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Len Ziehm On Golf

Ghim, India earn coveted spots at Web.com Tour qualifying tourney

Doug Ghim has relocated from Arlington Heights to Las Vegas as he prepares for his first full season as a Web.com Tour player. (Photos provided by Rory Spears)


The Chicago area has hardly been rich in players on the pro golf tours in recent years, but that situation improved significantly last weekend.

Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim and Deerfield’s Vince India earned spots for 2019 on the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour’s alternate circuit, and former world No. 1 Luke Donald, shaking off lingering back issues, played in his first American tournament in eight months.

Ghim, the low amateur at last year’s Masters, tied for third in the 72-hole finals of the Web.com Tour’s qualifying tournament in Chandler, Ariz., and India, the reigning Illinois Open champion, finished 12th. They were paired together in the final two rounds.

That means both have a significant tour to play on in 2019. The Web.com offers direct advancement to the PGA Tour for its best players. Ghim, who has relocated to Las Vegas since finishing his collegiate career at the University of Texas, is guaranteed 12 tournament starts in 2019 and India will be assured of at least eight.

Ghim, shooting 66-65 on the weekend, finished 25 under par for the 72 holes and India, who opened the tournament with a 63, finished at 23 under.

Vince India became just the ninth player win withs in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open when he won the Open title at The Glen Club this year. He won’t likely be able to defend that title, but the Web.com Tour will have a new event there in June. “That’ll be my Illinois Open,” said India.


India, one of just nine players to own wins in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, was a Web.com regular in 2017 but couldn’t retain his privileges for this year.

“I had full-time status in 2017 and played injured, which was stupid,’’ said India. “Last year I was able to play in only about one-third of the season. I was in a pretty weird place with my golf. Health was probably the reason for my golf problems.’’

Like Donald, India has battled back issues since concluding a stellar collegiate career at Iowa. Also like Donald, he used stem-cell therapy in his recovery effort.

“You’re never over back problems once they start,’’ said India. “There will always be rehab and therapy. It’s always in the back of my mind. I’ll need to keep working.’’

Web.com qualifying is held in three stages. Two Chicago amateur stars of the past, Northbrook’s Nick Hardy and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, didn’t make it to the finals stage and will have to survive Monday qualifying rounds or land sponsor exemptions to get into the circuit’s tournaments.

Dylan Meyer, Hardy’s University of Illinois teammate, tied for 50th in the Web.com finals after a promising start as a pro. Using sponsor exemptions after his collegiate season ended in June, Meyer earned $275,109 in PGA Tour starts and another $10,060 on the Web.com circuit. While he’s not guaranteed any Web.com starts, Meyer will likely get into a few tournaments because he qualified for the finals of Q-School.

LUKE IS BACK: Luke Donald spent parts of 2011 and 2012 as the world’s top-ranked golfer after graduating from Northwestern and he remained active golf-wise in the Chicago area through his membership at Conway Farms in Lake Forest and support work for the NU golf program, Western Golf Assn., and First Tee of Greater Chicago.

Donald’s playing career tapered off after he suffered a herniated disc in his back that led to his dropping off the circuit in April. After taking three months of complete rest while receiving stem-cell therapy Donald returned to competition in October at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour.

So far the results haven’t been there. Donald missed the 54-hole cut in the Dunhill Links and his team was 10th among the 12 twosomes competing in last week’s GTE Shootout in Naples, FL. He’ll join Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman to give the Chicago area a presence on the PGA Tour when the circuit resumes its schedule in January.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN LPGA: For over two decades Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray was basically the only Chicago area player on the Ladies PGA Tour. Now Jeray is turning her focus to teaching at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville and Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol will carry the Chicago banner on the LPGA circuit.

Szokol spent two collegiate seasons at Northwestern and two at Virginia before earning a place on the LPGA’s satellite Symetra Tour last year. Szokol advanced to the LPGA circuit by finishing fourth on the Symetra money list this year. She earned $76,612 and picked up her first victory at the IOA Invitational in May.

WINTER SCENE: Steve Kashul’s “The Golf Scene’’ will begin its Winter Edition on Sunday. The show, which will run at various times, is celebrating its 25th year anniversary on NBC Sports Chicago.

The Chicago Golf Show is also gearing up for its 36th winter staging. It’ll be held Feb. 22-24 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosement.

Meet the Millers: Like father, like son in Illinois PGA leadership

The Illinois PGA changes its president every two years, and the most recent changing of the guard on Nov. 19 was much different than all the previous ones.

When Jim Miller took over the reins from Mark Labiak the section gained an unusual new leader. Rarely has the IPGA had a president from a club outside of the Chicago area. Miller is in his 14th season as head professional at Bloomington Country Club, which is located in central Illinois.

And that’s not all. Miller is also continuing a family tradition. His father Hal was the IPGA president from 1982-83, when he was in the midst of a long and successful run at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie.

The Miller & Miller scenario begins at Evanston, where Hal entered the golf business as a caddie. He later worked there on the practice range and as a starter before becoming an assistant professional under the legendary player and teacher John Revolta in 1960.

Hal spent seven seasons as a Revolta assistant, then became the head professional in 1966 following Revolta’s retirement. Hal was the head man there for 35 years before retiring on Dec. 31, 2001. Now 82, he’s an honorary member of the club that he served in one capacity or another for about 50 years. Selected into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2007, he also remains involved with the IPGA as a regular rules official at its tournaments.

A Glenview resident, Hal and wife Kathleen were the parents of five children, all of whom worked at Evanston in one capacity or another while growing up. Jim is the only one who followed Hal into the golf industry.

Jim, 52, graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1990, then spent three years as an assistant at Sunset Ridge, in Northfield, and another at Indian Hill, in Winnetka, before Hal had an opening on his staff at Evanston. Jim eventually succeeded Hal as the club’s head professional and held that job for five years.

His move to Bloomington came in 2005 and was made largely for family reasons.

“When I got married I had promised my wife (Julia) that I wouldn’t be gone as much as my Dad was when I was growing up,’’ he said. “I had been working 13-hour days because that was the expectation created from Hal. That was the standard he had set. By that time we had four children under the age of nine. My wife reminded me of the promise I had made and said she expected me to keep it.’’

Jim did. When as opening developed at Bloomington he applied, was hired and has found a good job fit. Their four children are Parker, now 21; Katie, now 19; Ashley, now 17; and Bailey, now 14.

Bloomington, which has 330 golf members, was agreeable to Jim’s need for more family time. A good enough player to qualify for two PGA Club Professional Championships and become the runner-up in the 1995 IPGA Match Play Championship, Miller is focused on a broader range of duties now.

“When I first got to Bloomington the pace was slower and the demands not quite as high (as he had at Evanston),’’ he said, “but I brought that with me, and Bloomington has gotten more like the Chicago clubs.’’

Bloomington has always been a prominent tournament site. In addition to welcoming the Illinois Open in 1980, the club has hosted eight Illinois State Amateurs including last year’s version — more than any other club. Bloomington has also hosted the Illinois State Women’s Amateur five times.

Miller inadvertently played a role in hurting Bloomington’s chances to bring an Illinois Open back downstate. He was the IPGA’s tournament chairman when the decision was made to alter the format of the event in hopes of expanding the field and increasing the entries. The Glen Club, in Glenview, became the permanent site for the finals and a nearby club was needed as the alternate site each year. Bloomington was too far away to fit the bill, but Miller is happy with the format change made in the section’s premier event.

An IPGA director for three years while at Evanston, Miller dropped off the board when he made the move to Bloomington but he returned in 2009 and was elected an officer in 2015, when he ran for the secretary’s position. That started his progression to the presidency. He was secretary in 2015-16 and vice president in 2017-18. Now he takes on the responsibility of leading an organization with about 800 members.

The IPGA presidency is much different than when his father was in charge. The IPGA had an executive director (Ken Boyce) at that time but no long-term headquarters and only two assistants for Boyce. Now executive director Carrie Williams heads a staff that has at least three times that number when summer interns are factored in and a long-term base at The Glen Club.

“There are some similarities to when I was president,’’ said Hal, “but there’s a lot of facets the president is involved in. When I was president there weren’t so many things.’’

Jim sees one big issue ahead.

“It’s diversity and inclusion,’’ he said. “I know that affects us (the IPGA) for sure, but it’s industry-wide. The sheer lack of women and minorities in our industry is staggering and it’s our mission to find out why and how we can change it.’’

That’s not his only chore, of course.

“My goal is just to increase new member services, be it through education, tournaments, outreach programs,’’ he said. “I also want to make sure the section financially is in a good position. We’ll try to make our jobs better for all our members.’’

ISU’s Wallace, Sheppard earn CDGA Player of the Year honors

The Chicago District Golf Association has honored Players of the Year since 1993 and the Senior Player of the Year has been designated since 1995. Those so honored have earned a cherished place in golf history, and some have taken the honor to even greater heights.

Joel Hirsch was the first CDGA superstar, winning the first two Player of the Year awards in 1993 and 1994, and he was also the first to win the Senior Player of the Year honors three times (1996, 1998 and 2001). Hirsch’s accomplishments gave way to Dave Ryan, who won Senior honors seven times between 2009 and 2016, and no golfer has topped the four Player of the Year awards accumulated by Todd Mitchell (2006, 2008, 2013 and 2016).

This year’s honorees are special, as well. One picked up his coveted honor without winning tournament that offered Player of the Year points during the 2018 season and the other rose to prominence after having serious doubts that he’d even be able to play this season.

Let’s meet this terrific twosome:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Trent Wallace, Joliet.

For three years Wallace has been playing in the shadow of three of the all-time great amateurs in the history of Chicago golf. Doug Ghim (2014), Nick Hardy (2015) and Patrick Flavin (2017) were the best in those years and have continued to do big things both locally and nationally. That made the award all the more special for Wallace, who is a senior at Illinois State.

“It’s a great honor to be in the same category of great players, especially those who have won recently,’’ said Wallace. “I had always been a streaky player, but this season I was in contention every week. My forte is to grind.’’

Grind it out, he did. Though he didn’t have a victory Wallace piled up points by tying fourth in the Illinois State Amateur (his third straight top-five finish in that event), finishing as the runner-up in the CDGA Amateur and tying for seventh in the Illinois Open.

In the CDGA Amateur Wallace lost the title to ISU teammate David Perkins, of East Peoria, in a match that went 23 holes. As a college player Wallace was medalist in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He also helped the Redbirds win the Wisconsin Badgers Invitational this fall.

“My coach (Ray Kralis) said it was the best win in school history,’’ said Wallace. “Coach Ray was the only Division I coach to offer me a scholarship. I jumped at it, and I’ve never looked back. Every year the program has gotten better, and this year we’re in line to do something special.’’

When the ISU season is over that’ll also be the end of Wallace’s days as an amateur golfer.

“I haven’t been able to get into the Western Amateur for whatever reason, and if I can’t get into events like that I don’t see staying an amateur doing me any good,’’ he said. “The State Amateur is a nice tournament, but I’ve got bigger and better things to worry about. I’m looking forward to turning pro.’’

Wallace started playing golf when he was 3 years old and developed through the junior programs at the Inwood public course in Joliet before playing high school golf for Joliet West. Now he’s ready to take his game beyond the Illinois borders.

He plans to head for Florida, where his father lives, after his college eligibility is over and try the mini-tours, Web.com Tour qualifying school and the PGA Latinoamerica Tour.

SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Tim Sheppard, East Peoria.

Sheppard didn’t let understandable frustration get the better of him. That’s why he is the CDGA Senior Player of the Year.

Sheppard had been the CDGA’s Central Illinois Player of the Year in 2002. That award was discontinued after being handed out from 1995 through 2013, and Sheppard had a great chance to win the overall Senior honor in 2016.

“I had a good year, but Dave passed me because he won the U.S. Senior Amateur,’’ said Sheppard. “Dave beat me only once in 2016, and I’ve been wanting to win a CDGA event for some time. That put added pressure on me.’’

Sheppard had another problem as well. He started feeling pain in his left elbow in June of 2017, and that severely limited his tournament play. He underwent surgery, but that didn’t solve the problem. He switched doctors and had a stem cell injection in November of 2017. That helped somewhat when the 2018 schedule started.

“I didn’t play for two weeks, and then the pain was tolerable,’’ he said. “But then the pain started going into my hand. I changed my golf swing. In 2015 and 2016 I was playing the best golf of my life, then this nerve issue put a halt to my playing for almost a year.’’

More surgery was scheduled, then postponed. Sheppard still sees it in his future, but he did get his game in order for a late-season run that landed him his Player of the Year award.

In September he won the Illinois State Senior Amateur – his first individual title in a state/CDGA event. In October he teamed with Tom Kearfott to win the CDGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball for the second time.

Sheppard also reached the semifinals of the CDGA Senior Amateur and qualified the match play portion of the U.S. Senior Amateur.

Now 57, Sheppard owns an insurance agency in Peoria, Married to Michelle and the father of two children, Sheppard plays out of Lick Creek in Pekin. He didn’t play college golf and his main sport was softball until he was 34 years old. He didn’t get into serious golf competitions until his mid-thirties.

CDGA GOLFER ESSAY: My FIRST 50 years reporting on golf

Let’s make this perfectly clear from the outset. This is not a farewell/retirement column. It’s a reflection on my first 50 years covering golf in the Chicago area and beyond. It’s been a great run that I envision continuing for many years to come.

I consider the start coming at the 1968 Western Open during my first post-college job for the Hammond (Ind.) Times – now The Times of Northwest Indiana. The Western was played at Olympia Fields that year with Jack Nicklaus winning the title.

Covering PGA Tour events was much different then than it is now. Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and the top players would sit around a table in a small room designated for the press, drink a beer, smoke a cigarette and basically chew the fat with no more than a half-dozen writers.

Things changed quickly after that. The following year I started my 41-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times. I covered many other sports there – most notably the Northwestern teams for 11 years, pro soccer for 26 years and Wolves and Blackhawks hockey for the final 16 – but golf was always a fixture on my schedule.

The methods for creating and transmitting my reports changed dramatically over the years. First it was dictation via phone from the tournament site to the office. Then we carried both typewriters and telecopiers to the events and faxed the stories in. Eventually fax machines gave way to Radio Shack computers, which were very slow-moving.

Note-taking by hand was the initial method for interviewing. Now there’s digital recorders and transcripts of interviews are even provided at the bigger tournaments. Stories are sent via email and writers can even double as photographers, taking pictures with cellphones and then transmitting them via laptops.

My first big golf event at the Sun-Times was the 1972 Western Open at Sunset Ridge. It was interesting to return to that club this fall for the Western Amateur. There were no other stops at that club in between, so revisiting was special.

Much to my delight, the Daily Herald asked me to be its golf columnist immediately after I retired from the Sun-Times in June of 2010. I completed my ninth season with the Daily Herald this year and have also written for more years than that for both the Chicago District Golfer and Chicagoland Golf. Mix in some spot assignments for other publications, websites and tournament programs, and that’s a little of words and time spent devoted to birdies and bogeys, titles won and lost, course openings and closings and – even occasionally – some controversies.

Based on the research available, I can claim to be the longstanding Chicago golf scribe. Charles Bartlett, the legendary Chicago Tribune golf writer, was on the beat from 1936 to 1967. That’s 31 years. I was arriving on the scene as Bartlett was retiring, and I never met him but I’ll bet we could have shared some great stories.

The best performance by a local player in my era has been – by far – Nick Hardy’s 28 under par 260 in the 2016 Illinois State Amateur at St. Charles. The most exciting finish came in a 1991 LPGA event presented by my then-employer. Martha Nause rallied in the final four holes of an event called the Chicago Sun-Times Shootout at Oak Brook Golf Club, finishing birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle to win by one stroke. The eagle came off a hole-out from 100 yards on her final shot.

While the local scene was always close to my heart I have witnessed first-hand 28 U.S. Opens, 11 Masters, 19 PGA Championships, four U.S. Women’s Opens and the last 34 Western Opens. My debuts at both the U.S. Open and Masters were unforgettable. Johnny Miller’s record 63 on a rainy final day at Oakmont gave him the 1973 U.S. Open. The last of Nicklaus’ six wins in the Masters came in 1986, my first visit to Augusta National, and his charge on the back nine on Sunday was electrifying. I’ve never experienced anything like it, before or since.

Seeing all those great moments up close and personal unfortunately didn’t help my own game. My handicap has never been below 16 but my career low 18-hole round (81) came in this, my 74th year, and – thanks to a strong helping wind and steep downhill terrain leading into the green – I also drove a par-4 hole for the first time in at least 20 years. Maybe I’m just getting better with age – at least I hope so.

Golf has changed a lot in my last 50 years. The top stars are playing for much more money and aren’t as accessible or outgoing as they once were. The number of courses has dropped slightly. More women are playing, and youth programs are taking off big-time.

In short, the story of golf is an ongoing one, and I’m blessed to be able to report on it.

HERE AND THERE: Myrtle Beach’s Fall Classic takes on an expanded new look

TPC Myrtle Beach will be just one of the top courses awaiting players in the Short Par 4 Fall Classic.


The Myrtle Beach Fall Classic had been a four-year success in the South Carolina golf mecca, but the fifth staging – which starts on Sunday and runs through Thursday, Nov. 15 – has turned into an event that’s both bigger and better.

Landing Short Par 4 — a golf-inspired subscription service that ships hand curated, top quality branded golf apparel, footwear and accessories directly to golfers – as a title sponsor was a big reason. Short Par 4 is in the first of a three-year agreement for the event, now known as the Short Par 4 Fall Classic.

The immediate result was a record entry of 432 players from 38 states for the 72-hole two-person team event. Organizers hadn’t initially planned on that many players and increased the field size by 70 players while the entries were piling in.

“It’s quickly emerged as one of our most popular events,’’ said Scott Tomasello, tournament director for Golf Tourism Solutions, the company that runs the event. “Players love the two-person team format, which strikes a perfect balance by creating a competitive tournament and a relaxing atmosphere.’’

The course lineup was a plus as well. Five of the 16 courses to be used in the event have been ranked among America’s Top 100. They include such long-time favorites as the Dye and Fazio layouts at Barefoot Resort, Glen Dornoch, TPC Myrtle Beach, True Blue, Heritage Club and Thistle.

It’s hard to imagine a course with better waterfront views than Florida’s Sailfish Point.


WELL WORTH A LOOK: As most of you know I’m not one who gets carried away by course rankings provided by the golf industry publications. However, Sailfish Point (ranked fourth among residential courses in South Florida and 53rd nation-wide by Golfweek) seems to me underrated.

A Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, Sailfish Point opened in 1981 and the Golden Bear supervised a renovation in 2007 so the design is obviously of high quality.

More to the point, Sailfish has views that are hard to match on virtually every hole. That’s understandable given its location. The private club is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Lucie Inlet. It’s hard to imagine any Florida course having the water views that Sailfish Point has. It’s also important to note that the water is primarily for the enjoyment of viewers, not to swallow up errantly-hit golf balls.

Sailfish Point, officially in Stuart, is part of a 532-acre gated oceanfront community on Hutchinson Island. It has plenty of other amenities, most notably a full service marina, but its golf course is something special.

The newly-named Mistwood Golf Dome now offers state-of-the-art Toptracer Technology.


MISTWOOD EXPANDS AGAIN: Though the Mistwood Golf Club course just closed for the season in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville, owner Jim McWethy continued to expand his golf interests.

McWethy announced major changes in what had been known as McQ’s Golf Dome in nearby Bolingbrook. McWethy renamed the facility the Mistwood Golf Dome, the dining area is now McWethy’s Sports Bar and – most notably – the facility is now equipped with TopGolf’s Toptracer Range Technology.

Toptracer is a state-of-the-art technology that tracks the flight of a golf ball, displays its path in video and analyzes every shot hit. Mistwood is the first U.S. indoor facility to install it. Users can enjoy virtual golf on the world’s best courses, interactive games and its stat-tracing options.

TopGolf, meanwhile, is planning to open a new facility in Schaumburg.

A NEW WAY TO GET AROUND: Medinah Country Club is now using a food truck purchased from the Texas Rangers to transport meals to all parts of the property. (Photo by Rory Spears)


BITS AND PIECES: The Innisbrook Resort, in Palm Harbour, FL., will re-open its South course on Nov. 30 with new greens matching those previously installed at Innisbrook’s Copperhead and North courses. Copperhead hosts the PGA Tour’s annual Valspar Championship in March.

Chambers Bay, the public venue in Washington state which hosted the 2015 U.S. Open, closed last month for renovation work on its greens. The course is scheduled to re-open in March with Poa annua putting surfaces. It has already been awarded the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2021.

Miami, Fla., is on the brink of losing its only municipal course. Voters have supported the creation of Miami Freedom Park on the site of the present International Links Melreese Country Club. Miami Freedom Park, a commercial development backed by soccer great David Beckham, includes a 25,000-seat soccer stadium that’s to be home to a Major Soccer League team and a hotel.

Cog Hill, the 72-hole complex in Lemont, IL., will field a team for the third straight year in the PGA Junior League’s national championships. The finals, expanded from eight to 12 teams, will be played Nov. 16-17 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Junior League had a record 51,000 boys and girls participating on nearly 4,000 teams this year.

Chicago Golf Club member Tony Anderson has been named to the U.S. Golf Association’s Executive Committee and Medinah teaching professional Terry Russell is now the District 6 director for the PGA of America. He’ll represent the Illinois Wisconsin and Indiana sections of the PGA at the national board level.

Mike Scully, who had been Medinah’s director of golf during the 2012 Ryder Cup matches played there, has taken a general manager’s post at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. Scully left Medinah to become director of golf operations at Desert Mountain in Arizona before taking the Reynolds Lake Oconee position.

Chambers Bay’s course is closed now, but it’ll re-open in March with all new greens.

After an array of upgrades historic Tam O’Shanter is thriving again

Six decades ago the Tam O’Shanter Country Club in suburban Chicago was among the most famous golf courses in the world. It was owned by George S. May back then, and May was a man far ahead of his time when it came to golf promotion.

Tam O’Shanter opened in 1925. May took ownership in 1937 and hosted his first tournament, the Chicago Open, in 1940. He liked the results, and the next year he created his own tournament – the All-American Open – which offered, for that era, unprecedented prize money for the best men and women golfers. The legendary Byron Nelson was the men’s champion four times in a five-year stretch and notched win No. 10 in his unprecedented 11 victories in a row there in 1945.

The All-American Open grew into the World Championship in 1946. It lasted until 1957, with the likes of Gene Littler, Lloyd Mangrum, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias teeing it up for – by far — the biggest purses in golf. None of those players had the longlasting impact on golf that Lew Worsham did, however.

In 1953, in the first nationally-televised golf tournament, Worsham holed a 104-yard wedge shot on the final hole of the World Championship for an eagle and a one-stroke victory over a stunned Chandler Harper. The drama provided by Worsham’s shot captivated golf fans and triggered the sport’s rise in popularity as both a participant and spectator sport.

May eventually had issues with the PGA Tour over player entrance fees and discontinued his tournament in 1957. He died in 1962 and the Western Open resulted in the return of the PGA Tour to Tam O’Shanter in 1964 and 1965. That was the last hurrah for Tam O’Shanter’s glory days.

May’s family sold the club to developers late in 1965 and they turned much of the land into an industrial park, closing the course in the process. Now Tam O’Shanter is a nine-hole municipal course owned by the Niles Park District. Only about one-third of the land from the Tam O’Shanter of the May days is still used for golf and the clubhouse burned down long ago.

This story does not have a sad ending, however – not by a long shot.

The Niles Park District purchased what was left of the golf course and salvaged a nine-hole course that opened in 1974. It struggled for survival for nearly four decades but now, following a year-long course renovation project, Tam O’Shanter isn’t just surviving. It’s thriving.

The course renovation was performed by the Illinois-based Lohmann Quitno architectural firm. Drainage was improved and new tee boxes, bunkering and cart paths were installed. Signage on the course was also upgraded as the course was given a more classic look. Only two holes – No. 1, a par-4, and No. 6, a par-3 that had been No. 16 on the old course – are left from the original 18-holer. The renovated nine-holer plays just 2,457 yards from the tips.

No. 1 is now the longest hole, at 404 yards, and the rotation calls for six par-4s and three par-3s. It’s nothing fancy, like the Tam O’Shanter of old, but players have been turning out in steady numbers since the renovated course re-opened in June.

“We weren’t really trying to preserve the course, just bring back the style it had from the old days,’’ said architect Todd Quitno. “It was more about function and maintenance than it was about history. We wanted to preserve the golf course for a long time, and to do that we had to make it more maintainable. It was about acknowledging that this course had a long history and giving it a long future.’’

That was just fine with manager Peter Dubs, who attended golf camps at the course when he was 14 years old and held part-time jobs there before becoming a full-time employee 11 years ago following his college graduation. Chris Urgo, the director of instruction, also progressed from part-time to full-time staffer during a similar time frame.

What had once been a failed, very small driving range was converted into the outdoor portion of the Golf Learning Center. The facility is heavy into youth work and draws about 1,000 pupils annually.

Immediately after the Niles Park District opened the course the pro shop was operated out of a trailer. Then an Italian restaurant was added, but it didn’t work out very well. Since 2003 the Howard Street Inn sports bar-restaurant, which adjoins the pro shop, has been a busy year-around facility – not just when golfers are on the premises.

While the new nine-holer only faintly resembles May’s carnival-like 18-hole version, the history of that place hasn’t been forgotten. A big history wall fronts the No. 1 tee and the learning center includes an array of photos and memorabilia from May’s big tournaments.

Nine-hole rates range from $19 to $21 for non-residents and on-line reservations are being taken for the first time. Though power carts are available, the course is ideal for walking.

Hamlin, Turner are inducted into the LPGA Legends Hall of Fame

Sherri Turner celebrates her Hall of Fame induction with French Lick director of golf Dave Harner.


FRENCH LICK, Indiana – Two players are inducted into the LPGA Legends Hall of Fame each year, and this year – for the first time — the two honorees were inducted on separate nights.

Shelley Hamlin was honored at Thursday night’s opening night gala preceding the Senior LPGA Championship and Sherri Turner was inducted the following night in another dinner gala that followed the event’s second Faegre Baker Daniels Pro-Am on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.

The competition begins at noon on Sunday when the Legends Honors Division tournament tees off and the main event, — 81 players competing over 54 holes for a $600,000 purse –runs Monday through Wednesday with The Golf Channel broadcasting the action from 4-6 p.m. (EDT) each day. The champion receives $90,000.

Both induction ceremonies were held at the French Lick Resort, and Hamlin and Turner will be included in the Legends Hall of Fame room at the nearby West Baden Springs Hotel. Honorees are determined off the significant impact that each has made on both the LPGA and Legends tours. In the case of Hamlin and Turner, the inspiration that they demonstrated during their careers was instrumental in their selections.

Hamlin, who is involved in a long battle with cancer, could not attend her induction and good friend Anne Marie Palli accepted on Hamlin’s behalf. Hamlin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, during the heart of her playing career. She kept playing and fighting the disease after that winning three tournaments on the LPGA circuit and another on the Legends Tour.

Both Hamlin and Turner were among the 25 founding members of The Legends, for players who have reached their 45th birthday, in 2000.

“Shelley is a class act, and I’m sure she has a special feeling for this award, even though she’s in a fight for her life,’’ said Turner.

Turner, introduced by good friend of 40 years and fellow player Jane Crafter, was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes when she was 15 and has coped with Type 1 diabetes during her professional career.

Both Hamlin and Turner were on the LPGA board of directors, Hamlin serving s president in 1980-81 and Turner on the player executive committee from 1997-99 before The Legends Tour was created.

“The Legends gave us the opportunity to continue to compete,’’ said Turner. “We all still love the game, and there’s nothing like the thrill of winning. It also allowed us to maintain life-long friendships.’’

Turner gave special thanks to Legends founder Jane Blalock and Jan Stephenson, who herself was announced as a member of the next induction class into the World Golf Hall of Fame last week.

Blalock and Stephenson were among those preceding Hamlin and Turner into the Legends Hall of Fame. Stephenson, along with Kathy Whitworth, was in the first induction class in 2013. Blalock went in with Nancy Lopez the following year. Others in the Hall are JoAnne Carner and Rosie Jones (2015), Sandra Haynie and Elaine Crosby (2016) and Sandra Palmer and Nancy Scranton (2017).

Stephenson, Blalock, Carner, Jones, Crosby and Scranton will all be competing this week. Haynie will hit the ceremonial first tee shot on Monday.

Sherri Turner’s big night is climaxed by her induction into the Legends Hall of Fame.

Pinehurst Brewing Company already adds a lot to this golf mecca

Pinehurst Resort has kept up with the times golf-wise since its opening in 1895, and our regular visits over the last 20 years have described the many new things that Pinehurst has contributed to the golf world. It goes far beyond the big tournaments that have been played there.

This time, though, our report on what’s new in Pinehurst golf-wise can wait for a day. Not to take anything away from the golf side, but the resort broadened its reach when the Pinehurst Brewing Company opened a week ago.

While Pinehurst Resort has always been long on amenities for its guests, the Pinehurst Brewing Company is something that is both beneficial and needed. Now the resort has something that attracts locals as well as out-of-towners. That was obvious in our visit; we arrived early on a weekday night, waited briefly in line before being seated and left with the place packed.

From power plant to microbrewery, this place has stood for over 120 years.

Getting a handle on Pinehurst Brewing Company isn’t as easy as it might seem. Yes, it’s a brewery. Eric Mitchell came in from Heist Brewing Company in Charlotte to be Pinehurst’s first brewmaster. While the restaurant has been open a few days, the brewery has not. The debut of Mitchell’s craft beers, though, I’m told is imminent.

This 10-barrel brewery, not surprisingly, includes a restaurant with a unique style of pizza and sandwiches dominating the menu for now. While there are TVs scattered throughout the place, it’s no sports bar. It’s much more than that. There’s both indoor and outdoor bars and dining, and over 200 patrons can be accommodated at a time.

Moving forward, however, Pinehurst Brewing Company is more than just a place to eat and drink beer. Just a few days into its existence, it’s clear that Pinehurst Brewing Company is also am historical landmark.

The building that houses the brewery-restaurant was known as the Village Power House, and the steam it produced allowed the Holly Inn to welcome its first guests in 1895. The Holly Inn, of course, is still going strong.

As for the Village Power House it was in operation into the 1990s, then was shuttered and slated for demotion. The wrecking ball never came, however, and that’s turned out a good thing.

As much of the power plant as possible has been incorporated into the building of the Pinehurst Brewing Company and artifacts from it serve as table decorations. The original brick walls are still there and the historic smokestack will be rebuilt.

The entire place will be a work in progress for a while. Even in its early days, though, the Pinehurst Brewing Company adds a lot to an already special place.

History-rich Downers Grove, Tam O’Shanter have found ways to survive

The Downers Grove and Tam O’Shanter golf courses, once among the most famous in the United States, aren’t what they used to be. Both, though, are proof of that time-worn adage – “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.’’

Downers Grove was, back in 1892, the America’s first 18-hole course. It – or at least what’s left of it – was the first version of Chicago Golf Club before the members moved to their permanent home in Wheaton.

Tam O’Shanter was the most popular tournament site of the 1940s and 1950s, the site of the big-money tournaments put on by super-promoter George S. May.

Both Downers and Tam O’Shanter have long been relegated to nine-hole facilities operated by park districts. A few holes of each are part of their original layouts but they’re land-locked, eliminated any possibility to return to an 18-hole rotation. Both are still vibrant facilities, however, and they’re working to keep up with the changing times.

That’s been particularly evident this year, as the Downers Grove Park District and Niles Park District took on major projects to upgrade their courses. Here’s what’s been going on, with Downers going first.

In mid-July a major upgrade to the Downers practice range was opened. Ten of the range’s 22 hitting stations now have protection from the elements. They’re covered by a rook and also feature infrared heaters, lights and ceiling fans. Garage doors and solar panels on the south side of the sheltered area are targeted to be added soon. They’ll help block the wind or allow for additional airflow.

The entire construction project creates a big change in the look of the facility. More importantly, though, it will provide more playing time at the course throughout the year and extend the season for the golfers visiting there.

At Tam O’Shanter the changes weren’t quite as dramatic in appearance but a major part of the ongoing work being done to keep this place relevant for golfers and remind them of its rich contribution to American golf history. The historical aspect has been addressed much more at Tam than it has at Downers.

Tam O’Shanter opened in 1925. May took ownership in 1937 and hosted his first tournament, the Chicago Open, in 1940. He liked the results, and the next year he created his own tournament – the All-American Open – which offered, for that era, unprecedented prize money for the best men and women golfers. The legendary Byron Nelson was the men’s champion four times in a five-year stretch and notched win No. 10 in his unprecedented 11 victories in a row there in 1945.

The All-American Open grew into the World Championship in 1946. It lasted until 1957, with the likes of Gene Littler, Lloyd Mangrum, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias teeing it up for – by far — the biggest purses in golf. None of those players had the long lasting impact on golf that Lew Worsham did, however.

In 1953, in the first nationally-televised golf tournament, Worsham holed a 104-yard wedge shot on the final hole of the World Championship for an eagle and a one-stroke victory over a stunned Chandler Harper. The drama provided by Worsham’s shot captivated golf fans and triggered the sport’s rise in popularity as both a participant and spectator sport.

May eventually had issues with the PGA Tour over player entrance fees and discontinued his tournament in 1957. He died in 1962 and the Western Open resulted in the return of the PGA Tour to Tam O’Shanter in 1964 and 1965. That was the last hurrah for Tam O’Shanter’s glory days.

May’s family sold the club to developers late in 1965 and they turned much of the land into an industrial park, closing the course in the process. Only about one-third of the land from the Tam O’Shanter of the May days is still used for golf and the clubhouse burned down long ago.

This story does not have a sad ending, however – not by a long shot.

The Niles Park District purchased what was left of the golf course and salvaged a nine-hole course that opened in 1974. It struggled for survival for nearly four decades but now, following a year-long course renovation project, Tam O’Shanter isn’t just surviving. It’s thriving thanks to a renovation that delayed its opening in the spring.

The course renovation was performed by the Illinois-based Lohmann Quitno architectural firm. Drainage was improved and new tee boxes, bunkering and cart paths were installed. Signage on the course was also upgraded as the course was given a more classic look. Only two holes – No. 1, a par-4, and No. 6, a par-3 that had been No. 16 on the old course – are left from the original 18-holer. The renovated nine-holer plays just 2,457 yards from the tips.

No. 1 is now the longest hole, at 404 yards, and the rotation calls for six par-4s and three par-3s. It’s nothing fancy, like the Tam O’Shanter of old, but players have been turning out in steady numbers since the renovated course re-opened in June.

“We weren’t really trying to preserve the course, just bring back the style it had from the old days,’’ said architect Todd Quitno. “It was more about function and maintenance than it was about history. We wanted to preserve the golf course for a long time, and to do that we had to make it more maintainable. It was about acknowledging that this course had a long history and giving it a long future.’’

That was just fine with manager Peter Dubs, who attended golf camps at the course when he was 14 years old and held part-time jobs there before becoming a full-time employee 11 years ago following his college graduation. Chris Urgo, the director of instruction, also progressed from part-time to full-time staffer during a similar time frame.

What had once been a failed, very small driving range was converted into the outdoor portion of the Golf Learning Center. The facility is heavy into youth work and draws about 1,000 pupils annually.

Immediately after the Niles Park District opened the course in the 1970s the pro shop was operated out of a trailer. Then an Italian restaurant was added, but it didn’t work out very well. Since 2003 the Howard Street Inn sports bar-restaurant, which adjoins the pro shop, has been a busy year-around facility – not just when golfers are on the premises.

While the new nine-holer only faintly resembles May’s carnival-like 18-hole version, the history of that place hasn’t been forgotten. A big history wall fronts the No. 1 tee and the learning center includes an array of photos and memorabilia from May’s big tournaments.

While quite a few Chicago courses have gone away over the years, Downers and Tam O’Shanter are proof that courses can survive long-term.

Medinah’s Johns triggered the creation of IPGA’s Birdies for Charity

The Illinois PGA’s Birdies for Charity event is one of those things that was good from the start and keeps getting better. That’ll be underscored again on Sept. 4 when the event is held for the eighth time at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst.

Birdies for Charity involves golf professionals playing 72 holes in one day to raise funds for non-industry charitable organizations throughout Illinois. Donors make a financial pledge per birdie to support each participating professional.

Travis Johns, the director of instruction at Medinah, was involved in the creation of such an event while a member of the North Texas Section of the PGA.

“There were seven other pros who were born in Australia and working in the Dallas area,’’ said Johns. “We felt fortunate to be working in the United States and wondered how we could give back.’’

Mark Harrison, the executive director of the North Texas Section and a fellow Australian, devised the Birdies for Charity concept. The pros went to their clients, neighbors and customers inviting donations per birdie made. Among their group was Cameron McCormick, now the teacher for PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth.

The group’s first Birdies for Charity event was played at Preston Trail, one of Dallas’ premier clubs, in the early 2000s and raised about $25,000. That Birdies for Charity was eventually moved to Brook Hollow and the Australian pros were joined by hockey star Bret Hull, the son of Blackhawks’ legend Bobby Hull.

As the event gained momentum, the players decided to take advantage of extra daylight in August and expanded the event to seven rounds in one day. Johns played in the Dallas version for eight years and the event topped $1 million in charity donations by the time he left to take the job at Medinah.

While the Dallas group has continued its Birdies for Charity Johns felt it a worthwhile project for the Illinois Section to take on as well. He took the idea to Chris Gumbach, the head professional at River Forest. He was the section’s sponsorship chairman at the time.

“I pitched it to him, and thankfully he ran with it,’’ said Johns. “It was different here, though. We didn’t limit the players to seven-eight people. We opened it to every pro in the section.’’

“Travis was new to the section then, and he brought it up to a few of the guys and wasn’t getting much interest,’’ said Gumbach. “I didn’t know Travis then as well as I do now, but to me it was a great idea and the event has quietly grown.’’

This year 44 professionals from 38 clubs will participate and the Central Illinois Section of the PGA will hold its own event for the first time on the same day at Country Club of Decatur.

There are some other enhancements as well. Previous Birdies for Charity were played over four rounds. This year’s will be over five. It’ll mean over 12 hours of non-stop golf for the participants.

Johns and Gumbach were co-founders of the first Illinois PGA Birdies for Charity in 2011 and have remained as co-chairmen of the event. The Illinois Section’s first Birdies for Charity raised $44,000 with 14 professionals participating. Now the total raised is up to $1.18 million.

“I thought we were king of the hill after that first year, raising that kind of money,’’ said Gumbach. “It was just guys playing golf. Never in a million years did I think we could crack $1 million in seven years. That was pretty cool.’’

Those “guys playing golf’’ raised more money in each succeeding year with last year’s event raising a record $280,000. Thirty-five professionals made 670 birdies on that long, but most worthwhile day at River Forest.

That meant contributions of $66,390 to each of Core Four charities – the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana and the Illinois PGA Foundation. This year more charities will also benefit.

“Those four will remain the same, but a lot of other charities got wind of what we have been doing and asked to be involved,’’ said Johns, “so we’re trying to spread the wealth.’’

Two – Folds of Honor and Cal’s Angels — will benefit, but to a lesser degree than the Core Four. Each participating professional was invited to submit an entry for “bonus charity’’ status. Fifteen were nominated before those two were selected in a drawing. That policy will be continued in future years.

Johns and Gumbach have set a financial goal of $300,000 for this year’s event. While the final numbers will be totaled up on Sept. 4 it’s clear that some professionals have accumulated enough in pledges to raise $1,000 per birdie made.

The debut of the Central Illinois section’s Birdies for Charity will be held the same day with 11 professionals participating to benefit two downstate charities – Boys & Girls Club of Decatur and OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.