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Len Ziehm On Golf

Eglin’s Eagle was among the first Florida courses to lure Chicago golfers

A typical tee shot on Eglin’s Eagle course offers wide, tree-lined fairways


NICEVILLE, Florida – Every year we’ve made a conscious effort to visit some of the 53 courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail. This Trail isn’t like many of the others around the country. Its courses are selected for historical purposes, and more states should create such trails.

The Florida courses must be open to the public for at least 50 consecutive years. Each has an interesting history. Some have suffered, some flourished over the years but all have survived. You never know what you’re going to get golf-wise when you play a course on the Florida Historic Golf Trail, but you know you’ll get a taste of what golf was many decades ago.

We’ve played 12 courses on the Trail, the most recent being the Eagle Course at the Eglin Golf Club, which is part of the Eglin Air Force Base nearby. It’s not the best course on the Trail – El Campeon at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills rates above it – but none of the courses we’ve played on the Trail have quite the interesting history that the Eagle does.

It was built as part of a resort in 1923 by a group of businessmen from Chicago. James E. Plew, founder of the Chicago Towel Company who also built the nearby Valparaiso Inn, was the leader of that effort and his cohorts reportedly included the infamous gangster Al Capone. The course was in the town of Valparaiso then and was called the Chicago Club of Valparaiso.

The members built their own nine-hole course before bringing in the architectural team of William Langford and Theodore Moreau to design an 18-holer. After they finished it in 1927 a trainload of 200 golfers from Chicago came for the grand opening. The course went bankrupt in 1929 and the name was changed to the Valparaiso Country Club.

Eglin’s clubhouse wall contains memorabilia from its early days as a get-away for Chicago golfers.


It operated as a resort in the 1930s, during which it was reduced to nine holes again. In 1937 the course was renamed Eglin Field in honor of an airman who had been killed in an airplane accident. In 1942 Plew sold the course to the U.S. Government and it is now part of what is a bustling Air Force base. Under the new ownership the Eagle was restored to an 18-holer that is ranked among the best military golf facilities in the country. The course was also deemed good enough to host a pro-am event for the top PGA players in the 1960s. (Doug Ford and Mason Rudolph comprised the winning team).

The course was named the Eagle after the F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft and it received a companion course, called the Falcon with nine holes being built in 1960 and another nine in 1989. The Eagle greens underwent a renovation in 2008 and the routing was changed after a new clubhouse was built. The present Eagle has five sets of tees, with the course playing at 6,861 yards from the tips and 4,484 from the front.

Even a week after aerification procedures the course was very playable. It has spacious, undulating fairways but walkers can certainly enjoy it, too.

The Eglin clubhouse is more than adequate for the wide range of golfers visiting the course.

Our golf team now has a Florida connection — Jason Bruno’s LinksNation

I’m happy to announce the addition of a sixth golf website partnership for www.lenziehmongolf.com.

Jason Bruno’s LinksNation.com is our first website partner in Florida. Bruno, from West Palm Beach, founded LinksNation in 2009 and is also a contributor to GolfLife.com as a PGA Tour reporter

While LinksNation specializes in course and resort travel features Bruno’s site will particularly complement our other member sites by providing equipment and apparel reviews. He is a five-time winner of Hampton ExecGolf events.

Jason Bruno and I hooked up at the Arnie statue at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.


Bruno’s career in golf started in 1987 when he worked in the landscape and turf field at Atlantic Technical College in Coconut Creek, FL. He was also on the agronomy staffs for the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic from 1992-94, the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion and the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Bruno has also worked on course operations staffs, as a caddie and as a golf coach.

While at Atlantic Tech he also performed a redesign and construction of a par 3 practice center on the campus.

He joins our five website partnerships that have touched many phases of golf media from basically a Midwest perspective. Rory Spears’ Golfers on Golf is prominent on the radio side. Tim Cronin’s Illinois Golfer is emerging as a must-read online publication. Rory, Tim and I have functioned as a Big Three partnership since 2009 and our team has grown from there.

Cheryl Justak’s Golf Now! Chicago and Brian Weis’ comprehensive GolfTrips.com are travel-based sites with Cheryl operating from Indiana and Brian from Wisconsin. Cheryl’s upscale Golf Guide, has been produced annually for 15 years.

Dave “Links’’ Lockhart, Chicago’s premier videographer, rounds out my partnership connections. He’s been creating TV productions for over 20 years and they have they included three award-winning golf TV shows.

`The Elegant Mouse’ should be required reading for golf fanatics

Who is the smallest player to compete successfully on the PGA Tour?

My guess is that it was Bob Toski. He stood 5-foot-7 and his fighting weight in his playing days was just 118 pounds. There may have been shorter players, but none lighter.

Now 90, Toski’s stature in golf is that of a giant. As a player he won five times on the PGA Tour and six more times in other notable tournaments. In 1954 he was – at least arguably – the best player in the game. He won four times that year, including the World Championship of Golf at Chicago’s Tam O’Shanter club. The $50,000 he won for that victory helped him become the year’s leading money-winner with $65,820 – and that enabled him to erase a record that had been set by Byron Nelson in his epic 1945 campaign when Nelson won 18 tournaments including 11 in a row.

Toski didn’t stop after reaching the top as a player. He turned to teaching, and was – again arguably, I guess – even better at that than he was as a player. He was also among the first pro golfers to make custom clubs. Toski is in both the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame and the PGA Golf Professionals Hall of Fame.

All these accomplishments are crystallized in “The Elegant Mouse: The Bob Toski Story,’’ by former Palm Beach Post sports writer Brian Biggane. If ever there was a golfer without a victory in one of the major championships on his resume who deserved a book, it’s Toski.

Biggane and Toski worked on the book together and no less a golfing icon than Jack Nicklaus wrote the Foreward. Nicklaus called the account “truly an inspiring story’’ and I would be the first to second that.

Much to Biggane’s credit, he didn’t just let Toski tell his story. He dug deeply into the research end and interviewed extensively. Not only that, but he touched on a few topics that might have been on the sensitive side for Toski – notably a snub from the PGA of America in leaving him off the 1955 Ryder Cup team and a dispute with PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman following a Senior Tour event in Japan in 1986.

Sam Snead respectfully dubbed Toski “the Mouse,’’ believing that the diminutive Toski’s competitive spirit and ability to drive the ball long distances created a likeness with the Mighty Mouse cartoon character of the 1950s.

“The Elegant Mouse’’ is enhanced by a wide variety of photographs, some dating back to the days when Toski was growing up as Bobby Algustoski, one of nine children in a Polish family from Haydenville, Mass. Toski’s rise to the heights he reached in golf is truly a story worth telling. The book initially may be hard to find in book stores, but it’s available through www.bobtoskibooks.com.

NEXT UP of the new golf books worth reading is “Gary Player’s Black Book,’’ which will be released on April 4 by Skyhorse Publishing. Lee Trevino wrote the forward for this golfer’s guide. It’s presented in the form of 60 questions with detailed responses from Player on his life, golf and business.

ALSO not to be missed is “Tommy’s Honour,’’ a movie that will hit the U.S. theaters on April 14. It’s an historical drama on the lives of legendary Scottish professionals Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom Morris. The movie was based on a book that I found an excellent read and the movie, which had its grand opening in June in Scotland, has already been named Best Feature Film at last year’s British Academy Scotland Awards.

PGA Tour’s Florida Swing won’t be the same without Doral, Palmer

The Bear Trap could foil many a contender at this week’s Honda Classic. (Rory Spears Photo).


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – The Florida Swing of the PGA Tour season, which tees off on Thursday at PGA National, has changed dramatically from a year ago.

One tournament, known since 2011 as the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, left its home of 55 years at Trump National Doral’s Blue Course in Miami and moved to Mexico City. Another popular event, at Bay Hill in Orlando, lost its charismatic founder and namesake with the passing of Arnold Palmer in September.

Those represent big changes in the golfing world. Still, the circuit’s traditional run through the Sunshine State remains a significant part of the season – that time of year when winter starts turning to spring and the bulk of players from across the country warm up to the idea of pulling out their clubs again.

First stop of the usual Florida Swing – minus Doral – is the Honda Classic, an event with proven staying power but not quite the field it was hoping to offer. Honda is the longest-running title sponsor on the PGA Tour, dating to 1982. AT&T (Pebble Beach Pro-Am since 1986) is the only other PGA Tour sponsor that started its run prior to the 1990s.

The Honda Classic began as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic in 1972. It’s been played at PGA National since 2007 when long-time Chicago resident Mark Wilson won the first of his five PGA Tour titles.

The Snake Pit, at Innisbrook, will be a dangerous stretch of holes for players at the Valspar Championship March 9-12.


This year’s tourney figured to be a gallery spectacular when Tiger Woods announced it would be among the first four events on his ambitious comeback schedule. Woods lives in nearby Jupiter, just a 20-minute drive away, and considers the Honda his hometown tournament.

Any hopes for a return of Tiger mania evaporated when Woods’ back problems surfaced again at the Dubai Desert Classic. After missing the cut in his first tournament at Torrey Pines Woods withdrew after one unimpressive round at Dubai. He didn’t even show up for last week’s Genesis Open in Los Angeles, an event that benefits his own charity foundation, and isn’t expected at the Honda since his representative, Mark Steinberg, told media members that doctors have advised Woods to “stay horizontal’’ until his back spasms subside.

Woods isn’t the only notable absentee for the start of the Florida swing. Dustin Johnson, now the world’s No. 1-ranked player after a run-away win at the Genesis Open last week, isn’t here, either. Neither is Jordan Spieth or Hideki Matsuyama, the tour leader in money and FedEx Cup points earned at this point in the season.

Rory McIlroy is back in the United States, but not competing here. Neither is Phil Mickelson, who played the Honda the last two years and stayed around to play in an event at nearby Seminole. The top six in the Official World Golf Rankings are missing, with Jason Day and Henrik Stenson joining the already mentioned Johnson, McIlroy, Matsuyama and Spieth. Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed are also taking the week off.

The first Arnold Palmer Invitational without Arnold Palmer could be the most emotional tournament of the 2017 PGA Tour season.


That’s not to say the Honda has a weak field. Defending champion Adam Scott, No. 7 in the world rankings, is here as are Sergio Garcia, last year’s runner-up; Paul Casey; Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. Thomas, with three wins already this season, and Fowler are both Jupiter residents.

Two of the more interesting entrants are Thomas Pieters, the Belgian golfer who tied for second in the Genesis Open, and Ian Poulter, who is rounding back into shape after being sidelined 5 ½ months with foot injury. Pieters, the former University of Illinois golfer who played so well in Europe’s Ryder Cup loss to the U.S. in October, is competing on a sponsor’s exemption. A regular on the European Tour, he could earn temporary PGA Tour membership with another good showing this week.

Scores at PGA National figure to be unusually low since the course got a good soaking from heavy afternoon rains that forced the cancellation of the afternoon portion of Wednesday’s pro-am. The players will enjoy the soft greens, at least in the early rounds.

The Florida swing gets interrupted after the Honda with the circuit going to Mexico City instead of Doral. The PGA Tour dumped Doral after hearing Donald Trump’s negative remarks about Mexico during his presidential campaign. Now, with Trump winning that election, there seems to be a making up period going on. Woods, Ernie Els and McIlroy all have come to Trump International in nearby West Palm Beach to play rounds with the new president.

McIlroy visited last Sunday for his presidential round, skipped the Honda and will return to competition in Mexico City. After that event the circuit returns to Florida for the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa from March 9-12 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill March 16-19.

Poulter, who lives in Orlando and had ties with Palmer through their connection to tournament presenting sponsor MasterCard, expects the tourney to carry on without Palmer’s leadership.

“I’m not concerned about it,’’ said Poulter. “The players will certainly embrace it this year, and they should. It’s obviously going to be an emotional week – not just for the family but also for the players, for the fans and for the media. This tournament’s going to be in good shape.’’

One reason for that could be a boost in prize money. It’s now up to $8.7 million, compared to $6.4 million at the Honda and $6.3 at the Valspar. The World Golf Championship event in Mexico City is at $9,750,000.

“Not that that’s going to be a big factor,’’ said Poulter. “We play for enough week-in and week-out. But that also helps. It’s going to have the same power as a WGC event. It’s going to have a very strong field.’’

To offset Palmer’s presence the Bay Hill stop will have five hosts – present or former players Graeme McDowell, Annika Sorenstam, Peter Jacobsen and Curtis Strange – and former U.S. Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, a long-time Palmer friend.

Our revealing inside look at the best in women’s college golf

HAIL TO THE CHAMPIONS: Furman’s women won their second tourney of the season at St. Lucie Trail.


PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — We received a great inside look at women’s college golf when we volunteered to host a player participating in the Central District Invitational on the St. Lucie Trail course here. What an eye-opening experience it was!

Michigan State University hosted the tournament, and the players on all 14 participating schools were housed by local residents like us. Our player was Alice Chen, a junior at Furman University in South Carolina. Not only was she a delightful houseguest, she also proved a great player in winning her first-ever college tournament. (Alice had already been crowned the New Jersey Women’s Amateur champion).

Alice and I have something in common as far as our golf games go. After most of our tee shots our playing partners say `Nice drive, Alice.’’ Just a joke, folks.

Furman head coach Jeff Hull and individual champion Alice Chen had plenty to celebrate at the Central District Invitational.


Furman was also the run-away winner of the team title at St. Lucie Trail, much to the delight of two of the school’s most celebrated golfing alumni – LPGA legends Beth Daniel and Betsy King. Also on hand was another LPGA great, Meg Mallon.

Ranked No. 7 in the country entering the tournament, Furman appears a sure bet to get into the NCAA tournament and I’m hoping the Paladins (they’re knights on horseback, according to Chen) can make it all the way to the finals. They’ll be played at Rich Harvest Farms In Sugar Grove, IL., from May 19-24. I can take that favoritism approach now because head coach Jeff Hull told us afterwards that “you’re now part of the Furman family.’’

I’ve watched plenty of women’s golf over the years (four U.S. Women’s Opens, four Legends Championships, a flock of LPGA Tour events and 21 Illinois Women’s Opens), but not much at the major college level.

When flying isn’t a necessity this is how the Furman women’s team gets to its tournaments.


Hull drove his team to Port St. Lucie – a 9 ½ -hour drive – in a luxury Mercedes tour bus with reclining leather seats, surround sound, flat-screen TV and disco lights. I’d say that was traveling in style. The team played at a high level as well, posting an even par 864 in winning by 23 strokes over second place Memphis. Louisville, North Carolina and Maryland rounded out the top five.

The Furman team arrived in late afternoon on Saturday, played a practice round on Sunday, then endured a 36-hole session on Monday before Tuesday’s final round. It was all walking golf with most of the players using push or pull carts. Some, though, carried their bags all 54 holes. That made for a good physical test, and St. Lucie Trail is (my opinion) the most difficult of the four courses that encompass PGA Golf Club – the winter home for the PGA of America’s 28,000 members.

Furman has a long way to go before it can win the NCAA title at Rich Harvest Farms, but the Paladins – if they get there – will visit a course big in the history of women’s golf. Owner Jerry Rich hosted one of the most successful-ever Solheim Cup matches there in 2009 when Daniel captained the U.S. team to victory.

Alice Chen shows her winning form on her final tee shot of the Central District Invitational.

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Couples, Daly are off to encouraging starts

The stands are empty around the 18th green at Broken Sound now, but they won’t be for long.


BOCA RATON, Florida — You don’t see this very often any more.

Fred Couples is healthy for a change, and John Daly is not only belting his tee shots further than last year, his drives are straighter, too.

Those two items are what matter most going into the start of Florida’s turn to host the men’s pro golf tours. Couples and Daly are here for the Allianz Championship’s 54-hole run that begins on Friday on The Old Course at Broken Sound.

The 50-and-over circuit moves to Naples next week for the Chubb Classic at TwinEagles. Then the PGA Tour arrives for three tournaments in four weeks. The sport’s premier circuit has the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens from Feb. 23-26, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Tarpon Springs from March 9-12 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando from March 16-19.

That’s five tournaments in six weeks for the Sunshine State, and the PGA Tour will be back one more time — for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra in May.

Charity benefactor Boca Raton Regional Hospital will be a big winner at the Allianz Championship.


NO FIDGETING FOR FREDDIE: Last year Fred Couples’ season was limited to three tournaments. Back problems, his nemesis for years, nearly wiped out his competitive schedule but don’t look for a repeat in 2017.

Couples started the year shooting 65-65 in the weather-shortened Mitsubishi Classic in Hawaii two weeks ago to finish second behind Bernhard Langer in a limited field event. Couples is also in the field at Broken Sound, his second start in three weeks to begin the new year.

Over the years Couples has tried a variety of cures to fix his sore back. None quite worked long-term, but he hopes a change in routine will keep him on the course more this year. Under the impression that he needed to keep his back loose, Couples would twist and turn throughout his rounds in the past. He’s since learned that such squirming might have exacerbated his back issues.

During the Hawaii tournament Couples admitted “Just physically I can’t stop doing it…. I wish I could because I might last longer.’’

At 57 – and despite his relative inactivity in tournaments – Couples may be the most popular player on the PGA Champions’ circuit. The tour needs him out there – if he could only stop fidgeting.

DALY’S PLAYING IT STRAIGHT: Last year, in a shortened rookie season on the Champions’ circuit, Daly led the tour in driving distance with a 303.6-yard average but hit fairways only 57 percent of the time on his tee shots.

In the Mitsubishi event, however, he averaged 310.5 yards and kept 75 percent of his drives on the short grass. Though his tie for 23rd place wasn’t impressive, Daly’s driving was much better than it’s been in years and he credits a new, unique driver for the improvement.

Daly started playing the Vertical Groove driver in Hawaii and spent last week promoting it at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The company, which produces the club with vertical instead of the usual horizontal groves, has hired him as its ambassador.

“I’m hitting it so much further and straighter,’’ he said during one of his promotional appearances. “It’s like all I have to do is just aim and hit it. No spin. I’m hitting it straighter than my putter actually.’’

The practice range was a busy place, even though the Allianz Championship won’t start until Friday.


KELLY OPTS FOR PEBBLE: Jerry Kelly was to make his Champions debut here, but he opted to play in the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am after getting a spot in the field there. The Allianz field also lost an even bigger name when Tom Lehman withdrew.

Also on the WD list were Scott Verplank and Gil Morgan. Their spots were filled by Marco Dawson, Guy Boros, Willie Wood and Jim Carter.

MILESTONE YEAR FOR SLUMAN: Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago player on the Champions circuit, begins his 27th season as a PGA tour player this week. He contended in the Allianz Championship last year after a 69-67 start but faded to a 70 in the final round and finished in a tie for fourth behind champion Esteban Toledo.

Sluman his a birthday milestone when he turns 60 later this year but there’s no indication he’ll slow down. Last year he went over the $10 million mark in winnings on the Champions circuit.

BITS AND PIECES: The Allianz Championship is in its 11th year at Broken Sound but next week’s Chubb Classic is even older. It’ll turn 30 next week and legendary Gary Player will be on hand to hit the ceremonial first tee shot. Player, now 81, won that tournament in 1988.

Bernhard Langer notched his 30th Champions win at the Mitsubishi tournament and has had some success at Broken Sound. He has six top-10s in nine starts including a victory in 2010.

Pro-ams are on tap for both Wednesday and Thursday with double shotgun starts at 7:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. both days. Wednesday’s schedule also includes a special ceremony honoring soon-to-be World Golf Hall of Famer Ian Woosnam. He’ll compete on a sponsor’s exemption as will former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, NBC announcer Gary Koch and Tom Petrovic, a PGA journeyman who will make his Champions debut.

Youngest player in the field will be Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal. The two-time Masters championship and former European Ryder Cup captain turned 50 on Sunday.

Corporate support is a big reason the Allianz Championship has been a successful Champions event.

Drivers were the most interesting feature at the PGA Merchandise Show

Kevin Streelman was the first play to use Wilson’s new Triton driver on the PGA Tour.
(Photo courtesy of Wilson)


ORLANDO, FL. — Be it clubs, balls, training devices or apparel, the PGA Merchandise Show always has something to intrigue every type of golfer.

The 64th staging of this biggest show in golf ended its four-day run on Friday at the Orange County Convention Center with 40,000 industry members from all 50 states and 19 countries getting their first look at the new products entering the marketplace. At the end the talk was mostly about drivers – and with good reason.

When Nike decided to stop making golf clubs last year that left its two high-profile stars, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, free to pick new equipment. Both opted for TaylorMade’s M2 driver, with Woods making his equipment announcement during the show.

The search for the next driver that will produce the longest, straightest tee shots, though, went far beyond TaylorMade and the other big manufacturers – Callaway, Ping and Titleist.

Most visually different of the new models was the Vertical Groove Driver. Its Boston-based manufacturer claims to be the first to bring to market a club with vertical grooves on the clubface. Horizontal grooves are the norm, but Vertical Groove has already convinced two high-profile senior players – John Daly and Rocco Mediate – to use its driver. Daly will be the company’s global ambassador.

Callaway’s banner to promote its new driver rivaled only Wilson’s in size at the PGA Show.


Two Chicago companies were also in the mix. Tour Edge, based in Batavia, introduced its Hot Launch adjustable driver. It has a lighter weight and thinner face, which the company claims will make the club more forgiving while creating more distance. Tour Edge also claims its new hosel system will double the adjustability options, allowing players to raise or lower the loft by two degrees.

Wilson, the long-established producer of all sorts of sports gear, took the most extraordinary steps in putting its new Triton driver on the market, however. The Chicago-based company did it by creating a reality TV show that was shown on The Golf Channel over a two-month period.

The show, which made its debut on Oct. 4, featured 11 teams of amateur club designers completing for $500,000 and the opportunity to have their creations brought to life and sold under the Wilson banner. The judges of the competition were Tim Clarke, president of Wilson’s golf division; Frank Thomas, a long-time director for the U.S. Golf Association; Brian Urlacher, the Bears’ legendary linebacker; and Kevin Streelman, the PGA Tour pro from Wheaton who has won twice on the circuit using Wilson equipment.

Winner of the design contest was Eric Sillies, a University of Cincinnati graduate in its College of Design Architecture Art & Planning. His club featured two detachable sole plates and three adjustable weight ports that allowed the club to change from a lightweight model to a pro-weight version. The TV series was captivating – especially for golfers in the 19 to 35 age group – and Wilson engineers worked with Sillies is creating a finished product.

The problem was, the “finished’’ Triton driver wasn’t quite finished when it was to go on the market with much fanfare last month. The U.S. Golf Association ruled it was non-conforming.

“As long as Wilson has been in business – 100 years – we always produced conforming products,’’ said Clarke. “The decision the USGA made was quite unfair. I had a thousand things on my list that I was worried about, but the USGA ruling was the last thing on my mind.’’

Clarke said the problem with the USGA was corrected with a “cosmetic adjustment,’’ but valuable marketing time was lost while Wilson personnel worked to make the club legal in the eyes of the sport’s ruling body in the United States. The process wasn’t completed until Monday of show week. At Tuesday’s Demo Day – the traditional kickoff to the show — the Wilson station was a focal point.

“It was the busiest Demo Day we’ve had in my 20 years at Wilson. From 9 to 5 people were there banging the Triton,’’ said Clarke, who feels a potential crisis was averted. “It was a great learning experience. The whole concept was to bring excitement around the game and give our brand exposure. It did both those things.’’`

Streelman gave the Triton driver its debut on the PGA Tour when he missed the 36-hole in last week’s Career Builder Classic in California. Ricky Barnes put the club in his bag for the first time at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open . How the club performs for them over the early season tournaments will go a long way in determining its popularity in the marketplace.

The Triton will likely continue to be a prime subject for discussion at two, much smaller, shows on tap for next month in the Chicago area. The Tinley Park Golf Expo is Feb. 10-12 and the Chicago Golf Show, at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, will run from Feb. 24-26.

This combination motorcycle/golf cart was the most unusual item on display at the PGA Show.

Chicago Golf Show expands its program

The Chicago Golf Show, presented by French Lick Resort, is expanding the program available to its visitors.

A new four-color glossy magazine-style program will be available when the show is staged for the 33rd time from Feb. 24-26 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Chicagoland Golf, which publishes monthly during the local season, will oversee editorial content and advertising sales in creating the program.

Val Russell, publisher of Chicagoland Golf, said the program will be distributed on the show floor, via mail and at golf retailers and courses. It’ll represent a departure from both the show programs of the past and the regular issues of the Chicagoland Golf.

“We are going to produce 40,000 high-end, glossy magazines with 40 percent editorial content that will be valuable to both golfers and golf advertisers,’’ said Russell.

The program will feature articles on show exhibitors, local courses, travel destinations, innovative products and services. Over the last five years the show – the oldest and largest of the three golf shows held in the area this winter — has attracted between 15,000 and 20,000 golf enthusiasts.

“The Chicago Golf Show is excited to collaborate with Chicagoland Golf to produce a high-quality show program aimed at giving our attendees, exhibitors and other advertisers an opportunity to get together in print the way they do on the Golf Show exhibit floor,’’ said Tom Corcoran, the show operator. “Chicagoland Golf has been producing an excellent publication since 1989 and we know they are going to do a great job on our show issue.’’

HERE AND THERE: Arcadia Bluffs is adding another course, too

Dana Fry (right) teamed with fellow architects Ron Whitten and Mike Hurdzan to design 2017 U.S. Open site Erin Hills, but Fry will go it alone in creating the second course at Arcadia Bluffs.


Arcadia Bluffs and Forest Dunes have battled for the status of Michigan’s best public course for several years, so it should come as no surprise that construction of a second course will begin on Nov. 1 at Arcadia. And there’s no better place to begin another round of our “offseason” travel-related golf reports.

Forest Dunes, in Roscommon, had a soft opening for its unique Tom Doak-designed reversible course — a layout that can be played both clockwise and counter clockwise — this season and it’ll be in full swing in 2017 to provide an alternative to the respected Tom Weiskopf-designed main 18-holer.

Arcadia’s second course will be on the unusual side as well. Called the South Course at Arcadia Bluffs, it’ll be located about a mile from the present 18-holer and – unlike its companion layout – it won’t be on the water.

Architect Dana Fry is planning an inland course that will be noted for its huge putting surfaces that will be either square or rectangular-shaped. Planned opening is in the summer of 2018.

In the meantime, Fry will be a busy guy. With Mike Hurdzan and Ron Whitten, he was one of three architects involved in the designing of Erin Hills – the Wisconsin site of the 2017 U.S. Open next June. Fry plans to spend nearly two weeks at Erin Hills before and during the first U.S. Open ever played in Wisconsin. And that’s in addition to the demands of the work required at Arcadia Bluffs and some projects overseas.

Hurricane Matthew update

The damage done by Hurricane Matthew was serious in the golf world, no doubt about it.

Clearly Hilton Head, S.C., got it the worst – especially at Sea Pines Resort where the opening of the new Atlantic Dunes course had to be postponed. Its other two courses – Harbour Town and Heron Point also are closed. The target for the opening of all three is Nov. 21.

TPC Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra, FL., also suffered extensive damage, though much of it was not initially reported nationally because the famous Stadium Course – site of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship – had been closed for a renovation since the last Players Championship in May.

According to reports from Sawgrass 372 trees fell during the hurricane, 203 on the Stadium Course. The facility was hit with 66 mile-per-hour winds and 14 inches of rain. Tentative re-opening of the Stadium Course is Nov. 15.

Shark Shootout will have a female touch

Greg Norman’s Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout will be played for the 16th straight year at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, FL., from Dec. 8-10 but it will have a new look.

The field will include a woman – LPGA star Lexi Thompson – for the first time since Annika Sorenstam participated in 2006. She’ll be paired with 21-year old rookie star Bryson DeChambeau.

They represent two of the eight first-time participants in the Shootout. Among the others is English veteran and former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner will defend their title in the event.

Bits and pieces

With our base moving again from the Chicago area to Florida for the winter, it’s time to clean out the notebook items from all parts of country. Here’s the best of the bunch:

This team from Cog Hill will comprise Team Illinois in the PGA Junior League national finals.

Cog Hill’s junior league team is among eight to qualify for the Nov. 19-21 national championship at Grayhawk, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The team is captained by Carol Rhoades and coached by Kevin Weeks, both PGA professionals.

PGA Golf Club, the 54-hole flagship facility of the PGA of America located in Port St. Lucie, FL., will hold a Red, White & You charity event on its recently-renovated Wanamaker course on Nov. 13. It’ll benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation and PGA REACH.

Golf TV commentators Johnny Miller and Mark Rolfing will be special guests at the Western Golf Association’s Green Coat Gala on Nov. 4 at Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel.

The University of Illinois men’s team, which has remained a national powerhouse in what figured to be a rebuilding season, concludes its fall campaign at the East Lake Cup from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Coach Mike Small has fielded a team without a senior (two juniors, one sophomore, three freshmen). The Illini won their first three tournaments and climbed to the No. 1-ranking in the Golf Coaches Association poll.

David Feherty will perform at Chicago’s Copernicus Center beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28.

Antioch Golf Club, one of the Chicago area’s longest-standing public 18-holers, is for sale. Asking price for the north suburban layout that was built in the 1920s is $950,000.

The Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic, a 54-hole two-man team event with three formats, has been scheduled for Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. The Heather Glen, Legends Heathland, Kings North, Pine Lakes, Prestwick and Pearl West courses will be used for the event.

Notre Dame’s Warren course has been named the site for the 2019 U.S. Senior Open. It’ll be the first campus course to host the event and only the 16th campus course to host a U.S. Golf Association championship.

For starters, a new name is needed for the rejuvenated Oak Meadows course

The letters now missing from the signage signify that Oak Meadows’ days as a golf course are done.


The course reconstruction is done, at least for this fall. Course architect Greg Martin has the new routing for what had been the Oak Meadows golf course in place, the turf is starting to grow in and the Wadsworth Construction equipment is departing the 288-acre property in Addison.

In short, the anticipation is growing – even with cold weather about to curtail another Chicago golf season. In just a few months this chunk of land will be the most talked about course in at least the Chicago area, and it should be. This isn’t just a golf course renovation. It also involves environmentally-driven restorations and wetland creation – and all that doesn’t come cheap.

DuPage director of golf Ed Stevenson is anxious to open a new golf course.

Ed Stevenson, director of golf for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, estimates the cost of those combined projects at $16 million and that doesn’t include the building of a clubhouse, which won’t likely be ready until 2019. Nineteen architects submitted proposals for that aspect of this massive project, four were interviewed and selection of the chosen one is imminent.

Next order of business involves the naming of the new course. One thing is certain: it won’t be called Oak Meadows, which was a deteriorating, flood-plagued layout before its formal closing on July 7, 2015. The Oak Meadows signs were taken down at the conclusion of the construction period.

Stevenson is heading the committee that hopes to come up with the new name in time for a mid-winter announcement. A committee of environmentalists, naturalists, ecologists, landscape architects and golf course personnel are pondering possible names and the best one from the group as a whole will be submitted to the DuPage board for approval.

Frequent flooding on the course initiated discussions for a renovation years ago. Then, in 2009, lightning struck the clubhouse and an ensuing fire destroyed it. That misfortune stimulated more discussion on what should be done at this choice location, which has housed at least one golf course since 1923.

Pro shop photos show that Ben Hogan’s 1941 Chicago Open win hasn’t been forgotten.


Originally the course was called Elmhurst Country Club, a private facility that hosted the 1941 Chicago Open – a big tournament won by the legendary Ben Hogan. For about 60 years Elmhurst CC existed beside another private country club, Brookwood. The courses went public in 1986, when the DuPage Forest Preserve District took over and started transforming what was there.

Maple Meadows, which had 27 holes on basically the Brookwood property, operated side-by-side with Oak Meadows before Martin began his renovation. The 18 holes at Oak Meadows and the nine-hole East course at Maple Meadows were eliminated to make way for the new 18-hole course.

Tee markers from the first and last holes are all that’s left of the Oak Meadows course.


Solving the flooding problems from Salt Creek was vital in the reconstruction. Two dams were removed and 1.2 miles of the creek were restored throughout the property.

“Salt Creek was a liability, and now it’s the star of the show,’’ said Stevenson, while giving his first sneak preview of the new course toward the conclusion of his 22nd season on the job. “We can hold 20 million more gallons of storm water because the water now goes where we want it to go. We can hold more of it, and the golf course can stay dry longer.’’

Opening of the new course is targeted – most optimistically – for next Memorial Day weekend but play will likely be limited for a while after that first ball is struck. Regulars from the Oak Meadows days will find that the Nos. 1 and 18 holes look familiar. The rest of the course, not so much – if at all.

While numerous trees were removed in the reconstruction process, about 500 native ones were planted. There had been 12 bridges on the property; now there are 10.

The 20 bunkers on the Oak Meadows layout were removed and 54 new ones were built, all with the new high-tech Better Billy Bunker system that was put into use at Minnesota’s Hazeltine National in preparation for the recent Ryder Cup matches. The new bunkers will have white sand, a trademark of PGA Tour courses, and the course was re-grassed with T-1 bentgrass, another upscale feature that was well-received at Valhalla – a PGA Tour-owned championship course in Kentucky – among other high-profile clubs.

One unfortunate part of the transformation was the elimination of an historic hole. The short par-3 sixteenth hole of the Oak Meadows course had the first island green in America. Charles W. Wagstaff, designer of the Elmhurst Country Club course, created it and such holes became popular world-wide over the years. Flooding concerns required the elimination of that hole in the new design.

The revamped practice range will be unique. It’ll have six target greens and a fairway will be cut down the middle. When completed the range can double as a six-hole course to be used in youth programs.

In some spots the renovated course that was Oak Meadows looks ready to welcome golfers.