Len Ziehm On Golf

Illinois veterans Streelman, Points have unique pairings at Bay Hill

ORLANDO, Florida — What are the chances that the two Illinois players competing the most regularly on the PGA Tour would be paired in consecutive groups in Saturday’s third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational?

That’s what happened when Pekin’s D.A. Points, in green shirt and paired with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, teed off in the twosome in front of Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, in blue shirt and paired with Chesson Hadley.

There were some Illinois fans in the big galleries at Bay Hill, they noticed the significance of the pairings and they spent time watching both groups.

Streelman, who started the tourney 70-72, had birdies on Nos. 1 and 4 on the front side to climb the leaderboard, but wasn’t as sharp on the back nine. He finished with a 71 and goes into Sunday’s final round a 3-under-par 213 and in a tie for 23rd place. He climbed eight places off his showing in Round 3.

Points didn’t fare as well. He had a shaky front side making double bogey at No. 3 and bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9. That skid was offset by only one birdie, at No. 4. He did have two birdies on the back side, which more than offset his lone bogey. Points posted a 74, hit the 54-hole stop at 1-over–par 217 and is in a tie for 52nd. Among the players he’s tied with is the veteran Zach Johnson, who ballooned to a 76 in the third round.

England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, who spent a semester at Northwestern before deciding the opportunities he had for winning a U.S. Amateur necessitated his turning pro early, shot 67 on Saturday and took a one-shot lead over defending champion Rory McIlroy going into the final round. Sixteen players are within four shots of the lead with. Fitzpatrick standing at 9-under-par for the tournament.

Points made his tournament a success with one swing in the first round. He holed out a 6-iron from 203 yards at No. 7 for a hole-in-one. There have been only three aces on that hole in the 40-year history of the tournament and two came this year. Spain’s Francesco Molinari had one before Points holed out.


Jimenez’ only lead in the Chubb Classic was at the finish

Miguel Angel Jimenez’ persistence paid off with a Champions Tour win in Naples.

NAPLES, Florida — No metropolitan area has hosted PGA Tour Champions longer than Naples. Nine courses in the area have hosted tournaments on the 50-year over circuit for the last 32 years but this week’s Chubb Classic on the Classics Course at Lely Resort was a bit different than the others.

A playoff seemed inevitable in those one from the start – and there was one, however brief. Miguel Angel Jimenez won it with a par on the first hole. That eliminated Olin Browne and Bernard Langer, who had won the previous week at the Oasis Championship – a two-hour drive away in Boca Raton — by five strokes.

The Champions completed their Florida swing for 2019 and will compete in the Cologuard Classic this week in Tucson, Ariz.

In the season’s second full-field event in Naples there were record-tying 63s in the first round by Canadian Stephen Ames and Scotland’s Sandy Lyle. After three rounds there were two new leaders, Glen Day and Ken Tanigawa joining Ames. On both days the leaderboard was crowded at the top with multiple challengers within a shot, but that was nothing compared to the windy final round. Nine players held at least a share of the lead during the day.

Ames led with nine to play before being deflated by a double bogey. Jimenez never led until he had finished his round and Browne had blown a two-shot lead with a double bogey at No. 18. They, along with Langer finished at 13-under-par 200 on the Gary Player-designed course that had hosted the tournament in 1996 when Al Geiberger was 14-under in beating Isao Aoki by one shot.

Jimenez, winning for the seventh time on PGA Tour Champions, was in the sixth-from-the-last group to finish. He’s now won events in six straight years. His final round 66 – a score also posted by Browne – led to a $240,000 payoff.

The field included Steve Stricker and Hale Irwin, both missing from the event in Boca. Stricker, who was expected to be named the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain later in the week, was the runner-up in Naples in 2018. He finished tied for 11th this time. Irwin, 73, matched or bettered his age in each round en route to finishing in a tie for 58th.

Langer had broken Irwin’s record for career money-winning on PGA Tour Championship with his victory the week before but his playoff loss kept him from closing in on Irwin’s record for career victories on the 50-and-over circuit. Irwin has 45, Langer 39.

Father-daughter time is worth it for the Langers in Champions Tour win

Bernhard Langer putts while daughter Jackie tends the flagstick en route to Champions Tour win.

Bernhard Langer, at 61 years old, may seem near the end of his career as a tournament player. There’s only one thing wrong with that line of reasoning. He keeps on winning.

Langer won on PGA Tour Champions for the 39th time on Sunday, and his victory in the newly-named Oasis Championship was something special. He captured the first full-field event of the season on the 50-and-over circuit with his daughter Jackie carrying his bag.

This was Jackie’s first win as a caddie for her father. Her three siblings had already carried for one of their father’s victories. Langer lives just 10 minutes from the Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton, FL. – site of Sunday win — and Jackie, who is married and goes by the name of Langer John, also lives in the South Florida area.

They made for a terrific team on Sunday. Langer made birdies on five of the first seven holes and posted a final round 65. His 54-hole total of 19-under-par 197 was a tournament record but he has had plenty of success – two wins, two seconds, two thirds and eight top-10 finishes – in his hometown tournament.

This time he was a five-shot winner over Marco Dawson. Langer’s winning check was $375,000.

Davies completes sweep of the two major titles for senior women golfers

England’s Laura Davies celebrates her wire to wire victory at French Lick.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – There’s no doubt who the best senior woman golfer was in this first historic first year. England’s Laura Davies won both the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the Senior LPGA Championship convincingly.

Davies was as dominant in the Senior LPGA as she was in the Open, played in July at Chicago Golf Club. Davies won that one by a whopping 10 strokes. She was a wire to wire winner in the Senior LPGA, which concluded on Wednesday on the Pete Dye Course here.

“It was a real victory for me,’’ said Davies, who won her 87th tournament world-wide with an 8-under-par 208 score for the 54 holes. “I played OK here before but never strung three rounds together.’’

Davies was third in the first major tournament for senior women professional last year when another England golfer, Trish Johnson, won the title. Davies owned the next two majors for that segment of players this year, but Wednesday’s win wasn’t as easy as her victory in Chicago.

“I had a five-shot lead (going into the last round) there,’’ said Davies. “Here I started with a three-shot lead, then it was a no-shot lead. On this course you can’t take anything for granted.’’

Davies made bogey on the first hole, then Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson posted four birdies in her first eight holes and Italy’s Silvia Cavalleri, paired with Davies, got into the mix as well. The three were tied at 5-under-par six holes into the round.

Laura Davies shows why she’s been one of the longest hitters in women’s golf for decades.

While temperatures climbed over 60 degrees for the first time this week, the winds kicked up to over 20 miles per hour. That made scoring difficult for everyone, and Davies had only two serious challengers. She passed Cavalleri before the first nine was done and was in command the rest of the way after Alfredsson made double bogey at No. 11.

“I made a mistake (hitting a ball into a bunker and leaving one recovery shot in the sand) and I couldn’t recover,’’ said Alfredsson. “You feel horrible, but it was a joy to be here.’’

No doubt Davies’ tournament schedule paid off. Alfreddson had played in only two tournaments this year, and none since the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Davies is among the busiest players tournament-wise in the senior ranks. She plays on the LPGA, European and Legends tours.

“Not taking anything away from Laura, she’s an amazing golfer,’’ said Alfredsson, “but it’s different for players who are playing tournaments regularly. We all love to play, but you don’t know how you’ll react (if you aren’t competing regularly).’’

NOTES: Riley Children’s Hospital, the tournament’s charitable beneficiary, sends many of its young patients to the event each year but on Wednesday Genevieve Bennett Slater of Sullivan, Ind., was also on hand to introduce the players at the first tee. Now 91 years old, she was a Riley patient between the ages of 5 and 16 when she had multiple surgeries to avert a birth defect.

Sherri Turner was inducted into The Legends Hall of Fame at a pre-tournament banquet. On Wednesday she worked as a caddie for Martha Nause.

Defending champion Trish Johnson posted her third straight 73 and finished sixth. Juli Inkster, runner-up to Davies in the Senior Open, bounced back from a second-round 80 to shoot 73 and finish in a tie for12th.

Jamie Fischer, the teaching professional at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, shot 76 and was at 13-over-par 229, good for a tie for 24th in the 80-player field. Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray, who is on the teaching staff at Mistwood in Romeoville, was three shots behind Fischer overall but finishing strong. She rolled in a putt from off the green in concluding her round with back-to-back birdies.

Davies is on the brink of sweeping the two LPGA senior majors

Defending champion Trish Johnson (left) congratulates Brandi Burton on posting her stunning 66.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – England’s Dame Laura Davies, winner of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at the Chicago Golf Club in July, is poised to sweep the two major championships for senior women golfers on Wednesday (TODA).

Davies started Tuesday’s second round of the Senior LPGA Championship on the Pete Dye Course with a two-stroke lead, then promptly frittered it away with three-putt bogeys on the first and fourth holes. It didn’t take long for the long-hitting Davies to get back in the groove, however.

Birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 settled her down and after that it was clear sailing. She posted a 2-under-par 70 to hit the 36-hole stop in the 54-hole competition at 6-under-par 138. That left her two ahead of Brandie Burton, who shot a 66 – the low round of the tournament. Italy’s Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Australian Jane Crafter (71) are another shot back in a tie for third.

Davies, who won at Chicago Golf Club in July by a whopping 10-shot margin, credited a new putter for her solid play over the first 36 holes here. She saw one to here liking on the putting green and Anthony Bradley, a member of French Lick’s professional staff, had a model that Davies put in her bag for the tournament. She used it to make birdie putts of 25 feet at No. 11 and 30 feet at No. 15 on Tuesday.

Laura Davies has the Senior LPGA Championship in her grasp after a 70 on Tuesday.

The pace of play was better and so was the scoring in Round 2. Monday’s breezy first round was played in frigid weather with temperatures in the 40-degree range most of the day. Temperatures didn’t climb much on Tuesday but the sun came out and the wind died down.

“It was like night and day,’’ said Davies. “Today actually was pleasurable. Yesterday was misery.’’

“I could actually feel my hands today,’’ said Burton, who hit 16 of the 18 greens in regulation in her hot round. “I couldn’t feel my hands on the putter yesterday to save my life. It’s nice to go into the last round with confidence. It’s been a long time since I shot that number.’’

Not all the players shook off the first-round gloom, however. England’s Trish Johnson, the defending champion who is bidding for her third straight victory on the Pete Dye Course, posted a second straight 73 and is eight shots back going into the final round.

Michelle Redman, last year’s runner-up, shot 75 and Juli Inkster, the champion here in 2015, started the day in second place and dropped into a tie for 19th after shooting an 80.

Today’s champion will receive $90,000 from the tourney’s $600,000 purse.

NOTES: Shelley Hamlin, who was inducted into The Legends Hall of Fame here on Friday, passed away on Monday night following a long battle with cancer. She was 69. Hamlin enjoyed a long playing career on both the LPGA and Legends circuits.

Nancy Scranton, who developed her game while growing up in Centralia, Ill., and is also a Legends Hall of Famer, withdrew from the tournament after suffering a pinched nerve in her neck. She joined The Golf Channel broadcast team for Tuesday’s round.

The two Chicago players in the 79-player field, Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray and Lake Forest’s Jamie Fischer, are tied at 9-over par 153 entering the final round. Both improved their scores from the first round, Jeray shooting 75 and Fischer 76.

Chicago products Nicole Jeray (left) and Jamie Fischer are in the top half of the Senior LPGA field.

Davies clings to one-stroke lead after Round 1 in Senior LPGA

First round leader Laura Davies putts as playing partners Hollis Stacy (left) and Trish Johnson look on.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – Laura Davies and Juli Inkster finished one-two in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in July, and the possibility loomed for a similar result after a weird finish to Monday’s first round of the Senior LPGA Championship here.

Temperatures in the 40-degree range and winds of 15 miles per hour made play difficult for the 80 starters in the second of the two major championships for senior women golfers. Davies bundled up with a blanket in her golf cart at times, but she was hot early in the round when she opened a three-stroke lead.

An eagle at the par-5 seventh hole triggered Davies’ fast start, but Inkster matched it at a most critical time – on her last hole. That brought Inkster to 3-under-par 69 for the day and in a three-way tie for second with Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann and Maria McBride. The trio is one stroke behind Davies.

Davies had a tough finish. She hit her tee shot on the par-3 17th hole over the green and made bogey, her lead slipping to two shots. Neumann and McBride birdied No. 18 and Inkster rolled in her 15-foot for eagle before Davies – playing in the last threesome – finished her round.

After the bogey at No. 17 Davies sent her tee shot far left on the par-5 finishing hole, the ball ending up in high grass.

“We could never find the ball,’’ said Davies. “Fortunately I made birdie on my second ball.’’

That “birdie’’ was actually a bogey on the scorecard so that created a three-shot swing with Inkster and two-shot swing with Neumann and McBride. Davies won at Chicago Golf Club by a whopping 10-stroke margin but this week’s 54-hole competition wouldn’t seem to be so one-sided.

“Winning two senior majors in one year would be incredible,’’ said Davies. “I’d love to have a chance, but you’ve got to be aggressive around here.’’

The Pete Dye Course was set up shorter than usual (about 6,100 yards) to help the players combat the chilly weather. Eight finished under par, but defending champion Trish Johnson (73) wasn’t among them. She is bidding for her third straight victory on the Pete Dye Course after finishing second to Inkster in 2015 Legends Championship here.

Neumann started her round with two bogeys, then charged back with birdies on five of the next nine holes. She did it without Mark Williams, her long-time caddie. Williams is on the bag for another player in the LPGA’s qualifying tournament.

“He left me for a younger woman,’’ said Neumann, who drew laughs with that comment after a day in which the golf wasn’t much fun.

“Our round took 5 hours 40 minutes. It was a long day out there,’’ said Inkster.

“Keeping yourself warm, that was the hardest part,’’ said McBride. “There was a lot of stopping and waiting.’’

McBride had reason to celebrate. Monday marked her 45th birthday. If it had come a day later she wouldn’t have been eligible to play in the Senior LPGA Championship. Only players who have reached their 45th birthday are eligible.

The forecast is for better weather in the next two rounds before the champion gets $90,000 from the tourney’s $600,000 purse on Wednesday. .

Will the Trish Johnson Era continue at French Lick?

Cold, rainy weather ruled the day when the Honors Division was scheduled to compete at French Lick.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – As far as tournament play on the Pete Dye Course here is concerned, this is definitely the Trish Johnson Era.

“And I hope it continues,’’ said Johnson on Sunday – the last practice day before Monday’s start of the second Senior LPGA Championship. This is the last major championship of 2018 on any of the American pro golf tours.

Johnson made her debut on the Pete Dye Course in The Legends Championship of 2016, finishing second to Juli Inkster. Inkster was making her Legends debut in that tournament. She returned to defend her title in 2017, but Johnson dethroned her in a six-hole playoff.

Trish Johnson was in a good mood for her .pre-tourney press conference

Last year, when the tournament was transformed into the Senior LPGA — and the first-ever major for the older women players – Johnson was a wire-to-wire winner. Inkster, who had a broadcasting assignment at the U.S. Women’s Open, didn’t play at French Lick last year but she’s back for this week’s tournament. That doesn’t rule out Johnson as the tournament favorite.

“Second-first-first. I love it here,’’ said Johnson. “This course suits my eye.’’

But it looks a little different going into the 54-hole tournament that tees off on Monday. The previous tournaments on the Pete Dye Course were played in July. This one is in October, and the weather hasn’t been pleasant. Temperatures were in the 40-degree range with intermittent rain for the three pre-tournament days and Monday’s forecast is for similar weather.

“Monday will be survival day,’’ said Johnson. “A round of level par would do very nicely. After that it looks like it’ll be a bit nicer.’’

Johnson has played in only nine tournaments this year and describes her play as “very intermittent.’’ She was third behind Dame Laura Davies in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club and had one Legends win, in the Suquamish Clearwater Cup.

Caddies had it as tough as the golfers did in trying to cope with Sunday’s cold weather.

This week’s 81-player field includes four World Golf Hall of Fame members – Inkster Davies, Hollis Stacy and Jan Stephenson, whose selection was announced last week – and eight countries are represented among the starters.

The field also includes the winners of four LPGA major championships and there are four Illinois players in the field headed by Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray, who was seventh in the tournament last year and accepted a teaching position at Mistwood in Romeoville earlier this week.

Jaime Fischer, a teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, made the starting field at this week’s qualifying round. Fischer also was a qualifier for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and survived the 36-hole cut at Chicago Golf Club. There won’t be a cut at French Lick. Other players with Illinois backgrounds in the field are Audra Burks, of Springfield, and Nancy Scranton, who grew up in Centralia.

A bundled up Martha Nause lines up a putt in the Honors Division scramble.

French Lick’s second Senior LPGA tourney will be bigger than the first

Defending champion Trish Johnson gets pro-am play started at French Lick.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – Last year the long overdue first major championship for senior women golfers was staged on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. The second playing of the event, 15 months later, will clearly be bigger and better than the original.

The inaugural staging was paired with the Donald Ross Centennial Classic, a Symetra Tour event, to create a big two weeks of tournament golf on both of the resort’s courses. This year the events were split up, with the Symetra stop remaining in July and the Senior LPGA taking fall dates that figure to made it more special.

The PGA Tour has already conducted its four major championships and PGA Tour Champions has staged its five. The LPGA has completed its five majors for the regular tour, and the senior women’s played their first U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in July.

That means the second Senior LPGA Championship, with its $600,000 purse, will be the last professional major championship on any tour in 2018. It’ll also be the only one played entirely on weekdays. That encouraged television coverage, and The Golf Channel will carry the action live from 4-6 p.m. for the three tournament rounds beginning on Monday.

Barely a year ago there was one glaring void in the golf tournament calendar, with no major tournament for the senior women professionals who contributed so much to the growth on the LPGA.

French Lick was instrumental in correcting the problem, helping The Legends Tour put on its biggest tournament of the year for four years on the Pete Dye Course. The Legends Championship grew into the Senior LPGA Championship last year and it found a home on the Pete Dye Course as well.

First of the pre-tournament festivities for the tourney’s second playing were held on Thursday, with a gala and auction benefitting the Riley Children’s Hospital. First of two Faegre Baker Daniels Pro-Ams was held on Friday and the latest induction class into The Legends Hall of Fame – which is housed at French Lick Springs Resort –s was completed at the post-round dinner. Shelley Hamlin’s selection was announced on Thursday night.

On Sunday eight players will decide the Legends Honors Division title, with Jan Stephenson defending her crown in the immediate aftermath of her selection to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Once the tournament proper begins, however, the focus will be clearly on England’s Trish Johnson. She won the last of the four Legends Championships in 2016 by beating Juli Inkster in a six-hole playoff and led wire to wire last year in claiming the first Senior LPGA title.

Johnson was a three-stroke winner over Michele Redman in the first Senior LPGA, and they were the only players under par for the 54 holes. Inkster, who won The Legends Championship at French Lick in 2015, didn’t play in the first Senior LPGA because she was part of the broadcasting team for the U.S. Women’s Open.. Now she’s back as is England’s Laura Davies, who won the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open by a whopping 10 shots in Chicago.

The 81 starters include five members of the LPGA Hall of Fame and 19 in the field have won LPGA major titles.

Illinois Open win puts Vince India in select state golf company

Unless your name is Vince India the 69th playing of the Illinois Open will likely be an easily forgettable experience.

Annually the biggest tournament for Illinois residents, this year’s version was a weather nightmare. Heavy rains delayed the first and second rounds. The weather cleared for the third round, but it couldn’t start until second-round play at both The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Ravinia Green, in Riverwoods, was completed and the 264-player field cut to the low 50 and ties.

Only India went home satisfied. Patrick Flavin, the defending champion, was only so-so in his much anticipated professional debut, finishing in a tie for 30th place. Garrett Chaussard, winner of the Illinois PGA Match Play title – the section’s first of four major events for the season – missed the cut.

Brandon Holtz, the former Illinois State basketball player, who was a joint runner-up to Flavin last year, wound up solo second this time after making a costly bogey at No. 17 – a par-3 stretched to a maximum 220 yards. That meant Holtz had to make eagle at No. 18, a par-5 that – with the tees moved up – was a very reachable 460 yards. Holtz’ second shot stopped 18 feet away but the eagle putt he needed to force a playoff went left.

India became only the ninth player to notch victories in the state’s two major men’s events – the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. In addition to Flavin the other seven were David Ogrin, Bill Hoffer, Gary Hallberg, Gary Pinns, Mark Hensby, Roy Biancalana and Brad Hopfinger. Ogrin, Hallberg, Pinns, Hensby and Biancalana went on to play on the PGA Tour.

Hopfinger, now a regular on the PGA’s Web.com circuit, was India’s collegiate teammate at Iowa. India will be in the field for this week’s Web.com stop, the EllieMae Classic in Hayward, Calif. He caught an evening flight to make a 9:06 tee time today.

With only limited Web.com status, India has played in just seven tournaments this year, made two cuts and earned $2,964. He picked up $19,004 for his Illinois Open win.

Winner of the Illinois State Amateur in 2010, India was the runner-up in the Illinois Open in 2015 and hadn’t played in this tournament since, until this week. His play on the Web.com Tour has been hampered by back problems.

“I have a disc herniation in my lower back,’’ he said, “and I’ve been working on a lot of things so that I can play pain free. My health is better now, and I’m swinging the club better. My swing is coming back, which is great.’’

The alternate course for this year’s Illinois Open was Ravinia Green, where India was a long-time caddie growing up, and The Glen Club – the site of his second round as well as Wednesday’s final round – is near his home in Deerfield as well.

India finished his rain-delayed second round with an 8-uner-par 64 – the low round of the tournament — on Wednesday morning to get within one stroke of the lead entering the final 18. Making birdies on the first two holes, India established himself as a contender immediately and made a clutch two-putt birdie at No. 18 — the margin of victory over Holtz.

With rounds of 72, 64 and 66 India was at 14-uner-par 202 for the 54 holes. Holtz also posted a 68 in the final round to finish one swing back.

“It was a grind, but I did a good job for not being in this position for a long time,’’ said India. “I was playing here because I wasn’t expecting to play (the Web.com event) this week. I didn’t expect the sponsor’s exemption to the EllaMae, but that was really nice.’’

So was a most fortunate bounce on his last tee shot. India knew the ball hit a cart path running through the No. 18 fairway but didn’t think the carom would carry it as far as it did. He couldn’t immediately find the ball in the right rough, and when he did he had just 170 yards to the pin for his second shot.

“In the end the drive went about 400 yards, cartpath-aided,’’ he said. He put his second shot on the green, two-putted from 30 feet for birdie and then waited for Holtz to finish.

The last threesome lagged two holes behind India’s group most of the day but Holtz was in place for another shot at the title when he put his approach from 205 yards to 18 feet for eagle.

“I knew my putt had a chance, and I wasn’t going to leave it short,’’ said Holtz, who sells football helmets for a living. He was playing in only his third tournament of the year after finishing sixth in the St. Louis Metro Open and missing the cut in the Waterloo Open.

The final day had one other most notable incident. Jeff Kellen, a club pro in the Rockford area, resumed his second round at The Glen’s 17th hole. On the first swing of the day Kellen holed out for an ace. He wound up in fifth place.

No reason to think Small won’t make it win No. 13 in IPGA Championship

The Illinois PGA Championship has been Mike Small’s personal playground for nearly two decades and there’s no reason to think that the 96th playing of the tournament this month at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake should be any different.

The University of Illinois men’s coach has won the IPGA title a record 12 times, his first coming in 2001 and his last in 2016. The tournament has had 19 other multiple winners, but none have come close to Small’s dozen.

Johnny Revolta, the long-time Evanston Golf Club head pro and winner of the 1935 PGA Championship, took six titles from 1936-47. Bill Ogden, the section’s dominant player when he ran the shop at North Shore Country Club, was a five-time winner from 1953-72. Recently retired Gary Groh, who did his time at Bob O’Link in Highland Park and was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame last year, captured four titles between 1983-2002.

Jim Foulis, part of the Foulis clan that played big roles at Chicago Golf Club, Olympia Fields and Hinsdale in the earlier years of Chicago golf, also had four wins in the IPGA Championship but Groh was the only one of those four to go head-to-head with Small.

Small won his first IPGA title in 2001 at Kemper Lakes, Groh beat him in a playoff the next year on the same course and Small then ran off eight championships in a row. He also won four more times in the last seven years, and he’ll be coming off one of his best summers of tournament play when the 54-hole shootout returns from Aug. 27-29.

Thanks to sponsor exemptions, Small had no trouble getting into PGA Tour Champions tournaments and took advantage of his invitations. Thanks to two top-10 finishes he squeezed into the top 70 on PGA Tour Champions’ Charles Schwab Cup money list and that got him into one of the 50-and-over circuit’s major events – the Constellation Senor Players Championship at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park.

Small needed to hole a chip shot on his last hole of a tournament in Madison, Wis., to crack the Senior Players field. Once in, he earned a share of the first round lead and stayed in contention most of the way before finishing in a tie for 10th place. That earned him his biggest paycheck as a tournament player — $67,200. (His previous best was $57,200 for a tie for ninth in the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open in 1998).

The Senior Players concluded on July 15, and Small has a big August as well. He has a spot in one more PGA Tour Champions event – the 3M tournament in Minnesota Aug. 3-5. Then he’ll bid for a record-tying fifth win in the Illinois Open Aug. 6-8 at The Glen Club and Ravinia Green and wrap up his tournament season in the IPGA Championship. It ends on the day classes resume at the University of Illinois.

When the last putt drops at The Glen Small will go back to his day job, as coach of the powerhouse Illini men’s team that will be reloading following the graduations of stars Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy.

Despite his summer successes Small has no goals as far as tournament play goes.

“If I still have fun doing it, if I still get nervous and still get a little anxiety, that’s good,’’ he said. “I’ve had a heckuva run. Golf has been very good to me. If I can do this for three or four more years and still be competitive I’ll do it. If I’m not competitive I won’t.’’

Small was certainly competitive over the last four months. He posted two 66s at Exmoor in his run at the Senior Players title and wasn’t surprised by his lofty status there. He fell t that it all boiled down to getting more chances to compete.

“The last few years I haven’t done that much,’’ said Small. “I’d play one week, then have two or three off, then play another one. This year I’m playing three, four weeks in a row. I don’t usually do that. Ever, really.’’

He went into the last round at Exmoor with the attitude that “I’ve got nothing to lose.’’

“My golf swing has got to get better and more consistent. It leaves me sometimes, so I’ve got to work on that,’’ said Small, and that mindset will be the same whether he’s playing against the best on the PGA Tour Champions or the best in the Illinois PGA.

Small has won five of his IPGA titles at Stonewall – in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2014.

Though it might not seem like it, Small doesn’t win the Illinois PGA Championship every time. His run of eight titles in a row was snapped by Frank Hohenadel, now the head professional at Mistwood in Romeoville, in 2011 on Medinah’s No. 1 course. Steve Orrick, of Country Club of Decatur, was the winner at Stonewall the following year before Small bounced back to win three of the next four years.

Jim Billiter, now the head pro at Kemper Lakes, beat him in a return to Medinah in 2015 and Indian Hill assistant Adam Schumacher was the winner when the tourney returned to Medinah last year. Small tied for sixth in that one.

Over the years there have been six players who finished second to Small in the IPGA Championship on more than one occasion. Fresh Meadows’ Roy Biancalana, back in the section this year after taking a break from golf altogether, was a runner-up in 2003, 2004 and 2007. Cantigny’s Connie DeMattia was second in 2004 and 2005. Orrick, in addition to his victory, was a runner-up in 2008 and 2014 and Medinah’s Travis Johns was a runner-up in 2010, 2013 and 2016. They’ll all be ready to do battle with Small again.

August will also go a long way in determine the IPGA Player of the Year. Only one of the four major titles have been conducted so far, Skokie’s Garrett Chaussard winning the Match Play title at Kemper Lakes in May. Two more, the Illinois Open and IPGA Championship, will be held in August.