Western Golf Association president and executive director, is concerned.

“We’re thrilled to announce that we have achieved our goal of having a record 1,000 caddies enrolled in college,’’ Kaczkowski told a gathering at the Caddies to College celebration a few hours before Medinah opened its gates for tournament spectators on Tuesday.

The WGA had targeted 1,000 as a goal for the last five years, and this year the number hit 1,010 spread around 18 universities.

“At a time when more families are struggling to send their child to college we’re meeting the need of providing Evans Scholarships to young caddies who show strong records of academic, leadership and financial need,’’ said Kaczkowski.

Since the first two scholarships were awarded in 1930 the WGA has accumulated over 11,000 alumni scholars.

Formed in 1899, the WGA gets its scholarship money from over 32,000 donors nationwide and the proceeds from its tournaments. The BMW Championship is the biggest of those. Others are the Evans Scholars Invitational, a new event on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, and four prestigious amateur events.

The WGA accomplishment was not lost on Justin Rose, winner of the Fed Ex Cup’s $10 million bonus last year and the BMW champion in 2011 at Cog Hill. He’s one of the game’s top stars now, but had a rough start as a touring pro when he missed his first 21 cuts. Plenty of players would have questioned their career choice after that and moved on to something else.

“I had no other option,’’ said Rose. “I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have an Evans Scholar education behind me. I needed to figure it out.’’

He eventually did, but it wasn’t easy.

“I still loved the game. I still had a passion for it,’’ he said. “Most importantly I loved to practice. I loved striving to get better, and I still believed in myself for the most part.’’

That made all the difference. Rose may not repeat as FedEx Cup champion this year, since he goes into the BMW in 12th place in the FedEx standings. Still, he’s earned $4.3 million on the tour this year and $53.5 million in his career, so it’s not like he needs another $10 million.

Mountain climber

Harold Varner III may be the biggest surprise in the 70-man field that will tee off on Thursday. Until Tuesday he had never been to Chicago.

“I can’t say why or why not,’’ said Varner. “I’m just not a big tourist person. No one knows who I really am.’’

Varner is No. 29 in the FedEx standings after a tie for third in the first playoff event, The Northern Trust in New York, on Sunday. He went into that tournament at No. 102 but climbed the leaderboard fast.

His goal when the playoffs started was to make it into the top 30 players who will conclude the season at The Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta. That hasn’t changed.

“Last week was just a lot of fun,’’ he said. “Now that we’re in Chicago, the end goal is to make it to East Lake. I just need to play good golf and the rest will take care of itself.’’

Heartbreaker for India

Deerfield’s Vince India was on the brink of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs on Sunday, and that meant a PGA Tour berth for next season was more than a remote possibility. The top 25 after that circuit’s three playoff events get PGA Tour cards.

What happened to India was devastating. He led the circuit’s Portland stop through 36 holes and was in contention to win midway through the final round. Then a double bogey on the last hole dropped him from third to a tie for fifth. Third would have put him in the Korn Ferry’s postseason events, which begin next week. Fifth meant a return to two stages of qualifying school to regain his playing privileges for next season.

“If you told me I played well enough at Portland to salvage a crappy year and head back to the final stage I’d be ecstatic,’’ India said. “I played my heart out and was a little unlucky at the end.’’

India was in a green-side bunker with his second shot at the finishing par-5, then his sand shot rolled over the green into a collection area. His first chip was short and rolled back to his feet. That about did it for the former champion of both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open.

Here and there

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol had her best finish as a rookie on the LPGA Tour when she tied for sixth in the Scottish Open and earned $39,035.

Ryan Brown, formerly at Boyne Highlands in Michigan, is the new director of golf at Eagle Ridge in Galena.

Illinois senior-to-be Tristyn Nowlin will compete in the LPGA qualifying school before her final collegiate season begins and Grace Park, one of her former Illini teammates, has been named assistant coach at the University of Toledo.

This Illinois Open field is filled with proven competitors

The 70th Illinois Open, always the premier event of the season for local players, tees off next week with a field that resembles a walk down memory lane.

There’ll be seven past champions among the 156 starters, and they have combined to win 11 titles. The last two amateurs to win the coveted title – Patrick Flavin (2017) and David Cooke (2015) — are among those seven, though both have since turned pro.

Flavin, already a winner on the PGA Tour’s Latinoamerica circuit, shares the record for the tourney’s low 18-hole round. He shot 64 twice when he won his title and became only the second player to win the Open and Illinois State Amateur in the same year.

As good as Flavin was that year, Carlos Sainz Jr. retains the record for best score in the 54-hole championship – a 17-under-par 197 in 2016. Cooke’s 16-under in 2016 is the second best, and his five-stroke victory margin is the largest by an amateur in tournament history.

And then there’s the University of Illinois influence, which will be bigger than ever when the first ball is struck at both The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club on Monday. There are a combined eight current and former Illini in the field headed by current men’s head coach Mike Small, a four-time Illinois Open champion.

Only Gary Pinns, who won the last of his five Illinois Opens in 1990, has won the tournament more times than Small. Other former winners trying to capture the magic again are Roy Biancalana (1987 and 2001), Phillip Arouca (2011) and Eric Meierdierks (2010).

Small won his titles between 2003 and 2007 and was the runner-up three other times. Five of his current players – Luke Armbrust, Bryan Baumgarten, Varun Chopra, Tommy Kuhl and Brendan O’Reilly – are also in the field as are Illini alums Garrett Chaussard and Nick Hardy, who are both now in the professional ranks.

Chaussard, now director of instruction at Skokie Country Club, won the Illinois PGA’s Match Play title this year. Hardy, runner-up in the Illinois Open in 2017, hopes to become the 10th player to own titles in both the Open and Illinois State Amateur. He won the Amateur in a record 28-under-par 260 at St. Charles Country Club in 2016.

Also not to be forgotten is Brandon Holtz, the former Illinois State University basketball player who was the runner-up in the last two Illinois Opens.

The one notable absentee – though it’s no surprise – is Vince India. One of only nine players to own titles in both the Illinois Open and Illinois State Amateur, India chose not to defend his Open title. He’s a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, which provides a direct pathway to the PGA Tour for its best players each year.

Finalists in the tournament will be completed today (WEDNESDAY) after the Last Chance Qualifier concludes at Willow Crest in Oak Brook. There were seven previous state-wide qualifying rounds to determine the finalists. The survivors will play 18 holes at The Glen Club and Ridgemoor on Monday and Tuesday and the low 50 and ties will decide the champion in a final 18 at The Glen on Wednesday, Aug. 7

Here and there

The Western Golf Association’s Western Amateur championship concludes on Saturday at Point O’Woods in Benton Harbor, MI. Then the WGA will turn its focus on the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event that runs at Medinah from Aug. 13-18.

Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson, despite being a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, has gotten into only three events this season. He missed the cut in the first two and made the cut in last week’s Barracuda Championship only to be disqualified before the final round for using an improperly-sized greens book. Wilson self-reported the violation, in effect disqualifying himself.

The Illinois PGA team had no trouble beating the Chicago District Golf Association’s amateur team in the 58th Radix Cup matches, which were rescheduled for last week after weather problems caused an earlier postponement. The IPGA’s 14 ½-3 ½ margin gave the pros a 36-20-2 edge in the series.

Oak Park Country Club, in River Grove, hosted the Radix Cup matches and the CDGA’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will conclude its three-day run there today (JULY 31). The CDGA will also conduct a qualifying round for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur today at the Glenview Park course.

Illinois high school champion Lauren Beaudreau, of Lemont, reached the quarterfinals of last week’s U.S. Junior Girls Championship at Wisconsin’s SentryWorld before being eliminated by eventual runner-up Jillian Bourdage, of Tamarac, FL.

New look will soon be unveiled at the Weibring course at ISU

D.A. Weibring is certainly well known as a player within the Illinois ranks. He won the John Deere Classic three times and scored an unusual victory in the 1987 Western Open, a tournament that was split between two courses, Butler National and Oak Brook Golf Club, after flooding left Butler with only nine holes playable.

Now, though, Weibring is more prominent as a course architect and his projects in Illinois have been as noteworthy as his playing accomplishments. He designed TPC Deere Run, which has hosted the John Deere Classic the last 20 years, and Metamora Fields in the central part of the state.

And now there’s more.

He’s about to complete work on a course that bears his name and just beginning on a project that could help save a once well-regarded public course in Peoria.

Weibring played collegiately at Illinois State, in Normal, and launched a successful PGA Tour career after his graduation in 1975.

The course that Weibring played his college golf on was a Robert Bruce Harris design that opened in 1964. After establishing himself as a touring pro Weibring created a golf architectural firm in Dallas and one of its projects was the renovation of that ISU course.

Over the years he turned it into a 6,915-yard par-71 layout that is the home for the Redbirds’ men’s and women’s teams and has been used for many of the Illinois high school championships as well as a variety of fund-raisers. Its Mounier Golf Training Center is considered one of the top practice facilities in collegiate golf.

The course was renamed the Weibring Course at Illinois State in 2007 after another renovation in honor of Weibring’s support of both the school and its golf programs. He helped to raise $14 million for the golf teams and now he’s stepped up his efforts again. A massive bunker renovation project was conducted without the need of closing the course and it’s scheduled for completing on Aug. 2.

Lauding the efforts of superintendent Travis Williams, Weibring supervised a major change in what the course will look like for both the high school and college events that are played there. This renovation also involved members of the ISU teams, who pitched in to move sod during the reconstruction.

“We’ve eliminated all those bunkers and changed the personality of the course,’’ he said. Now he wants to get ISU alumni out to check out the new look and stimulate more fund-raising for the program. There’ll be some fun-raising outings there in September.

Weibring’s efforts for golf in Illinois don’t end there, either.

Weibring has also taken on a renovation project at Weaver Ridge, a Peoria public facility with some nice elevation changes. It was recently purchased by the Ring family who created Metamora Fields. They’ve called on Weibring to bring back the course.

“Weaver Ridge needs repair. Its bunkers have not been touched in years,’’ said Weibring.

Radix Cup rescheduled

The annual Radix Cup matches between the top players in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Association is on again. Called off by inclement weather early in the season, the two golf groups settled on a rescheduled match for Thursday at Oak Park Country Club. It’ll tee off at 12:45 p.m.

Oak Park will remain a busy place, with the CDGA bringing its Amateur Four-Ball Championship there for a three-day run beginning on Monday.

Here and there

The University of Illinois women’s team has added Reena Sulkar to its list of recruits. She’ll join the team as a graduate student. A high schools star at Barrington Sulkar finished her undergraduate work at Illinois-Chicago while playing her goal in amateur tournaments. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2018 and was the Chicago Women’s District Golf Association champion in 2017.

Weather concerns led to the shortening of two big events last week. The Women’s Western Amateur, at Royal Mebourne in Long Grove, and the Illinois State Amateur, at Cantigny in Wheaton, both deviated from the planned format. The Women’s Western Am cut the championship match from the traditional 36 holes to 18 and the Illinois State Amateur, which was scheduled for a 36-hole final cut, reduced it to 18 to make it a 54-hole event. Sarah Shipley, a University of Kentucky senior from Hastings, MI., captured the Women’s Western Am and Ethan Farnam of Crystal Lake won the State Am. Farnam, who spent his freshman year in college at Northwestern, is about to enter his junior season at St. Mary’s in California.

Women’s Western Amateur, IWO go head-to-head

This is the most recent instance for unfortunate tournament scheduling. The two biggest women’s tournaments of the Chicago season are going head-to-head this week.

The 119th playing of the Women’s Western Amateur began Tuesday at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove, and the Illinois Women’s Open began its 25th anniversary celebration on the same day at Mistwood, in Romeoville. The IWO ends Wednesday, the Women’s Western on Saturday.

These are both prestigious competitions, and it’s unfortunate that players had to choose one over the other.

At least this year’s schedule conflict isn’t as bad as the one last year, when golf attention was spread among the Women’s Western at Mistwood; the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton; and the Senior Players Championship, one of the majors on PGA Tour Champions, at Exmoor in Highland Park. The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, near Moline, was also played that week.

Mistwood hosted both the IWO and the Women’s Western last year and Tristyn Nowlin, a University of Illinois standout, finished second in both.

Nowlin, who is from Richmond, Ky., and is entering her senior year with the Illini, has opted for the Women’s Western this year. She’ll be part of a field that is unusually rich in Chicago area talent.

Rarely have Chicago players been a factor in the Western Am, but this time there are three top-tier Chicago hopefuls. Two of them, Megan Furtney of South Elgin and Sarah Arnold of St. Charles, were teammates on St. Charles North’s Illinois high school championship team. Another, Lauren Beaudreau, was the individual state champion. She lives off the Ruffled Feathers course in Lemont.

All three have done big things since the high school season ended, too. Furtney was a winner in the U.S. Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. Arnold won the Illinois Women’s State Amateur title in her first appearance in the event and also qualified for next week’s U.S. Girls Junior Championship at SentryWorld, in Wisconsin.

Beaudreau qualified for both the U.S. Girls finals and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Those two events are still on her summer schedule. Arnold also will play in the Illinois State Junior and Kentucky Open before the college season starts.

While Arnold admitted to having “swing issues’’ during Monday’s practice round at Royal Melbourne, Beaudreau went in with confidence. She shot 67 and was the medalist in a U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier in Tennessee. The Western begins with 36 holes of stroke play qualifying before the top 32 determine the title in match play,

Then it’s on to their freshman year in college — Beaudreau at Notre Dame, Arnold at Western Kentucky and Furtney at Duke. While their records to this point are impressive, winning the Western Am would take them to a new level. Its past champions include Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn.

Cut coming at Cantigny

The 89th Illinois State Amateur started with 132 players, and most will be gone after today’s (WEDNESDAY’S) second round. The survivors play 36 holes on Thursday to decide the champion at Cantigny, in Wheaton.

This year’s State Am drew 497 entries, with 103 earning berths in the finals through eight state-wide qualifying rounds. The other 29 were exempt on past performance. Quinlan Prchal was the only past champion in the field. Oldest of the finalists was Tom Fox (59) and the youngest – for the second straight year – was Jack Inabnot (15).

The Chicago District Golf Association also announced that Wynstone, in Barrington, will host the finals in 2020, Mistwood will take the honors in 2021 and Westmoreland, in Wilmette, in 2022.

Here and there

Eagle Ridge, Illinois’ premier golf resort in Galena, has a new owner. Mark Klausner, a 20-year resident of the Galena Territory, is the first local owner in the resort’s history.

Head coach Mike Small has a new assistant at Illinois. He’s Justin Bardgett, who was an assistant at Army when the Black Knights won the Patriot League title and went to the NCAA tournament last year. Bardgett played collegiately at Colorado and played on various pro tours for seven years before entering the coaching ranks. He replaces Zach Barlow, now the head coach at Michigan.

The Women’s Western Amateur will stay in the Chicago area for at least two more years. Prestwick, in Frankfort, will host in 2020 and Park Ridge Country Club in 2021.

D.A. Weibring, who the John Deere Classic three times and also was a Western Open champion, has been hired to oversee the renovation of Weaver Ridge, in Peoria.