Western Golf Association braces for its amateur doubleheader

General manager John Parsons is about to celebrate the end of a five-year renovation at Schaumburg Golf Club (Photo by Rory Spears)

This has indeed been a strange year for the Western Golf Association. The organization’s two national junior tournaments had to be canceled due to pandemic concerns and its two professional events were rescheduled for the same reason.

The WGA’s two history-rich amateur championships, however, are going on as scheduled. The 120th playing of the Women’s Western Amateur teed off on Tuesday at Prestiwck, in south suburban Frankfort, and the 118th staging of the men’s Western Amateur follows almost immediately at Crooked Stick, in Indiana.

WGA staffers will get only a day’s break between the two. The 18-hole title match in the Women’s Western Amateur is on Saturday morning (JULY 15) and the practice round for the Western Amateur is on Monday. Five rigorous days of competition follow, with the 36-hole final on Aug. 1.

Local players are far more prevalent in the 120-player women’s field. Heading the list is University of Illinois senior Tristyn Nowlin, the tourney runner-up in 2018 and an Elite Eight qualifier last year. As an added perk from previous years, the champion and runner-up at Prestwick will be given spots in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Maryland’s Woodmont course Aug. 3-9.

Prestwick is hosting a Women’s Western championship for the first time since 1972, when Nancy Lopez won the WWGA’s Junior title. That tourney returns to Prestwick for the 50th anniversary of that event in 2022.

Only two Illinois players – Lake Bluff’s Andrew Price and East Peoria’s David Perkins — will be among the 156 starters in the Western Amateur at Crooked Stick. The invitational tourney will be played in Indiana for the first time since 1951 and the field includes 24 international players.

The Western Am is the third oldest amateur tournament, behind the British Amateur (1855) and U.S. Amateur (1895). The Western made its debut in 1899.

Only one spectator per player will be allowed at the two tournaments. The women’s calls for a second day of stroke play qualifying today (WEDNESDAY) , then the top 32 will decide the title in three days of match play competition.

The men’s event is grueling – two days of stroke play to cut the field to the low 44 and ties, then 36 more holes to determine 16 qualifiers for the concluding two days of matches.

The WGA’s tournament season concludes with the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, at Olympia Fields Aug. 25-30 and the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour stop, Sept. 9-13 at Chicago Highlands, in Westchester.

ILLINOIS OPEN QUALIFIERS: The 71st Illinois Open, scheduled Aug. 3-5 at White Eagle in Naperville, has had its trying times as well. To salvage the tourney the Illinois PGA had to make radical format changes. The field for the finals was cut from 264 to 156 and the number of qualifiers from eight to five, and one of those last week was reduced from 18 to nine holes because of bad weather.

Bryce Emory, of Aurora, and Varun Chopra, of Champaign, led the first qualifier with 67s at Flossmoor Country Club. Ethan Brue, of Ashland, and amateur Parker Govern, of Plainfield, posted 3-under-par 32s to lead the shortened session at Deerpath, in Lake Forest.

The other qualifiers are Wednesday, at The Hawk in St. Charles; July 29 at Willow Crest in Oak Brook and July 31 at Countryside in Mundelein.

The No. 9 green on the Tournament Course was the last to be completed in the Schaumburg renovation. (Photo by Rory Spears).

BITS AND PIECES: The lengthy renovation of Schaumburg Golf Club’s 27 holes is almost over. All 27 will be in play on Aug. 1. That will end five years of work, which includes two years of planning, remodeling of the clubhouse and separate work done on all three nines. The renovation at Sportsman’s, in Northbrook, is underway — and it’ll be more extensive — but the completion is expected to come sometime in 2021. Next renovation work will begin shortly Settler’s Hill, in Geneva.

Mark Krizic, director of golf at Chicago’s Ridge Country Club the last 16 years, will depart after this season. He’s the new owner of Fyre Lake, a course designed by the Nicklaus Design team, in Sherrard, IL., near the Quad Cities.

Steve Kashul kicked off the 27th season of the Golf Scene TV show last Sunday. It’ll be broadcast at various times on NBC Chicago.

Andrew Godfrey, a new assistant pro at Mistwood in Romeoville, was low man with a 4-under-par 67 in Monday’s Illinois PGA Stroke Play event at Riverside Golf Club. He was one shot better than Kyle English, of Crestwicke, in Bloomington. English won the IPGA Assistants championship last week.

WGA keeps in touch with these changing times for caddies

Youth caddies are facing an uphill climb during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Just ask members of the Western Golf Association. They campaigned relentlessly to make sure caddies were not forgotten as golf courses were in various phases of re-opening.

Happily, progress is being made. Golf is back to being played in all 50 states and, as of June 1, caddies were a factor in Illinois again. Illinois government restrictions on golf course operations were loosened, allowing for the use of forecaddies. At least that was a start.

“There’s no touch points yet,’’ said Tim Orbon, director of the WGA’s Carry The Game and Caddie Development programs. “We anticipated forecaddies would be first, and that still provides a reasonable amount of opportunity. The only major adjustment is that they are staying away from clubs for now.’’

Once Phase 3 went into effect 75 Chicago area golf facilities were able to put several thousand caddies back on their courses, albeit just one forecaddie per group of players.

“Virtually all the clubs with caddie programs in the Chicagoland area got up and running, and that was great,’’ said Orbon. “Kids were just finishing school so the timing was great. We were excited.’’

Orbon isn’t sure when experienced caddies will be back carrying bags or when new caddies will be integrated into the programs at the various clubs, but one thing is certain. A caddie’s job will be much different than it was before the pandemic.

The WGA has been awarding college scholarships to deserving bag-toters since 1930, when life-long amateur legend Chick Evans declared caddies to be “the life-blood of the game.’’ The Evans Scholars program continues to flourish, as applications for the next batch of scholarship winners opens on Aug. 1.

The overwhelming number of caddies this year, though, were deemed non-essential workers once the pandemic restrictions were announced. It became Orbon’s job to help the nearly 800 caddie programs throughout the U.S. and Canada adjust to that thinking, and he had to be patient about it.

“Until Memorial Day kids were supposed to be in school, so it became somewhat of a waiting game,’’ he said. “We had to wait for experts to tell us when the time was appropriate, when caddying was safe and permissible. We took that time to do our homework.’’

The WGA works with clubs in 27 states and Canada. “All the clubs are a little different,’’ said Orbon, “but a lot wanted to keep caddies employed.’’

To do it while adhering to social distancing guidelines required adjustments, and Orbon had a game plan that was presented to course owners and managers. It proposed that caddies be scheduled in four-hour shifts. They wouldn’t be allowed to congregate around the clubs before or after their loops.

They may receive payment for their work in sealed envelopes or electronically through a system like PayPal rather than a cash transaction. They would wear appropriate protective gear, including a mask and any other safeguards as required by the club, and carry hand sanitizers.

A caddie’s duties on the course would change, too. Each would carry rakes and divot repair mix. They’d locate golf balls, give yardages and help read greens but they wouldn’t touch clubs. The players would pull them from the bag. There would be no hand shaking or any other non-verbal contact with golfers.

The WGA also proposed a hole-specific caddie plan, which some clubs may find more desirable than the standard procedures of the past. One to four caddies would be assigned per hole. They’ll be stationed on greens and tee boxes and be available at positions beside the fairways to help in locating balls.

Under this hole-specific plan caddies will repair divots but never touch the flagstick. They can wash golf balls, but then must throw them back to the player rather than have a hand-to-hand exchange. The caddies will greet each golfer as he plays through but won’t be with any one player throughout his round.

Those are the changes proposed by the WGA, but each club will offer its own input.

In anticipation of parental concerns about caddie procedures, prominent Chicago physician, former caddie and long-time WGA supporter Kevin Most has advised clubs on health precautions. Orbon anticipates “some attrition’’ in the caddie ranks due to all the changes mandated by pandemic concerns.

“We think kids will want to come out, but parents will ask questions,’’ said Orbon.

Both Orbon and his wife Gaelen were Evans Scholars, Tim at Northern Illinois and Gaelen at Marquette. Orbon, in his eighth year with the WGA, also worked as a club professional for 11 years. During the current lull period he has led WGA efforts to beef up on-line caddie training and created a caddie manual, a practice exam and a caddie playbook that includes short videos. All will help clubs and caddies adjust to the changing times.

“This is a challenging time in golf work,’’ said Orbon, “but new caddie programs are starting in Kentucky, the Kansas City area, Iowa and even down in Florida. We want to grow the game.’’

Dick Sheehan reflects on the development of Jupiter’s Admirals Cove

JUPITER, FL. – Lots of things have changed since Dick Sheehan decided to settle in the Jupiter area in the late 1970s.

“Nothing was here,’’ he said. “When I moved down here my intention was to create a marketing consultancy and focus on real estate. The market wasn’t nearly as sophisticated then as it would become.’’

Sheehan did a lot to make it that way, particularly in his playing a lead role in the creation of Admirals Cove, one of the premier golf facilities in all of Florida. He recalls those days fondly now, but some history is in order first.

John D. MacArthur, one of the wealthiest men in America by the time of his death in 1978, made his fortune first in the insurance business, then he moved into real estate with holdings that included over 100,000 acres of land in Florida.

Just before his death he created the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which received over 90 percent of his fortune including the property in Florida. Palm Beach Gardens and North Palm Beach were created on MacArthur land and in 1985 the MacArthur Foundation put up for purchase two parcels that would become important to the development of Florida’s golf industry.

One was Frenchman’s Creek, which already had two courses. The other was then simply called Project 57. That’s where Sheehan comes into the story.

“I worked with a lot of consultants, engineers, attorneys and developers,’’ he said. “They referred to me as `The Dirt Guy.’’’

One of the engineers was a close friend, Conrad Schaefer. He introduced Sheehan to Ben Frankel, of Philadelphia, and Frankel became the purchaser of the Project 57 parcel with Mutual Benefit Life Insurance as his financial partner. Ben’s brothers, Leonard and William, and other family members also were involved in the project. They had already developed a successful golf project in Boynton Beach, called Hunter’s Run, and they settled on the name Admirals Cove because it embodied the nautical nature of the property. Its waterfront location was a big reason Frankel opted for Project 57 instead of Frenchman’s Creek.

Sheehan headed the marketing and sales segment of the original development team. Working mostly with Ben Frankel, Sheehan was involved in the golf course construction process as well. Texan Robert Von Hagge was the course architect. Work on the courses started in March of 1986 and the first players teed off in late 1987.

The construction process for the projected 45 holes was not without complications. Sheehan envisioned a routing problem Frankel, fearful of conflicts with Von Hagge, was reluctant to alter the plan in the middle of construction but Sheehan persisted.

“Von Hagge was a very colorful guy (he most notably married two golf stars, sisters Marlene and Alice Bauer),’’ said Sheehan. “We got along real well, he was a great guy to work with. I don’t think he got the credit he deserved for the things he did in his architectural career.’’

His work at Admirals Cove, however, was well received and has withstood the tests of time. The club has hosted U.S. Open qualifiers every year since 2009.

Though some updates to the courses were made over the years, Von Hagge remains the architect of record for the 18 holes on the east side of the property. Jupiter resident Kipp Schulties, working with Jan Bel Jan, supervised a renovation on the North, South and West nines on the west side in 2015.

Looking back, the Frankels could have opted to purchase Frenchman’s Creek, the parcel to the south of Admiral’s Cove that already had its two courses. It remains a golf hotbed – though a much altered. Some of that course’s original property was later sold, with the north half now Jack Nicklaus’ Bear’s Club, and the south half forming Trump National.

“We had the opportunity to buy that land and decided to not do it,’’ said Sheehan, who believes he’s the only surviving charter member at Admirals Cove.

While the Bear’s Club and Trump National are Admirals Cove neighbors to the south another well-regarded club, there’s also a respected neighbor to the north in Jonathan’s Landing.

Now called The Club at Admirals Cove, that facility was far ahead of its time. Few clubs had 45 holes at that time. Now the club also has a marina, an inn, a bank, seven restaurants, a poolside cafe, tennis, pickleball and an array of other amenities.

“It’s first and foremost a golf club,’’ said Sheehan, “but most of all it’s a lot of nice people. A lot of clubs are not diverse enough in terms of activities they offer, but you have to have enough golf. We never have a crowded situation except in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We believe we’ve helped build the game of golf.’’

Over the years Sheehan and his wife Susan have had three homes in Admirals Cove and raised their children in the Jupiter area. Their life is not all about Admirals Cove, however. Sheehan has been involved in youth golf for two decades, starting with his time on the board of a group called the Children’s Golf Foundation.

He later departed that group to help form the First Tee Chapter of the Palm Beaches. Working with the support of such golf luminaries as Nicklaus, Honda Classic director Ken Kennerly and former PGA of America executive director Joe Steranka, Sheehan saw the chapter grow dramatically. It now has its own nine-hole course at Dyer Park in Riviera Beach and partnerships with several other organizations.

“The First Tee is really where my heart is,’’ said Sheehan, who is currently the group’s chairman of the board emeritus. “People think the First Tee is all about teaching golf, but it’s not. It teaches life skills with golf as the vehicle. There are so many success stories of people who improved their lives through their involvement with First Tee.’’

My tribute to Mistwood’s Jim McWethy

Saturday’s airing of the Golfers on Golf Radio show (WCPT 820-AM) was devoted largely to Jim McWethy, the owner of Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville.
Mistwood general manager Dan Bradley and Golfers on Golf regulars Rory Spears, Ed Stephenson and Bill Berger joined me in paying tribute to McWethy, who passed away last week after a battling a lung disease. He was 76.

Somehow our heart-felt tributes on the airwaves didn’t seem quite enough.

McWethy was a special man who did fantastic things for Chicago golf in a relatively short period of time. He took over ownership of Mistwood in 2004 and, with Michigan architect Ray Hearn (the original designer of the course) transformed the layout into one of the country’s best public facilities.

Celebrating another McWethy Cup with Mistwood owner Jim McWethy.

Not only that, but McWethy had the old clubhouse taken down and built a new one that has a special feel and is one of the best at any Chicago golf facility, public or private. A true visionary, McWethy also created an elaborate, covered practice facility – called the Mistwood Performance Center — and put together a fine teaching staff that also rates among the best in the area.

Not only that, but McWethy saved the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, a tournament that was played at Mistwood for 21 straight years until the pandemic forced its cancelation this year.

And not only that, but McWethy took over what had been the nearby Ditka Dome, in Bolingbrook, and transformed it into more than an indoor golf practice range. It’s become a versatile dining and social center – now called, appropriately – the Mistwood Dome.

I’ve known Jim McWethy from Day 1 of his Chicago area golf projects. I played in most of his McWethy Cup events. They have been among the most fun golf outings over the years – even though I never seemed to play very well in them. It was just an honor to be included and his memento gifts included a stylish spatula, which gets plenty of use from this avid griller.

Fortunately Mistwood is in great hands. McWethy built a solid staff and his family members appear to be as passionate about his pet project as he was. Though a member at storied Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton, McWethy’s interest in public golf never wavered. To put it mildly, the Chicago golf community – as well as many, many others – will miss Jim McWethy.

This bridge was where Jim McWethy traditionally honored each year’s champion of Illinois Women’s Open.
A clubhouse view of the Mistwood course shows just how beautiful Jim McWethy’s creation is.

Palmetto Traverse isn’t your usual putting green

This unique putting green in Santee, S.C., is good for both competition and putting practice.
Putting courses aren’t exactly new. Many golf facilities – even storied St. Andrews in Scotland – are adding them as a extra amenity at their facilities. The one that we played Monday in Santee, S.C., is one of the better ones. It’s called Palmetto Traverse.

Santee is a town of barely 1,000 residents but its golf – three good courses within just a few miles of each other – is big-time. The recently-constructed putting course has 18 holes built over 35,000 square feet near the Lake Marion course. We visited Santee in 2015 and liked the golf atmosphere there then. We like it more with the putting course designed by Kris Spence, an architect base in Greensboro, N.C., with help from Santee marketing director Robbie Wooten.

Rather than call it a “putting course,’’ Palmetto Traverse been labeled as a “putting experience.’’ You putt from black “tee’’ markers and holes are labeled with white flags. A 260-foot putt is possible but the layout offers putts breaking in all directions, some steeply uphill and some sharply downhill. Two bunkers are also included. There isn’t much of a walk between holes, making Palmetto Traverse a nice diversion after a round as well as a challenging pre-round exercise.

Woods notches another big win — but this one was different

A big payoff for Covid-19 Relief was cause for celebration for Champions for Charity participants (from left) Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods was a winner in his first televised golf appearance in 98 days on Sunday.

No, it wasn’t his 83rd tournament title that would have broken a tie with Sam Snead for most wins on the PGA Tour but this was a big win nonetheless. It came in an event called The Match: Champions for Charity. Phil Mickelson was the only player of Woods’ caliber in it, but the payday was $20 million.

It didn’t go to Woods, though. It went to Covit-19 Relief and the four-man event will be a springboard to the PGA Tour’s return to tournament play at the Charles Schwab Challenge. It tees off at Colonial Country Club in Texas on June 11.

Woods and Mickelson paired up with legendary quarterbacks on Woods’ home course, Medalist in Hobe Sound, FL. Woods hooked up with Peyton Manning for a 1-up victory over Mickelson with Tom Brady. The weather and pace of play were bad, but the payoff wasn’t.

A week earlier Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson beat Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff in a battle of PGA Tour stars at Seminole Golf Club, which is 18 miles from Medalist. It marked the return of televised sports competition since the pandemic shut down such events on March 13.

The McIlroy-Johnson win produced better golf, with four PGA Tour players doing battle, and it raised $5.5 million for pandemic relief causes. Woods-Manning warmed up in a downpour and finished with darkness setting in and rain falling. The match went on for over five hours but the charity contribution was much more substantial than at Seminole. and the quarterbacks appreciated the event even though spectators were again not allowed on the premises.

“To be behind the ropes in these guys’ (Woods and Mickelson) world was a real experience, something I’ll always remember and cherish,’’ said Manning.

“This is what we do for a living. We couldn’t do what they (Manning and Brady) do,’’ said Woods.

Brady was the worst player in the foursome but he delivered the most spectacular shot, holing out from 150 yards on the eighth hole after struggling badly over the first seven. Basketball legend Charles Barkley chided Brady on the telecast moments before Brady holed his shot.

Inspired by Brady’s
Spectacular birdie, the Mickelson-Brady team rallied from 3-down after the first six holes and got to 1-down with wins at Nos. 11 and 14. Mickelson kept his team’s hopes alive with clutch putts at Nos. 15 and 16 but Woods was the key man on the finishing hole to prevent the match from going to extra holes.

Woods was last seen on TV on Feb. 16 at the Genesis Invitational in California. Bothered by back problems he finished last after going 76-77 in the weekend rounds. A month later the pandemic set in, and Woods has been playing more tennis than golf and enjoying family time since then.

Mickelson missed the cut in four of his five tournaments this year prior to the pandemic, but he has committed to play at Colonial when the PGA Tour season resumes. Woods said his back felt much better after receiving steady treatment during the pandemic-enforced stoppage of PGA play. He didn’t say when he’d return to tournament competition.

Golf was different, but McIlroy was still the star of the show in return to TV

Rory McIlroy celebrates his shot that was closest-to-the-pin on the last shot at Seminole.

It was, at the very least, a good start. Live televised sports competition returned on Sunday, and the TaylorMade Driving Relief event didn’t look much like the golf played by Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at the last PGA Tour event on March 12.

On Sunday the players all wore shorts, carried their own bags, cleaned their own clubs and were allowed to use range-finders. Caddies weren’t allowed, and neither were spectators at Seminole Golf Club, a storied Donald Ross-designed layout in Juno Beach, FL. Only PGA Tour staffers were allowed to touch the flagsticks or rake the bunkers.

NBC staffers were largely absent as well. Telecast host Mike Tirico was at his home in Michigan and conducted long-distance interviews with President Trump, Bill Murray and Jon Rahm. Analysts Paul Azinger and Gary Koch watched the broadcast from PGA Tour headquarters in St. Augustine, FL. Only on-course reporters Steve Sands and Jerry Foltz were at Seminole.

All that was in done in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines and other requirements to help COVID-19 relief efforts.

After a nine-week layoff the players’ games weren’t always sharp. Johnson hadn’t been on a course between the March 12 cancellation of The Players Championship and a practice round at Seminole this week.

The four players are all on the TaylorMade staff, and they donated their services. McIlroy and Johnson played in the two-man skins competition for the American Nurses Foundation and Fowler and Wolff represented the Center for Disease Control Foundation. Those organizations were the main beneficiaries as $5.5 million was raised from the Sunday event through corporate sponsorships and outside donations made during the telecast.

There was no wild cheering, due to the absence of fans, and the players couldn’t even give high-fives – all part of the social distancing effort. Only a few TV cameramen and PGA Tour officials, many riding in carts, accompanied the players around the course. Still, the event didn’t lack drama. The McIlroy-Johnson team earned $1,850,000 and the Fowler-Wolff team $1,150,000.

No skins were earned in the final six holes, so the match went an extra hole – to a closest-to-the-pin contest on a 120-yard hole. McIlroy, the world’s No. 1 golfer, won on the last shot of the day. His shot was slightly closer than Wolff, who was the surprise of the day.

Fowler-Wolff, both former Oklahoma State golfers, weren’t accorded much of a chance against the game’s No. 1 and No.5-ranked players but Wolff, a 21-year old PGA Tour rookie with a quirky swing, earned some surprise bonus points by winning two long-drive competitions.

McIlroy and Johnson are two of the longest hitters in the game, but Wolff did better on Sunday. He was the NCAA individual champion last year and won in only his third start on the PGA Tour.

“There were probably a lot of people asking why I was in it,’’ said Wolff, “but I wanted to prove to them that I can play with the best in the world.’’

“It was an awesome day,’’ said McIlroy, whose father Jerry is a Seminole member. “It was nice to be back on a golf course and get back to some kind of normalcy.’’

Another potentially lucrative charity exhibition is on tap for next Sunday, featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and legendary quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They’ll play at Medalist Club, another South Florida facility.

That’ll set the stage for the PGA Tour’s return to tournament play on June 11, at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, TX. That event, along with the next four tournaments on the schedule, will be played without spectators.

“The Tour is obviously taking it very seriously,’’ said Fowler. “They’re taking all the measures needed to make sure when we do Colonial that it’ll be the safest environment possible.’’

“We miss competing,’’ said Johnson. “It’s been nice to be at home and enjoy time with the family, but I’m ready to get back out there and play.’’

Seminole has long been one of America’s most famous courses, but it wasn’t on TV until Sunday.

Golf starts the return of live TV sports events — and I can’t wait

It won’t be long now. Live televised sports competition is about to return, and golf is leading the way. While tentative tournament schedules were drawn up months ago, now there’s something concrete and – as a purely personal perk – the first two big events will be conducted almost in my Florida backyard.

A four-player charity skins game put on by equipment manufacturer TaylorMade will kick things off on Sunday. It’ll have three of the game’s top stars – Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler – participating along with a promising up-and-comer, Matt Wolff.

They’ll play at Seminole Golf Club, a famous course in Juno Beach that has never been seen on television. McIlroy and Johnson will take on Fowler and Wolff, both Oklahoma State alums, in a four-hour telecast that will be played without spectators. It’ll raise at least $4 million for COVID-19 relief efforts.

Not only that, but the event — called TaylorMade Driving Relief – will provide the first look at what tournament golf will be like in the “new normal.’’ The players won’t have caddies. They’ll be carrying their own bags, practicing social distancing and adhering to a variety of new policies designed to make golf safe in these trying times.

Seminole, an ultra-private club, usually closes for the season on Mother’s Day but the Donald Ross design that opened in 1929 is staying open a few more days to help raise money for pandemic relief efforts.

“We have a big responsibility on ourselves to make sure that we practice all the guidelines that the PGA Tour is going to set in place,’’ said Johnson. “Obviously everyone is going to be watching what we’re doing, so it’s very important for us to do it all correctly.’’

“It’s really cool to be able to bring some live sports back,’’ said Fowler. “Everyone is taking the right measures to make sure it’s done the correct way.’’

Next week the first major tour event since the pandemic concerns kicked in will tee off. The Korean LPGA Championship will have three members of the world’s top 10 — all Korean players — among those competing for a $1.8 million purse. There won’t be any American players or TV coverage for that one, but on May 24 another televised event will put the spotlight back on South Florida.

“The Match: Champions for Charity,’’ another four-player televised event featuring Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, will be played at Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, which is 18 miles from Seminole. This will be more of a fun thing, with legendary quarterbacks rounding out the foursome. Woods will team with Peyton Manning and Mickelson with Tom Brady.

There’s some interesting, off-course sidelight to this one, which also won’t have spectators. Mickelson is in the process of establishing a residence in South Florida and is joining Michael Jordan’s new club, Grove XXIII, which is also in Hobe Sound. Brady, who signed with a new team – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – in football’s off-season, recently became a member at Seminole.

Medalist is where Tiger Woods does most of his practicing. Before May is over Medalist will host another Woods-Phil Mickelson match, but this one will be much different than the one they staged last year because both will have partners.

Golf is already in full swing, since the last of the 50 states re-opened their courses for play this week and there have been some smaller events played. One is this week’s Outlaw Tour Scottsdale (Ariz.) Open, and Wheaton’s PGA veteran, Kevin Streelman, was in the field.

Streelman, along with other PGA Tour players, received a 37-page Health and Safety Plan from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan this week that outlined the procedures that will go into effect when tournament play resumes. The men’s PGA and Korn Ferry Tours will get into the swing of things on June 11, the PGA in Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge and the backup Korn Ferry at Ponte Vedra, FL., for a new event.

“The message from Jay was that we’ve talked to doctors, talked to professionals, talked to politicians. These are the steps we need to take to be safe,’’ Streelman told reporters at the Scottsdale Open. “Now are you guys comfortable playing competitive golf in this arena? The answer was a resounding yes.’’

The last televised golf was played on March 12, at the first round of The Players Championship. The PGA Tour cancelled the remainder of the tournament and a series of cancellations followed. Last year the PGA Tour schedule had 49 events. This year, if all still scheduled are held, the total will be 36. The Korn Ferry had 28 events last season; this year’s it figures to be 17.

Billy Horschel is one PGA Tour player who has made the most of the difficult stretch without tournaments. He hunkered down with his wife and three children in Ponte Vedra.

“We’re just fine,’’ said Horschel. “We’re very fortunate that my wife and kids and our friends are all healthy. We’ve been getting by just like everyone else. Every day is a different day. Every day seems to be Groundhog Day with my kids. We have a lot of the same meltdowns and timeouts – all those things you have with three kids under 5, but it’s been an enjoyable time to spend with them.’’

Horschel, who has five PGA Tour victories and won the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus in 2014, also did some business during the time away from tournaments. He became in investor in beam CBD, a wellness product.

“I’m very happy because it looks like we’ll have some special golf in the future,’’ said Horschel. “I never had any doubts that we’d play again, but it was just when. With sports we provide a sense of relief that allows fans to take their minds off their own worries and struggles. It’ll be nice to see the world get back to a sense of normalcy.’’


The Myrtle Beach World Amateur is a truly international event, as shown by the flags decorating the Myrtle Beach Civic Center during last year’s event. With over 3,000 entrants expected again the World Am is scheduled for its 37th staging in August.


Rory Spears and Len Ziehm are combining efforts on golf travel destinations they’ve visited over the years. This one is on Myrtle Beach, S.C.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Golf courses here – and there’s about 100 of them – are ready for players, and they have been for quite awhile. This is what we’ve been told as April winds down.

The courses are open. Over 18 of them overseeded wall-to-wall – fairways, tees, greens and rough. The other 73 overseeded everything but the rough.

Said one long-term Myrtle Beach golf booster: “We had a real mild winter and a beautiful March – the March we’ve been waiting for. Everything is in spectacular condition.’’

Yes, hotels are still restricted to short-term rentals and can’t take reservations through April 30. Restaurants are closed, but curb-side pickup and carryouts are readily available. The hopes and expectations in Myrtle Beach are for that to change in early May – ideally very early May, or mid-May at the latest.

Restrictions now include one person per cart, but people are allowed to walk at many of the Myrtle Beach courses.

I’ve played in the Myrtle Beach World Amateur twice and am awaiting my third appearance in a few months.

Lots of travel-minded golfers consider Myrtle a home away from home. There’s so many great options available, complete with prices that can fit most budgets.

The younger member of our team tabs the Greg Norman Course at Barefoot Resort one of his three Myrtle Beach favorites, the others being Tidewater (one of the prettiest courses in the area and a clubhouse with great dining) and Grande Dunes. He also likes the oceanfront hotels, particularly the Double Tree by Hilton with its Ocean Blue Restaurant.

This, more experienced, collaborator for this new series has been a Myrtle Beach devotee for many more years, and he leans toward Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and its partner course True Blue as his favorite destination in the area. Then again, Tidewater and Grande Dunes are great. So is the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort.

Gifts, prizes and plenty of fun abounds at the World Amateur.

Of course you can’t leave out Pine Lakes, which dates back to 1927; the Dunes Club, Pawley’s Plantation and Founder’s Club. And TPC Myrtle Beach is something special, too – especially since PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson recently made a dramatic expansion of its teaching facility.

There’s a reason why Myrtle Beach can, with plenty of justification, call itself “the Golf Capitol of the World.’’

And then there’s the area’s biggest event – the 37th staging of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship. It’s over 72 holes (plus a playoff) for competitors in nine divisions and features the World’s Largest 19th Hole and over $100,000 in prizes will be distributed. In short, it’s an event like no other.

This year’s version is August 31 to Sept. 4, and the usual 3,000-plus players are expected. Even with this year’s obstacles the tournament is expected to be held and entries are being accepted. I, for one, wouldn’t miss it. Neither should you.

FINALLY, A BULLETIN TOO HARD TO RESIST: Wisconsin courses are scheduled to open on Friday, April 24. Those that will include the four courses in Kohler, including Whistling Straits – site of this year’s Ryder Cup matches. Season-opening green fees there are just $195 – a very low number for a course poised to host a big event.

Cheers to Caddyshack on the movie’s 40th anniversary

If ever a movie – especially a sports-themed one – merited an anniversary celebration it’d be “Caddyshack.’’ This movie didn’t really have a plot. It was just a series of memorable scenes with actors Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield the lead characters. Still, over the years its fan base grew and the movie became a classic.

Now Caddyshack is getting an anniversary celebration – and a beer to go with it.

Production on the movie started in 1979 and it was released in 1980 – 40 years ago. To commemorate the 40th anniversary the Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md., introduced a beer called Night Putting.

Flying Dog is billing itself as “America’s most disobedient brewery,’’ and that’s in keeping with the raucous nature of the film. The beer, a reinvented pale ale, is being sold in 16-ounce cans and is available in four-packs.

“When conceptualizing this beer we knew we wanted to pay homage to the classic comedy, so we created a beer designed specifically for golfers,’’ said James Maravetz, Flying Dog’s marketing director.

You have to be a Caddyshack devotee to appreciate all the humor, but the colorful beer can matches the shirt that the Judge Elihu Smails character (played by Ted Knight) wore when he met Al Czervik (the character played by Dangerfield). Their meeting started all the fun.

The Night Putting reference was coined by Chase’s Ty Webb character, and Murray played the nutty golf course superintendent Carl Spackler. The “plot’’ for Caddyshack was created by co-writers Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill’s brother) and Harold Ramis. The general story was based on the Murray brothers’ caddie days at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka during their teen-age years.

A book has already been written about the wild life involving the cast and crew that was going on behind the scenes as the movie was being made. A sequel to Caddyshack was also made, but it wasn’t nearly as well received as the original version.

The original was made primarily at an upscale public course called Rolling Hills, in Davie, FL., near Ft. Lauderdale. A lot has changed there over the last 40 years. Wayne Huizenga, who at one time owned football’s Miami Dolphins, baseball’s Miami Marlins and hockey’s Florida Panthers, bought the golf club in 1999 and converted it into a private venue called Grande Oaks. The course was re-designed by PGA Hall of Famer Ray Floyd shortly after Huizenga bought it.