Len Ziehm On Golf

`Tiger Woods’ provides an inside look at the world’s most fascinating athlete

Book review time. If you ever wanted to know what Tiger Woods’ life has really been like this creation – titled simply “Tiger Woods’’ – is a must read.

Certainly anybody who has reported on golf should check it out. Co-authors Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian were more than qualified to take on this project and they produced a very even-handed chronological account of the many highs and lows that Woods has endured in his sometimes brilliant, sometimes chaotic 40-plus years.

The fact that Woods couldn’t be interviewed for the book is unfortunate but understandable. The way Benedict and Keteyian tackled the project, though, made that not really necessary. Their research was that good. They didn’t need Woods to do any re-hashing of the well-documented episodes that broadcast, print and social media outlets have provided for so long.

In short, Woods’ tale is the result of mixing a talented, obsessively-driven, intelligent athlete with aggressive — if sometimes questionable – parental practices. That doesn’t explain everything, though. Woods’ treatment of his first girlfriend, his wife, his long-time friend and lover (Lindsey Vonn), his highly-respected swing instructors (Butch Harmon and Hank Haney), his once-trusted caddie and Mark O’Meara – a neighbor, big-brother figure, frequent playing partner and loyal friend – are puzzling. And that’s putting it mildly.

Is Woods finally healthy again, as a few tournaments this year might suggest? I have no idea.

Will he ever break Jack Nicklaus’ record for winning major championships? I strongly doubt it, but can’t rule it out.

Has he finally found inner peace? Can he enjoy life regardless of how he performs in golf tournaments? I hope so. The sports world has produced many fascinating characters but Tiger Woods might be the most fascinating of them all.

Blalock gets well-deserved invite into the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open

Jane Blalock, getting grilled by the media before the 2017 Senior LPGA Championship at Indiana’s French Lick Resort, is the guiding light behind senior golf for former LPGA players.

Jane Blalock, who provided the only tournament options for Ladies PGA members once they reached the senior ranks, was – most appropriately – among the first two special exemptions into the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open that will come to Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton in July.

The U.S. Golf Association also issued a special invite to Mary Jane Hiestand, the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, on Wednesday but Blalock’s inclusion in the July 12-15 event on America’s first 18-hole course was more significant.

Blalock, 72, was the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1969 and went on to win 27 times on the circuit. Though ranked 19th in all-time victories, Blalock did not qualify for the USGA’s first national championship for women, both pros and amateurs, in the 50-plus age group.

In 2000, after her days as a mainstay on the LPGA circuit were over, Blalock organized the Legends Tour. It welcomed players who had reached their 45th birthday, and the circuit could muster only a few tournaments a year until 2012. Seven were held that year and 13 the next.

In 2013 the circuit had its first major event – The Legends Championship at French Lick, Ind. – and that event grew into the first LPGA Senior Championship last year. It was the first Legends event to get formal support from the LPGA as well as TV coverage.

The U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be the second major for senior women. It’s open to both professionals as well as amateurs with a handicap of 7.4 or better. The finals at Chicago Golf Club have 120 players, most determined at a series of nation-wide qualifying rounds. Many of the former LPGA stars won’t enter, however, because it’s a walking-only event. Blalock planned to enter, even if she wasn’t awarded a special exemption.

“I had goose bumps when I received the call,’’ she said. “This is a historic event of mammoth proportions, so to have the chance to participate is so significant on many fronts. (Senior women) now have the chance to compete on golf’s most prominent stage and those of us who didn’t win a U.S. Open will now have another chance.’’

Senior women’s golf has seen a dramatic upgrade in the last three years. The last Legends Championship of 2016 was played over 36 holes and had a $75,000 prize fund. Last year’s first LPGA Senior Championship was played over 54 holes and had a $600,000 purse. The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open is a 72-hole event with a $1 million purse.

Scotland’s Trish Johnson won both the last Legends Championship and first LPGA Senior Championship. Her prizes for winning were $37,00 in 2016 and $90,000 in 2017. The champion’s share of the Senior Women’s Open purse hasn’t been announced.

Tour Edge, Wilson, WGA make an impact at PGA Merchandise Show

PGA Show visitors got an early look at what Team USA will wear in this year’s Ryder Cup.

ORLANDO, Florida – The PGA Merchandise Show is – as far as the golf industry is concerned – the major annual event for the sport, and last week’s 65th staging of the show at the Orange County Convention Center underscored that.

The Show, which draws about 40,000 visitors annually, featured more than 7,500 PGA professionals from all 50 states and 87 countries. In addition to those from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Korea, Japan and Taiwan had big contingents. Over 1,000 media representatives from 25 countries were also on hand, and 36 countries received television coverage.

Exhibits were spread over nearly 10 miles of aisles in the massive Convention Center as manufacturers put their new products on display and the two Chicago club manufacturers were in the thick of things.

Tour Edge president David Glod likes what he sees from players on PGA Tour Champions.

Buoyed by a big year in 2017, David Glod — president of Batavia-based Tour Edge – did more than put his new lines of Exotics, Hot Launch and Bazooka brands on display. He also revealed some strategic changes for the 32-year old company.

With the company showing a 25-per cent growth over the previous year, Tour Edge has beefed up its staff – particularly on the marketing side. It’ll have commercials on The Golf Channel and tour players will have an increased role in promoting Tour Edge products. Tour Edge clubs helped PGA Tour players win 10 tournaments in recent years without the company paying them to use their equipment.

“We’ll have a little different approach this year,’’ said Glod during his company’s media day preview. “We’ll go heavy on the Champions Tour.’’

One Champions Tour player, Tim Petrovic, even spoke on Tour Edge’s behalf during the Show preview event.

Callaway was just one of many companies offering some new designs for golf attire at the Show.

Chicago-based Wilson stepped up production of its innovative Driver vs. Driver2 series during the Show’s Demo Day and Tim Clarke, head of the company’s golf division, announced two new judges – hockey great Jeremy Roenick and PGA professional/coach Rick Shiels.

The series, which made its Golf Channel debut in 2016, features aspiring club designers competing to have their concepts transformed into the model that Wilson will use for its next driver. Clarke returns as a judge and Melanie Collins will again be the emcee of the series, which will make its TV debut in the fall after the Ryder Cup matches.

The Chicago-based Western Golf Association also made news, announcing a groundbreaking initiative to promote youth caddie opportunities. It’s called Carry the Game and will operate under the WGA umbrella with the U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America, The First Tee and Youth on Course also involved in the project.

Looking for a more modernized look for your golf cart? How about this one.

“Through Carry the Game, our goal is to provide young people with an early introduction to golf by creating life-changing opportunities to work as a caddie,’’ said John Kaczkowski, the WGA’s president and chief executive officer. “Ultimately we believe the experiences and mentorship gained through caddying are invaluable to a young person’s development and will help cultivate a lifelong passion for playing the game.’’

Other product introductions included Callaway’s line of Rogue drivers and fairway woods with Jailbreak technology; Cobra’s F8 drivers with Cobra Connect technology; TaylorMade’s M3 and M4 drivers with new Twist Face technology and Titleist’s new Tour Soft and Velocity golf balls.

These giant tees will be in abundance as the next Ryder Cup in Paris closes in.

The best three new products among merchandise displayed at the show, as determined by voters from the PGA and the top buyers, were Chippo Golf, a game for backyard, beach or tailgate events; Rhineland Cutlery, custom engraved cutlery sets targeting golf events; and Tsu Tsu Sport, a colorful apparel collection.

Each PGA Merchandise Show also has an Inventor’s Spotlight, for products not yet available at retail outlets. Best of those, according to selectors, was the Impact Improver — an indoor training device.

Many of the products introduced in Orlando will also be available at three upcoming Chicago area shows – the Tinley Park Golf Expo Feb. 9-11 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, the Northern Illinois Expo Feb. 16-18 at the Lake County Fair Grounds and the Chicago Golf Show Feb. 23-25 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

More scenes from the 65th PGA Merchandise Show reflect what a colorful event it was.

Revelation Golf: A success story that’s ongoing

RevelationGolf has done lots of good things since Elk Grove resident Donna Strum created the program in 2005. Strum, a therapeutic recreation specialist, quit a job at a hospital to work with children and adults with physical disabilities, breast cancer survivors and at-risk youth.

It wasn’t until two years later, Strum and her assistant, Kathy Williams, took the program to military veterans, that RevelationGolf really took off. By 2008 there were weekly golf clinics held at various locations. Williams is an LPGA Class A teaching professional, a former Evans Scholar and head women’s golf coach at the University of Minnesota.

“Now the military veterans program is 90 percent of what we do,’’ said Strum. “The need is so great. Our programs are used as part of healing and recovery.’’

Golf, obviously, has proven to be a tool to cope with both physical disabilities as well as those suffering from such things as post traumatic stress disorder. The RevelationGolf program works, and its slogan, “a new beginning to a great game,’’ is most appropriate.

Strum says RevelationGolf gives 1,200 lessons a year to 350 “unique individuals.’’

And, it’s not just men who need help. Women and the children of the veterans have benefitted as well and Illinois PGA members have been involved from the outset. Strum, working with medical personnel, administers her program for both the Illinois PGA and Project Hope, the national version organized by the PGA of America.

Strum and her medical staffers put interested Illinois PGA members through a four-hour training session before they are allowed to work with the veterans. The first two hours are classroom work in which the different physical disabilities and the emotional side effects are discussed. Then the professionals get an hour of simulations, hitting shots from various stations under conditions that their students are facing, before getting introduced to the veterans themselves.

Some of the participants have the use of only one hand. Some have tremors. Some are visually impaired. Some are using prosthetic legs. The golf professionals are given a taste of what it’s like to be in that state.

Don Habjan, the head professional at Makray Memorial in Barrington, took his training with RevelationGolf in the fall of 2005 and has been working as a teacher since that time. Patrick Lynch, the head professional at Cantigny in Wheaton, and Cog Hill’s Carol Rhoades, the IPGA Professional of the Year in 2017, have also been long-time instructors in the veterans’ program.

Also prominent among the instructors are Brandon Evans, head professional at Village Greens in Woodridge; Jennifer Ferrell, head professional at Glendale Lakes in Glendale Heights; Matt Tullar, assistant head professional at Cantigny; Mason Wall, of the Todd Sones Golf School at White Deer Run in Vernon Hills; and independent teaching professionals Cory Ferrell and Louise Davis.

“We use a medical model for everything that we do,’’ said Strum, “and there are usually at least two teachers at every event along with one or two therapists.’’

Clinics and related events were held at 16 locations across the Chicago area in 2017, and not just at golf facilities. RevelationGolf has put on its events at dozens of hospitals and worked with a wide variety of charitable organizations.

One of the key locations is the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago. The PTSD veterans there were treated to sessions on a weekly basis in 2017. They were held on a bi-weekly basis before that.

Susanne Brown, a recreational therapist at that facility, could attest to the value of RevelationGolf.

“So many of our PTSD veterans suffer from persistent thoughts and memories that plague them throughout their day’’ she said. “In participation (in RevelationGolf), they have shared their ability to release those thoughts, even if only for the time they are golfing. Participating in golf, they turned their focus instead on the game and their skill. That gave them momentary release and freedom….It is exhilarating to watch them as the stress and tension fade from their bodies and their faces.’’

Women going through crises at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago were treated to the RevelationGolf programs for the first time this year – 15 participated — and the three Veterans Golf Days – held at Cog Hill, the nearby Chicago District Golf Association’s Sunshine Course in Lemont and Willow Glen in North Chicago drew a record 80 veterans. Those special days were expanded to include a dinner as well.

The RevelationGolf program doesn’t run in just the warm weather months, either. Links & Tees, in Addison, hosts clinics on Tuesdays and the Buffalo Grove Dome does the same on Wednesdays during the winter months.

A date has also been set for RevelationGolf’s 13th annual fundraiser. It’ll be held on June 11 at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights.

My big night at the ING Media Awards

Wisconsin buddies Gary Van Sickle and Chuck Garbedian joined me as winners of ING Media Awards.

I’m excited, and most appreciative. Last night three of my pieces from 2017 were cited in the 24th annual International Network of Golf Media Awards presentation, which climaxed the first day of the 65th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

My Daily Herald piece, “Koepka wins first major,’’ was the winner in the Competition Writing category. It told the story of Brooks Koepka’s victory in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last June.

I also received Outstanding Achiever mentions for two pieces, one for Travel Writing and the other in the Competition Writing category. The Travel piece, “Simply Grand,’’ appeared in the Daily Herald and spotlighted Wisconsin’s Grand Geneva Resort. (This piece also was published in Chicagoland Golf). It was the second year in which I’ve been cited in the Travel Writing category.

The other mention was for “Make It a Double,’’ which ran in the Chicago District Golfer. It was a report on Patrick Flavin’s victories in the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open.

Damon Hack, of The Golf Channel, was emcee for the event and a couple of my Wisconsin buddies – Chuck Garbedian (Radio Show) and Gary Van Sickle (Profile Writing) – were winners in other categories. Tony Leodora won for the third straight year in the TV Show division.

GOLF TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: PGA National Resort is up for sale

PGA National has received numerous upgrades in recent years. Now it may get a new owner as well.

PGA National Resort & Spa, home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, is up for sale.

The resort, which includes five courses in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., fetched $170 million when it was acquired by Walton Street Capital of Chicago in 2006 from a Florida investor, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post. Another $89 million was spent on renovations since that purchase, according to that report.

Now PGA National is apparently on the market again, according to a website set up by the resort’s broker. PGA National includes 339 hotel rooms, a 40,000 square-foot spa and 42,000 square feet of meeting space in addition to the golf courses.

Best known of the courses is the Champion, which hosted the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982-2000. It’s been the home of the Honda Classic since 2007 and features one of the toughest three-hole stretches in golf — Nos. 15-17, which has been dubbed The Bear Trap following a redesign by Jack Nicklaus.

Rickie Fowler is scheduled to defend his title in the Honda Classic from Feb. 22-25 and the resort has agreed to host that tournament through 2021.

PGA National’s Bear Trap has long been one of the most treacherous three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour and an annual concern for Honda Classic competitors. (Photos by Rory Spears)

AN EARLY WOMEN’S OPEN: For the first time since 2001 the U.S. Women’s Open will start in May, ahead of the U.S. Open. In the U.S. Golf Association’s 2018 scheduled, announced this week, the 73rd annual championship will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. It is the key part of a reorganization of the USGA’s championship schedule.

Shoal Creek, another Nicklaus design, will host its third USGA championship, having previously hosted the 1986 U.S. Amateur and 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur. It’s also been a PGA Championship site.

DORMIE GOING PRIVATE: The Dormie Club, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design in Pinehurst, N.C., was well-received immediately after its 2010 opening. Now it’ll be undergoing some major changes.

A Nebraska-based investment company purchased the club and will add it to its Dormie Network – a group of destination clubs that includes Briggs Ranch in Texas, ArborLinks in Nebraska and Ballyhack in Virginia. The Pinehurst location will get a new clubhouse, halfway house and on-site lodging and gradually revert back to its original status as a private course. The plan is to have an invitation-only membership by 2020.

REE JONES BREAKTHROUGH: The renowned architect of nearly 230 golf courses now has his first one in Mexico. Danzante Bay opened last month along the Sea of Cortez as part of the Villa del Palmar Resort.

Eleven holes were available last year and the new seven, Nos. 7 through 8, cover different terrains that include beaches, cliffs and canyons.

KEMPER LANDS TOBACCO ROAD: Northbrook-based KemperSports is always adding courses to its portfolio, but one of the latest is especially noteworthy. Kemper will now provide consulting services at Tobacco Road, one of the premier courses in North Carolina.

In other developments, Kemper has been named to manage Diamante Country Club in Arkansas and The Club at Grandezza in Florida and will be involved in a $5.1 million renovation project at Forest Creek in Texas.

ALL ABOUT WHISKEY: Glen Garden Country Club, the Texas course where legends Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan got their start as caddies, is now situated on the grounds of Whiskey Ranch – the only whiskey distillery on a full-functioning 18-hole course.

Glen Garden had been closed for three years, after Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. purchased the property. The company has since built five buildings on the property and re-configured the course with plans to open it for charity and private events.

TOPGOLF GOES INTERNATIONAL: Chicago was one of the first areas to get a Topgolf location, and now there are 37 spread across the world. The company has recently opened venues in Canada, Mexico and Australia and will open another in Dubai in 2019.

The new owners of The Dormie plan to replace the old clubhouse but the rugged course will stay intact.

Dick Nugent was one of Chicago’s most prolific — and best — golf course designers

I was just sad to learn of the passing of Dick Nugent, the long-time Chicago golf course architect, on New Year’s Day. I don’t know more details, but Nugent was 87 — a very nice man and and one of the most prolific architects in the Chicago area.
A University of Illinois graduate — he also played football for the Illini — Nugent started his architectural career working for the legendary designer Robert Bruce Harris. He later hooked up with fellow architect Ken Killian, and they handled the design work for Kemper Lakes.
While Kemper Lakes was his best-known work, Nugent created over 90 courses in 12 states. Among his other noteworthy ones was the Dunes Club in New Buffalo, Mich. — the only 9-hole course to be ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 100.
Many of his designs came after he and Killian split up their partnership in 1983.
In addition to Kemper Lakes Nugent’s credits include some of the Chicago area’s best public layouts — both courses at Harborside International, George Dunne National, Golf Club of Illinois, Foxford Hills, Heritage Bluffs and Buffalo Grove.
He was also involved in projects at Deerpath, Big Run, Twin Orchard, Midlothian, Fox Lake , Glencoe, Glendale Lakes, Sunset Valley, Poplar Creek, Bull Valley and Ivanhoe.

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Ibis’ Legend proves that Nicklaus courses are becoming more fun

Beware of the wall at the signature hole — the par-3 No. 13 with the island green at Ibis’ Legend Course.

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – This is what I was told.

Jack Nicklaus designed the Legend Course at The Club at Ibis for an opening in 1991. More than 20 years passed, and club members asked Nicklaus to come back and check it out again. He did, and his immediate comment was `What was I thinking?’

In his early years in course architecture Nicklaus’ designs were frequently considered too penal. This was apparently one of them. The tournament player side of Nicklaus was more reflected in his course designs back then. He liked his courses to be challenging.

Having not played the original Legend, it was difficult for me to imagine what it had looked like before the current re-design was unveiled this month. (Nicklaus hit the ceremonial first tee shot on Dec. 13 and the course opened for play a week later).

According to a long-time nearby resident – a non-member who happens to be a scratch player, the new version “is more accepting to all types of players and conditions. It’s playability instead of brutality. Bravo!’’

Artificial turf isn’t made for golf, but it works as the entry and exit path to the Legend Course’s No. 13 green.

From my perspective as a first-time visitor I can’t imagine the Legend beating up any players. The fairways are extremely wide. The number of bunkers isn’t excessive, and those in the new design frame the landing areas quite well. The greens, already in excellent condition, are well contoured but provide fun for any player, be it a high or low handicapper, man or woman.

In short, this is a most enjoyable place to play. The course can welcome back big tournaments (it plays 7,442 yards from the tips) if the membership so chooses as well as stimulate beginning players (the front set of tees provides a course of only 4,492 yards.

The Club at Ibis is in the heart of Nicklaus country. In fact, it may be the center of it design-wise. Two of Nicklaus’ sons have also designed courses on the property, which is part of a gated community that requires those who live in its 1,900 residences to be members. Jack Nicklaus II, now the president of Nicklaus Design, created the immediately friendly Heritage Course, which also opened in 1991. Steve Nicklaus designed the Tradition Course, a links-style layout that opened in 2001.

Nicklaus’ renovated Legend has a particularly scenic par-3 at No. 5 but a more memorable one at No. 13. This one has an island green, fountain in the water fronting the green and a path of artificial turf leading into the putting surface from behind the green. With those features there’s no denying it ‘s the course’s signature hole.

The flowering is at its best around the No. 12 tee on this Jack Nicklaus renovation.

Jack Nicklaus, the one of Golden Bear fame, has been a resident of nearby North Palm Beach since the 1970s. His Bear’s Club, in Jupiter, has been a haven for established PGA Tour players since Nicklaus and his wife Barbara founded the club in 1999. Nicklaus also handled a 2014 redesign of the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens – just four miles from The Club at Ibis. The home of the PGA Tour’s annual Honda Classic, PGA National’s Champion Course features one of the sport’s most treacherous three-hole stretches from Nos. 15-17. It’s been declared, appropriately enough, “The Bear Trap.’’

As established as the Nicklauses are in south Florida, this year has been an extraordinary one for the clan. In November, a month before the opening of the Legend at The Club at Ibis, the patriarch of the clan oversaw the opening of the Banyan Cay Resort & Golf – another members-only club in West Palm Beach.

A double-ended practice range has 75 hitting stations in addition to a teaching area led by Golf Channel’s Martin Hall.

This one is significant because it was the 300th course that Nicklaus created. Other designers have created more. Tom Bendelow designed over 600 in a 35-year career that started in the 1890s. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed over 500 and Donald Ross over 400. None, of course, could rival the playing record that Nicklaus had to complement his architectural resume.

The Legend Course at the Club at Ibis may be Nicklaus’ most recent design but certainly won’t be his last. He and his staff of designers has 410 courses open for play in 39 states and 41 countries, and 57 more are under development in 19 different countries.

Over my nearly 50 years writing about golf I’ve played a wide range of Nicklaus courses, some high profile and some not. My favorite is one of the latter – The Club at Porto Cima, a private club in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks that opened in 2000.

Nicklaus was apparently quite proud of it, as the club’s website attributes this comment from him about the course: “On a scale of one to 10 this is as close to a 10 if there ever was a 10.’’

It’ll be hard to top that accolade, but Nicklaus has done so many quality courses that are special in their own way and to their own set of players. The Legend will stand up quite well to all of them.

All three of the courses at The Club at Ibis were designed by members of the Nicklaus family.

My favorite golfer? Why, it’s Ralph Kennedy — by a mile

Ralph Kennedy made the cover of Saturday Evening Post in 1935. (Curtis Publishing photo).

I have a new favorite golf hero, and his name isn’t Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth or even Tiger Woods.

Did you ever hear of Ralph Kennedy? Not many have. Kennedy died in 1961 at the age of 79. His claim to golfing fame didn’t come in winning big tournaments. It came from just playing. I doubt any golfer had the same love of the game that Kennedy had.

Kennedy took up golf in 1910, when he was 28 years old. Between his first tee shot at New York’s Van Cortlandt Park – the first public course in the United States – and his last recorded round in 1953 Kennedy played over 8,500 rounds on 3,165 different courses.

New Jersey-based golf writer John Sabino uncovered all the scorecards that Kennedy had donated to the U.S. Golf Association prior to his death and – very much to his credit — took it upon himself to tell Kennedy’s story.

Sabino’s report surfaced in his recently released book, “Golf’s Iron Horse,’’ which was published by New York’s Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Sabino likened Kennedy’s feat with the 2,130 consecutive baseball games that Lou Gehrig played for the New York Yankees during his 17 big league seasons. Gehrig and Kennedy lived about six blocks apart during Gehrig’s baseball prime.

According to Sabino Kennedy’s total rounds of about 8,500 are the equivalent of a golfer teeing it up every day for 23 straight years. Kennedy averaged 75 new courses a year from his first round on July 9, 1911, until his last one on Sept. 27, 1953. They were all walking rounds, too, as power carts hadn’t arrived during Kennedy’s days on the links.

That’s not what most impresses me, however. Piling up rounds isn’t all that difficult. Lots of golfers play the same course over and over on an almost daily basis and Joe Kirkwood, a competitor in the early days of the pro golf tour, may have even played more total rounds than Kennedy. Kirkwood just didn’t document his rounds. He was more interested in tournament play and his trick shot exhibitions.

Instead, I’m most in awe of Kennedy’s penchant for travel to get to all his courses. I’ve done pretty well on that end, thanks to being blessed with jobs writing on golf for nearly 50 years. Never more than just an avid recreational player, I’ve played in 26 states and many have come in the last 10 years when my focus has been on Travel Destinations rather than tournament coverage.

My estimated courses played since my first one at age 11 in 1955 is about 600. They include a vast majority of the 400-plus courses listed in the Chicago District Golf Association membership area and 21 courses listed on Golf Digest’s Top 100.

Kennedy, by comparison, spread his rounds around the 48 of the states in the United States when he was playing. He also played courses in nine Canadian provinces and about another dozen countries. His course count total was determined off scorecards signed by him as well as a representative of each club played. On one day he played courses in four different states. On another he played four courses in the same day. Many times he played a round with just a 3- or 4-iron to reduce the physical demands required to carry a bag of clubs.

My greatest golf stunts pale by comparison — two 45-hole days in the early 1980s arranged to promote the Chicago Park District’s five nine-hole courses. I’m no Ralph Kennedy, that’s for sure.

In one area, though, I’m sure I beat out Kennedy. A vast major of my rounds have been over 18 holes. Kennedy couldn’t say that. Many of the courses in his count were nine-holers and some were even less than that.

“Golf’s Iron Horse author John Sabino likens Ralph Kennedy to baseball great Lou Gehrig. (USGA photo).

No course was too insignificant or far away for Kennedy. He played in all sorts of weather on urban, rural, desert, mountain, parkland, moorland, links and heather courses. But, his courses also included cream of the crop venues like Augusta National, Cypress Point, Muirfield and Pine Valley.

So, how did Kennedy do it? Well, he had a wife who liked to play, too. Mary Alice Kennedy played over 600 different courses and they had no children. That opened up more time for playing and traveling.

Kennedy also had a job that encouraged his golf “hobby.’’ He was a traveling salesman for a major pencil company. He was apparently good at his job, too, as he was a founding member of New York’s Winged Foot – long one of America’s premier private clubs.

Sabino takes an unusual approach to telling Kennedy’s story. He focuses more on the climate of the changing times than he does on golf shots. When Kennedy entered college at Amherst the reigning U.S. Open champion was Harry Vardon and when he died Arnold Palmer held the Masters crown. In between the country was going through two world wars and plenty of other changes.

The game of golf changed a lot in that period, too. When Kennedy was born America had 38 states and no golf courses. America’s first 18-holer wasn’t built until Chicago Golf Club unveiled its prize layout in 1892.

In the early days of American golf many of the early courses had half-par holes, a different sized ball was used, there were no rakes in the bunkers and the stymie was a key part of the game.

Many of the courses that Kennedy played no longer exist including the last one, nine-hole Hamilton Inn Golf Club in New York. That round came the same year that golf was televised nationally for the first time at George S. May’s World Championship event at Tam O’Shanter in suburban Chicago.

Katie Pius holds her own against the men in the Illinois PGA tourneys

The Illinois PGA has few members to rival Katie Pius. In fact, there really aren’t any with the background that this assistant professional at Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington has.

Gender-wise the Illinois Section is noteworthy in having, in Carrie Williams, one of the three women to hold executive director posts in the PGA of America’s 41 sections. And, this year Carol Rhoades became the first woman to be named the section’s professional of the year in 62 years. Numerically, though, the IPGA includes just 31 women among its approximately 800 members and apprentices.

Playing-wise, of those select 31 Pius is the best of them all by a long shot and she has even held her own against the men in several Illinois PGA Championships.

Earlier this year Pius was named to the athletic Hall of Fame at her college alma mater, Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. Then Katie Dick, she played on four teams that won the NCAA Division III national championship and she was the individual champion at that level in her junior season.

In 2005, her first year at the school, the National Golf Coaches Association named her its Freshman of the Year. A four-time first team All-American, she was part of Methodist’s astonishing string of 13 consecutive national championships from 2000 to 2012.

“I don’t know why I decided to go there, but I did luck out,’’ she said. “I just wanted to go to a small school, and I hadn’t played much junior golf growing up. I wasn’t in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) stuff.’’

Growing up in a small town on the outskirts of Youngstown, Ohio, didn’t keep Dick from achieving her goal of becoming a golf professional. She decided to attend Methodist Monarch because she would be able to play golf at a school that offered a PGA internship program. When she graduated in 2008 she had both her PGA Class A card and a degree in business.

Most players with her collegiate success would be tempted to give professional tournament golf a try, but not Dick. She still loves to compete but is doing it as the only woman in otherwise all-male fields in the IPGA tournaments.

“I just didn’t have the practice mentality,’’ she said, “plus, on the Futures (now Symetra) Tour you couldn’t make a living. I have tried the U.S. Open qualifiers because they’re a one-day thing, but playing tournament golf would be such a different life.’’

The life she has now is just fine, thank you. She is married to Josh Pius, the head professional at Inverness, and they became parents of daughter Betty who turns 2 in December. In being Lake Zurich residents, both have short drives to their respective clubs.

“I never thought I’d marry a golf pro,’’ said Katie, “but it’s worked out for us. We both get Mondays off. I don’t know that we’d ever work together, but I do understand the long hours he has to put in at times.’’

Josh had a similar collegiate experience as Katie. He attended Michigan’s Ferris State, which was a pioneer institution in creating programs for those who wanted to enter the golf industry.

As part of her college studies she spent two summers doing internships, one of which was at the famed Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort in Florida. She also interned at Lakeshore Country Club in Glencoe before beginning her run of assistant jobs at three of Chicago’s most established private clubs.

First came three years at Westmoreland, in Wilmette , then two at Bryn Mawr, in Lincolnwood, and she just completed her fourth year at Biltmore working under the direction of veteran head pro Doug Bauman. Katie handled teaching duties and had guided the ladies programs at Biltmore until motherhood led to her cutting back her workload.

“I want to focus on being a mom,’’ she said, “but I don’t want to lose touch with golf.’’

Through job and lifestyle changes she’s been able to do that. She survived the cut playing with the men in the last two Illinois PGA Championships, tying for 49th place at Olympia Fields in 2016 and tying for 35th at Medinah this year. She’s also had a handful of good showings in the stroke play events and competes in the Illinois Women’s Open. Still, Pius downplays the unique place she has on the Illinois tournament side.

“I’ve never won, so there’s no reason,’’ she said. “I haven’t done anything too special around here.’’

On that she’s selling herself a bit short. In the last four decades the only other woman to make a significant impact in the major IPGA events was Michele Drinkard in the 1980s. She eventually left club work and is now a successful college coach at the Division I level.