Len Ziehm On Golf

Collapse in Boston could haunt Leishman in final round of BMW Championship

Marc Leishman is hardly a household name in the golf world but – if he can hold his game together – he will likely win the BMW Championship today and be in a great position to win the FedEx Cup’s $10 million bonus next week in Atlanta.

The question is, can he hold his game together?

Leishman has led wire to wire in this BMW Championship at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest, and he’ll take a five-stroke lead over fellow Australian Jason Day and Rickie Fowler into the final round. It would seem a formidable task for any of the others in the 69-man field to catch him – except for one thing.

In the last FedEx Cup Playoff event in Boston Leishman also led after 54 holes. Then he blew up, shooting 40 on the last nine holes to wind up third behind champion Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who has been the runner-up in both of the previous playoff events. That bad experience could conceivably happen again.

“A lot of tournaments you put three rounds together, and it’s very easy to throw a mediocre round in there,’’ said Leishman. “Tomorrow I’ve got to try not to do that. After what happened (in Boston) I’ve got extra determination to finish this one off, and my game is in a better spot. This course sets up better for me than (the one in Boston).’’

Spieth leads the FedEx point standings with Thomas second and Dustin Johnson, winner of the first tourney, third. That trio has not played well at Conway Farms, however, and that suggests the standings could dramatically change after today’s round. Spieth, after a 71 on Saturday, is tied for 27th in the BMW Championship. Thomas, who also shot 71, is tied for 41st and Johnson, after a 69, is tied for 55th.

So, if they don’t improve and Leishman goes on to win he could be the front runner in the last of these four $8,750,000 tournaments at Atlanta’s East Lake layout next week. Only 30 players will be competing there. Any player in the top five in the standings after the BMW Championship will take the $10 million bonus with a victory in Atlanta.

Low scoring and spectacular shots were the norm in the first two rounds at Conway Farms. Saturday’s round was a strange one, in that Leishman, Fowler and Day – the top three at the start of the day — didn’t go low but still maintained their places at the top of the leaderboard. Leishman, who had a three-stroke lead after 36 holes, shot 68 and is at 19-under-par 194 for the three rounds. Fowler and Day both carded 70s and remain tied for second.

“The course changed quite a lot compared to the first two days,’’ said Leishman. “It firmed up a lot and the greens speed was up, so it was nice to keep making birdies like I have been all week.’’

Leishman opened this BMW Championship with a 62, making 10 birdies on Thursday. He added 12 more in the next two rounds and has 22 in his 54 holes.

Day won by six strokes the last time the BMW Championship was played at Conway Farms in 2015. He was a wire-to-wire winner with a 22-under-par score that time, which was similar to Leishman’s performance for this year’s three rounds this week.

“Leish is playing spectacular,’’ said Day, Leishman’s playing partner in the third round. “He’s going to be very difficult to beat. I’ll have to play really good because he isn’t making any mistakes. He’s hitting it in the right spots, hitting it on the greens and holing putts. That’s a good formula for success.’’

Fowler, who rolled in an eagle putt at No. 1 to start Saturday’s round but managed only one birdie after that, will be paired with Leishman today.

Only England’s Justin Rose (66) and Spain’s Jon Rahm (65, Saturday’s low score) made a run at the leaders. Rose is solo fourth, eight behind Leishman, and Rahm is tied for fifth, another shot back. Rose, who won the BMW Championship at Cog Hill in 2011, doesn’t like his chances in the final round.

“Leishman is playing great, along with Rickie and Jason,’’ said Rose. `You’ve got to factor in that they’re going to continue to play great.’’

Fowler took a more positive approach.

“Ultimately you just want a chance come Sunday, so we’ve taken care of that,’’ he said. “I would have liked to be a little better today, but we got that round out of the way, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.’’

Day is back in the BMW spotlight at Conway Farms

Another Australian golfer may be leading the BMW Championship, but the story halfway through the third of four FedEx Cup Playoff events has been Jason Day. Day was the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer at the start of 2017. Then things went downhill, but they’re definitely on the upswing entering today’s Round 3 of the $8,750,000 championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.

Marc Leishman, who is in command at the 36-hole stop, will be paired with Day in Round 3. Leishman is at 16-under-par 126 and leads Day and Rickie Fowler by three strokes.

“Hopefully I can keep going, birdie-ing half the holes,’’ said Leishman, who was the 54-hole leader in the second playoff event two weeks ago in Boston but finished third behind winner Justin Thomas and runner-up Jordan Spieth.

Friday, though, was Day’s day. He made two eagles plus a hole-in-one in shooting a 65, underscoring that he’s on the road to recovery after falling from the world’s No. 1 ranking for understandable reasons.

First there was a cancer diagnosis for Day’s mother, Dening, who came from Australia to live with her son. Then Day encountered back problems.. He hasn’t won a tournament this year, and this week he made a dramatic caddie change after tying for 25th place in the previous FedEx Cup event in Boston.

Day brought in Luke Reardon, a former high school roommate and golf teammate, to replace Colin Swatton. Not only was Swatton Day’s swing coach since he was 11 years old and his caddie for the past 11 years. They were also close off the course. Each was best man at each other’s wedding.

All that turmoil was bound to take a toll, but it hasn’t affected Day in the first two days of the BMW Championship. Just competing at Conway may have been the tonic Day needed. He has a great record in two previous appearances at the Lake Forest private club, and insisted his 64-65 start isn’t that surprising.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position,’’ said Day, “but I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m back at a tournament golf course that I’ve played well in the past..’’

Day finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the first BMW Championship played at Conway in 2013, five strokes behind champion Zach Johnson. In 2015 Day was brilliant at Conway, opening 61-63 to set a PGA Tour record for the first 36 holes of a tournament. He went on to win by six. That was part of a big year that saw Day ascend to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get back there,’’ said Day. “Obviously that’s the goal, but 2015 was a very dominating year. But at the start of this year I was having an uphill battle with myself, trying to force things too much. There were a lot of disappointing areas that have plagued my game.’’

Nothing plagued his game on Friday. Day chipped in for eagle at No. 15 and then holed a 7-iron shot from 186 yards for his first hole-in-one in nine years. The ace wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, as the tee shot landed left off the green before taking a most fortunate bounce to the right and rolled into the cup.

His was the fifth ace in the BMW Championship and it won him a new BMW automobile. Day promptly donated it back to the Western Golf Association, which conducts the tournament to benefit its Evans Scholars Foundation. A deserving caddie also receives a four-year college scholarship from the tournament sponsor for every ace made in the tournament.

Day praised Reardon’s work as his new caddie but will retain Swatton as his swing coach and wouldn’t rule out him returning as his caddie next season.

“I’m driving a lot better this week and the iron shots are a lot cleaner,’’ he said. “Putting is coming around, too. The last two days were fantastic. Right now I’m in a good spot.’’

Leishman is in a better one. He grabbed the first-round lead with a 62 and added a 64 on Friday. That’s almost a birdie every other hole on a course that Day went 22-under in winning two years ago. Conway was set up on the short side, under 7,000 yards on Friday. The official tournament yardage for the par-71 layout, is 7,208.

“The course isn’t a pushover,’’ insisted Leishman. `It’s a good course in the respect the, if you’re hitting good shots and making putts, you can really go low.’’

More low scoring is likely over the weekend, as playing conditions have been ideal. Leishman and Day will be paired together in Round 3.

“We’ve played a lot of golf together,’’ said Leishman, “but it’ll be different not seeing Swatton on the bag. Hopefully we can both play well, make a lot of birdies and drag each other along.’’

Playing in the Myrtle Beach World Amateur was an unforgettable experience

World Amateur champion Curtis Henley (left) gets his reward from tournament director Scott Tomasello.

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – It’s definitely a competition, but it also has the friendly touches of an outing as well. The Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is golf event like no other.

With over 3,000 playing in the same community at the same time, a case could be made that it’s the biggest of all golf championships. Though it receives very little media attention, even within its golf-crazed community, the event has endured for 34 years and continues to show steady growth. The latest staging drew 3,010 players — ranging in age from 18 to 89 –from every state except Alaska as well as 22 countries.

It was two years ago when Chris King, of Myrtle Beach-based Kingfish Communications, and Scott Tomasello, of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, suggested that we experience this unique event. They rightfully contended that you couldn’t comprehend the far-reaching magnitude of the event without being a participant. Once we went through that extraordinary experience, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

We definitely got caught up in the spirit of the World Amateur Handicap Championship.

Tomasello became the tournament director this year and King was part of the organizing Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, which is celebrating its 50th season promoting the extraordinary variety of golf options available in the 60-mile Grand Strand – an area from Pawley’s Island on the south to just over the state line into Brunswick County, N.C. Over 52 courses were used to conduct the competition, which involved 78 flights based on age, gender and handicap.

This year a Just For Fun flight was added for players who didn’t want to compete but wanted to do everything else. They didn’t get the full flavor of the World Am, though.

The competition centered on four 18-hole rounds, each conducted in a 9 a.m. shotgun format. Players got to test themselves on four different courses, and the winners of each flight after those four hectic days went to an 18-hole playoff to determine the World Amateur champion. This year it was Curtis Henley, of Poquoson, Va. He shot a net 66 in the playoff off a gross score of 82.

Wes Long, of Hilton Head, S.C., won the gross division with a 1-under-par performance over five rounds, but this event was aimed at players utilizing their handicap. Plus, there’s so much more to the World Amateur than the golf itself.

The World’s Largest 19th Hole was always a colorful event.

The gift bag – ours consisted of a logo hat, shirt, pullover, towel, thermo mug and bag tag; a Nexbelt; a $20 credit for purchases at a PGA SuperStore; and a souvenir program — is extraordinary. So is the off-course entertainment. This year’s welcoming reception was at the House of Blues. It was packed with players, family members and friends and that was also the case every night after each round at the 120,000 square foot Myrtle Beach Convention Center — the site of the World’s Largest 19th Hole.

The World’s Largest 19th Hole was clearly that. This was a lot different than your usual pro-am party. Each night there was dancing to the music of live bands, a golf expo that included 60 exhibitors, on-stage programs featuring celebrities from The Golf Channel, putting and chipping contests, billiards matches, youth games and – best of all – food stations offering small portions of the cuisine served at the area’s top restaurants. Oh, yes, there were open bars at various locations each night as well.

That’s pretty much a superficial look at the World Amateur Handicap Championship. Here’s what you really need to know:

HANDICAPS: Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday takes them very seriously. While most other net competitions use handicaps mainly to group players of similar abilities, the Holiday doesn’t just take just a player’s word for his handicap. There must be documentation from a recognized golf organization, and that’s not always enough.

If there are some suspicious scores the Holiday is not reluctant to retroactively disqualify a player from the competition. There have been some unhappy, disgruntled players over the years but handicaps can’t be taken lightly in an event of this nature. Those supervising that end of the competition are firm but fair.

The jam-packed welcoming reception at the House of Blues got the World Am off to a rousing start.

In our case Joy questioned her handicap, believing it to be too low, after the first round. A check of the Chicago District Golf Association records revealed that the Holiday was in error in making her handicap adjustment. It wasn’t just corrected verbally; an email confirmation arrived the next morning. That’s what I’d call paying attention to detail, especially considering the 3,000-plus players involved.

After each round the Holiday staff prints out standings for each flight and has them ready for the 6 p.m. opening of the World’s Largest 19th Hole. The top 10 in each flight are spotlighted on rotating video screens throughout the evening, and making the board is an honor worth savoring. At least I did, after being tied for ninth place in my flight after Round 2.

THE PLAYERS: They are grouped into flights of about 40, and not just by handicap. Men are also divided by age, the oldest one being for those 80 and above. There aren’t enough women to differentiate by age, so they are divided strictly by handicap.

I was placed in a 70-79 age group flight in which all 40-some players had handicaps in the 18-21 range. It’s intriguing how compatible players can become from a scoring standpoint when handicapping is done properly. I had a hot second round and defeated one of my playing partners by a stroke. He went on to finish seventh in our flight while I struggled in the final 18 and was in the middle of the pack at the end.

Live bands were featured at both the welcoming reception and World Largest’s 19th Hole.

Joy had a similar experience. She also finished in the middle of the pack in her flight but matched the score of the eventual flight champion when they played together.

Both Joy and I played with 12 different players over the four days, and every one of them had played in at least one World Amateur previously. In my last round I was paired with one who was playing for the 20th time and two who were 10-year veterans. Seven players in the event have played in all of the previous 34 World Amateurs. That underscores the popularity of the event. You come once, and chances are you’ll want to return again and again.

My most memorable partner was Roy, from Florida. He requested before teeoff that we help him find his ball. “As far as the state of Florida is concerned, I’m legally blind,’’ Roy informed us. He did need some help finding some of his shots, but was still a most pleasant playing partner. In the last round my cart partner was Skip, Roy’s brother from New Jersey. He was a fun guy, too.

Flags of the players from all the countries gave the Myrtle Beach Convention Center a festive look.

Joy’s favorite playing partner was Isabel, from Texas. Isabel and her husband had their flight to Myrtle Beach cancelled when Hurricane Harvey started inflicting serious damage in their home state so they drove 20 hours to get there. Unlike us, they came in one car – and that complicated daily travel. Joy alleviated their situation by driving Isabel each morning and we made friends in the process.

COMPETITION: All my playing partners seemed to think about golf the way I do: it’s a game, competition is fun and enjoy the experience no matter the result. You adhere to the rules, do the best you can and get to know your partners. The conversations I had with mine extended well beyond golf, and we quickly developed a spirit of camaraderie.

Joy’s experience wasn’t quite that good. While she was happy to be competitive in her first taste of this new format, she did run into one partner who was adamant that she knew all the rules – but really didn’t. They didn’t talk much as the round progressed, but the other players were nice.

Not every player was ready for the World Am, either. There was one in my flight – a most pleasant fellow, I was told – who shot 146 in the first round. His slow play frustrated his partners until he decided the event wasn’t for him after playing six holes in Round 2.

My brief moment in the sun: a spot on page one of the 36-hole leaderboard.

DAILY ROUTINE: You need to plan for each day, as the courses can require drives of up to 40 miles. Fortunately, we came in two cars. We would check the distance to the next day’s course the night before. My first round was 25 miles to the south, my second 25 miles to the north. Closest round was a 15-minute drive. Joy’s situation was similar.

We swung into action each day at about 5:30 a.m., left for the course about 7 a.m. and met up again at the hotel in late afternoon. We usually had an hour or two to clean up before heading to the World’s Largest 19th Hole.

Weather was a factor throughout. I was caught in a downpour late in Round 1. Joy wasn’t, but nightly storms left the courses soggy in the mornings. We had to play cart path only with a lift, clean and place policy in effect in the second and third rounds. That wasn’t something that was appreciated by any of the players, but it was a necessity. Joy encountered one course with a hole under construction, but that was accepted as a unique challenge rather than an inconvenience.

EPILOG: I’ve played in tons of golf events, but none like this one. The World Amateur is for serious, recreational players. All putts must be holed out. There’s no picking up your ball at frustrating times and moving on to the next hole. You obviously need to keep a handicap to participate and must accept the likelihood that some scores will be higher than you’re used to shooting. You should have a sense of humor if you’re thinking of playing in the 2018 World Amateur next August.

The cost of doing that varies, depending on your transportation requirements and dining options. The basic entry is about $600 per player, and that’s well worth the value for a memory that will be long lasting.

Prestwick, a Pete and P.B. Dye design, may have been the toughest course in this World Amateur.

Indian Hill’s Schumacher finds Medinah No. 1 to his liking in IPGA tourney

Indian Hill’s Adam Schumacher lags close on the final green to clinch his first Illinois PGA title.

The Illinois PGA Championship has brought together the area’s top club professionals for 95 years, and Wednesday’s wrapup to the latest 54-hole gest was one of the strangest. Only one player seemed to want to win it.

Adam Schumacher, in his fourth season as an assistant pro at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, went on a hot streak on the back nine of Medinah Country Club’s No. 1 course and that propelled him to a three-stroke victory over playing partner Brett Walker, of Conway Farms in Lake Forest.

Schumacher started the final round six strokes behind leader Jim Billiter, the head pro at Kemper Lakes. Billiter and one of his playing partners, Dakun Chang, battled with Schumacher for the lead until Schumacher took charge.

Illinois PGA president Mark Labiak hands over the Jim Kemper Cup to Adam Schumacher.

After a water ball at No. 10 led to a bogey he went on a birdie-birdie-par-birdie burst and no one challenged him again. The birdies at Nos. 11 and 12, from 10 feet and five feet respectively, made the water ball a bad memory and the final one, off a 15-foot putt at No. 14, sealed the deal.

“Everyone was struggling, I kept grinding and it paid off,’’ said Schumacher, who earned $11,700 and also led the top 10 finishers into next year’s Professional Players National Championship.

“I was just hoping to make the top 10 again and get to nationals,’’ said Schumacher, who qualified for the PPNC for the third time. “I didn’t know I could win the tournament until I signed by scorecard.’’

The hole which broke the tournament open was a hole that didn’t produce a birdie for Schumacher — the 295-yard 13th. Such short par-4s seldom impact a tournament like this one did on Wednesday. Schumacher and Chang were tied when Schumacher reached the tee for that hole. He hit his drive far right, into the adjoining No. 12 fairway, but was able to get on the green with his second shot and salvage par.

Chang, an assistant at Twin Orchard in Long Grove, wasn’t as fortunate after putting his tee shot in the same area. He needed four approaches to find the putting surface and wound up with a horrendous seven.

“I love that hole,’’ said Schumacher – and for obvious reasons. He made a birdie two on it in the first round on Monday.

Schumacher shows the form of a champion on the back nine at Medinah No. 1.

Doug Bauman, the 60-year old veteran from Biltmore in Barrington who played with Schumacher, made a rare birdie on the tricky 13th and that spurred him into a tie for third with Chang. Billiter made his first birdie at 13 after struggling mightily on the front nine.

“My birdie at 13 was a miracle and I made another one at 14 to get into the top 10,’’ he said. “Otherwise I’d be going home crying.’’

Billiter, despite shooting an 80, finished solo fifth and retained his lead in the IPGA Player of the Year standings with three of the year’s four majors now in the books. The final one is the IPGA Player Championship at Eagle Ridge, in Galena, in October. Billiter played in the last group with Chang and Walker, and they finished nearly two holes behind the Schumacher-Bauman group.

“We were very slow,’’ admitted Billiter. “Brett played slow but was playing great, and we didn’t want to rush him.’’ Walker walked his round while Billiter and Chang, both known as fast players, rode carts.

Schumacher posted a 69, one off the day’s best round by Glen View’s Chris Green, and posted a 4-under par 209 for the 54 holes. Walker shot 73 and was the only other player under par for the tournament.

Twelve-time champion Mike Small, the University of Illinois coach, tied for sixth with Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow, who was one of five pros from the host club to survive the 36-hole cut. Among the others playing on Wednesday was Katie Pius, the only woman in the field. One of Bauman’s assistants at Biltmore, she tied for 35th.

Flavin joins Ogrin in a prominent place in Illinois Open history

Patrick Flavin belts his tee shot on No. 1 at The Glen Club as ace photographer Nick Novelli zeroes in.

Patrick Flavin was hoping that his six-stroke lead going into Wednesday’s final round of the 68th Illinois Open at The Glen Club, in Glenview, would be enough to get him through the final 18. It wasn’t.

Flavin wasn’t as sharp as he was in the first two days, when he shot a pair of 64s, but he regrouped in the final three holes and took advantage of one bad swing by playing partner Brandon Holtz to become the first player in 37 years to win the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year.

David Ogrin, who grew up in Waukegan, managed that feat in 1980 and went on to a solid career on the PGA Tour. Flavin, who grew up not too far away in Highwood, knew nothing about Ogrin but was glad to share a place in history with him.

“Walking off that final green was awesome,’’ said Flavin, about to enter his season year at Miami of Ohio. “I knew I was playing good golf, but to win both tournaments in the same year is far above my expectations.’’

Patrick Flavin adds the Illinois Open trophy to the one he captured at the Illinois State Amateur.

Only seven players have won titles in both of the major tournaments for Illinois residents. Just Ogrin and Flavin did it in the same year, and the only other amateur to win both at one time or another was Bill Hoffer, who never entered the professional ranks. Others to win both titles, but not in the same year, were Gary Hallberg, Gary Pinns and Mark Hensby, all of whom spent at least one season on the PGA Tour, and Brad Hopfinger, who finished in sixth place on Wednesday.

Flavin took the Amateur at Calumet Country Club last month when he edged Jordan Hahn, a University of Wisconsin golfer from Sugar Grove, by one stroke. That tournament was a two-man duel. Flavin had more competition in the Open, which draws the best club professionals and a smattering of pro tour players in addition to the leading amateurs.

The three-way tie for second included two amateurs getting ready for college — Matt Murlick of Marquette and Nick Hardy of Illinois – and Brandon Holtz, a former Illinois State basketball player turned mini-tour golfer.

That trio finished one stroke behind Flavin’s 13-under-par 202 total for the 54 holes. Murlick made a charge early, holing a bunker shot for birdie on the first hole and 155-yard 9-iron second shot at No. 2 for eagle. Hardy made a belated charge after a disappointing bogey at the short par-5 fourteenth, making three birdies on the last four holes.

Holtz was the most serious challenger. He made birdies on five of the first six holes of the back nine to wipe out Flavin’s big lead from the start of the day.

“Once it got tied up that kicked me in the butt,’’ said Flavin. “That gave me a sense of urgency, to stop playing defense and just go get it.’’

Flavin didn’t exactly get offensive, but his game steadied and three finishing pars was enough after Holtz hit a horrible tee shot at the par-3 seventeenth. It landed in deep rough, and Holtz was lucky to make bogey.

“I had gotten some momentum, but on that tee shot we were fortunate to find that ball,’’ said Holtz, who was the surprise of the tournament though he did finish in a tie for 16th last year.

“I always thought I could play,’’ said Holtz, who sells football helmets to youth groups for his regular job and has played golf for money only four years. “I know I can play, and I had a blast. I have no regrets.’’

With Flavin still an amateur, Holtz, from Bloomington, took the first-place check of $13,886 from a total purse of $95,000. Defending champion Carlos Sainz Jr. finished in fifth place, two strokes behind Flavin.

Ogrin could get company in Illinois Open record books

This could be really big.

Just six players have won titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, and only David Ogrin swept both tournaments in the same year. That was 37 years ago.

Today Ogrin, who continued on to a solid career on the PGA Tour, could get some company. Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, a senior to be at Miami of Ohio, takes a six-shot lead into the final round of the 68th Illinois Open at The Glen Club in Glenview.

Flavin is well aware of the importance of playing one more great round. He checked out Ogrin’s feat on the Illinois PGA’s website on Monday night “to entertain myself.’’ That came after he shot a 7-under-par 64 on the Briarwood course in Deerfield, the companion course for this year’s championship, in the first round. He matched that score on the tougher Glen Club layout, in Glenview, on Tuesday to open his big lead.

The 264-player starting field for the Illinois Open finals were cut to the low 51 after the first 36 holes, and the survivors will start teeing off at 8 a.m. today at The Glen, where all eyes will be on Flavin.

“I know there’ll be pressure, but I’m playing real well and having a lot of fun,’’ said Flavin. “It’s awesome to be in this position.’’

Flavin’s performance in the Illinois State Amateur suggests he’ll be tough team beat, even though the competition will be stiffer. He birdied his first five holes en route to a 63 in the Amateur at Calumet Country Club, in Homewood, before losing the lead in Round 2 when Jordan Hahn shot a course record 61. Flavin then came from four shots behind to beat Hahn playing head-to-head in the final 18.

“I learned a lot from the State Am as far as the pressure,’’ said Flavin. “I know I can handle the pressure.’’

The win at Calumet got Flavin into last week’s Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club, but he failed to make it into the Sweet 16 match play qualifiers who battled it out for the championship. Flavin didn’t have his best game at Skokie, but he did as soon as the Illinois Open teed off two days later.

Last year he tied for 12th when the Illinois Open finals were held at Royal Fox and Royal Hawk, two St. Charles courses. With the tourney’s move to two layouts much closer to his home Flavin accumulated 15 birdies in 36 holes without making a bogey.

His biggest problem going into the final round at The Glen may be in choosing his caddie. His older brother Connor was on the bag at Calumet but wasn’t available at Briarwood on Monday so Flavin’s girlfriend, Emily Young, took on caddie duties. A college player at Amherst, she had a job commitment on Tuesday so Connor took over.

Flavin isn’t sure who will be on the bag when he goes after the Illinois Open crown against a field that includes the state’s best club professionals and a smattering of younger players on the brink of making it on the pro tours.

One of those, Wilmette’s Eric Mierdierks, was Flavin’s playing partner in the first two rounds when Flavin posted a 36-hole score of 15-under-par 128.

“He’s making his putts. It’s been fun to watch,’’ said Mierdierks, who won the Illinois Open in 2010 and is currently on a brief break from the Web.com Tour.

Mierdierks and Bloomington’s Brandon Holtz, a former Illinois State basketball player who didn’t play collegiate golf, are tied for second at 9-under 134. Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr., the defending champion, overcame a water ball on the last hole to shoot 65. His playing partner, Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, made 10 birdies and will play with Sainz again in the final round. They’re tied for fourth, seven strokes behind Flavin.

Tuesday’s play also included a rare albatross by Dakun Chang, a pro at Twin Orchard in Long Grove. He holed a 5-iron second shot from 205 yards at the par-5 14th but failed to survive the 36-hole cut.

Longest Western Amateur playoff in 115 years goes to Oregon’s Xiong

Reflections enhance one of the Western Amateur’s biggest galleries around Skokie’s No. 9 green.

The Western Amateur golf tournament has been played for 115 years, and it never had a championship match as dramatic as the one that Norman Xiong and Doc Redman put on Saturday at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe.

Xiong won it on the fourth playoff hole when Redman missed a 12-foot par-saving putt. Until Saturday no title match had gone beyond two extra holes, and the marathon duel tied for the fifth longest match in any round since the tourney went to an 18-hole match play format to determine the champion in 1961.

“Way too many holes,’’ said Xiong, who was 4-up after nine holes before Redman rallied to get to all square on the 17th. “It was just fun. I was trying to stay in the moment and play one hole at a time. That match could have gone either way.’’

The shotmaking down the stretch by both players was something to behold. Redman lipped out a putt to win the match on the final hole of regulation. Xiong did the same on the first playoff hole. Xiong extended the match by sinking a 12-footer for par on the third extra hole and then applied the pressure on the fourth with an approach to 15 feet after Redman could barely stay on the left side of the green and was left with a first putt of an estimated 120 feet.

Doc Redman (left) and Norman Xiong brace for their epic shootout at Skokie Country Club.

“`That first putt was long and way uphill,’’ said Redman. “It was hard to get your speed right to two-putt.’’

Xiong couldn’t convert his birdie putt, so Redman needed the par-saver to keep the match going, but he couldn’t convert. Still, he made a stirring comeback on the back nine. Xiong hit every green in regulation on the front side, Redman did the same on the back. Both players showed commendable sportsmanship in the late going. Xiong conceded sizeable putts to Redman on the 16th and 17th holes and Redman conceded a four-footer to Xiong on the 18th.

Of the 22 holes played, 13 were won by one player or the other. It produced a fitting climax for the largest roving gallery since the Western Golf Association put the tourney in a Chicago-based rotation in 2009. WGA officials estimated about 500 walked with the finalists.

The Western Amateur is well known as an endurance test. The format consists of 72 holes of stroke play before the field is cut to the low 16 for two days of matches to determine the winner. The staging of the championship lost its local flavor when Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, after making it to match play for the third time, was ousted in his first match by Australian Min Woo Lee on Friday.

That relegated Hardy to looking ahead to the Illinois Open, which begins its three-day run on Monday at The Glen Club in Glenview and Briarwood, in Deerfield. Redman took out Lee in the next round.

Redman smacks his first tee shot in the Western Amateur final.

Both finalists had to survive semifinals on Saturday morning before their epic showdown. Xiong eliminated Derek Bard, the losing finalist to Bryson DeChambeau in the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields, while Redman was a 3 and 2 winner over Cameron Champ, the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open.

Xiong, from Canyon Lake, Calif., and Redman, from Raleigh, N.C., made for an interesting matchup. They were among the youngest finalists in tournament history, Xiong being 18 and Redman 19. (The tourney’s youngest winner was 17).

Both Xiong and Redman are collegiate sophomores, Xiong at Oregon and Redman at Clemson. Both were Freshman of the Year in their conferences, Xiong in the Pac-12 and Redman in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Both were playing in the Western Am for the first time and could meet again in the U.S. Amateur at California’s storied Riviera in two weeks before returning to their college teams.

Xiong was also the tourney medalist, and he became the 25th player to rule both the stroke and match play competitions in the same Western Amateur. The tourney’s previous champions include Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Hardy is the only local to make it to match play in Western Amateur

The 115th Western Amateur was hardly a rousing success for the seven Chicago players among the 156 invitees to the prestigious event at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe.

Only Nick Hardy, the senior-to-be at Illinois from Northbrook, advanced to the Sweet 16 during Thursday’s 36-hole day that concluded stroke play qualifying. Hardy shot 67-69 in the third and fourth rounds to complete the 72-hole portion of the tournament at 11-under-par 273. He tied for third in the stroke play portion of the championship, won in the past by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Curtis Strange and Tiger Woods

Hardy made it to the match play portion of the tournament for the third time and will win the title if he can win four matches in the final two days of the tournament.

His Illini teammate, fellow senior Dylan Meyer, won’t defend the title he won last year at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. He didn’t survive the first cut, when the field was cut from the starting 156 to the low 44 and ties after Wednesday’s first 36 holes were completed.

Meyer was two shots short of qualifying for Thursday’s rain-plagued 36-hole day. Highland Park’s Patrick Flavin, a late invitee after he won the Illinois State Amateur title last week, was five shots behind Meyer and NCAA champion Braden Thronberry of Mississippi was another shot back.

Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback who was given a sponsor’s exemption by the Western Golf Association, was 20-over-par for his 36 holes, while it took a 1-under score to qualify for the third and fourth rounds.

Hardy had two other local players join him in the two-round day. Neither Doug Ghim, a University of Texas senior from Arlington Heights, nor Andrew Price, the 35-year-old 2016 Chicago District Amateur champion from Lake Bluff, came close to making the Sweet 16.

In addition to Flavin, the Illinois players bowing out after two rounds were Todd Mitchell, 38, of Bloomington; Chicago’s Charles Waddell, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur later this month in California; and Skokie member Robert Bice. Mitchell is a two-time Illinois State Amateur champion; last year’s Illinois State Mid Amateur titlist and a four=time Chicago District Golf Association Player of the Year.

The tourney medalist was Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, Calif. He shot 66-65 on Thursday to finish the 72 holes of stroke play at 14-under-par 270. Xiong was one stroke ahead of Okohoama junior Brad Dalke, whose 72 in the final 18 killed his chances for medalist honors and the No. 1 seed for the match play portion of the tournament.

Xiong was in a tie for 29th place at the start of the day but took advantage of a last-hole collapse by Australian Ruben Sondjaja, who hit two balls out of bounds on the last hole, took a quadruple bogey eight and wound up in the tie for third with Hardy. He was one stroke ahead of Xiong going to the last hole.

“My goal was just to get into the Sweet 16,’’ said Xiong. “I knew if I just played my game I could get there pretty solidly. Things got hot with my putter at the beginning of both rounds and things went my way.’’

Xiong and Dalke were the last finishers, at 8:15 p.m.. Two rain delays hampered play and prevented a four-man playoff for the final two Sweet 16 spots from being held. It’ll be contested on Friday morning before the matches begin. Among those in the playoff is Dawson Armstrong, who won the 2015 Western Amateur at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove, spectacular fashion, holing a bunker shot to claim the title in a sudden death playoff.

Flavin overcomes Hahn’s 61, wins Illinois State Amateur

Highland Park’s Patrick Flavin will return to Miami of Ohio as the Illinois State Amateur champion.

What a difference a day makes.

On Wednesday Jordan Hahn shot a 61 – the lowest round in the 87-year history of the Illinois State Amateur as well as the best ever recorded at Calumet Country Club, which opened its doors in 1901.

On that magical day Hahn, a University of Wisconsin golfer from Spring Grove, was 7-under-par after seven holes and had a hole-in-one in that stretch. When he got to 10-under through 14 holes the tournament staff was envisioning a 59 but Hahn made a bogey and no compensating birdies coming in.

That was on Wednesday, before storms pounded the course overnight. A day later Hahn wasn’t the same player and met his match in playing partner Patrick Flavin. The Miami of Ohio senior-to-be from Highland Park found everything going his way, and he hung on for a one-stroke victory after a final round 67.

Flavin, who birdied his first five holes of the opening round on Tuesday en route to shooting a 63, was looking forward to the scheduled 36-hole wrapup on Thursday. The rain, though, prevented that. The Chicago District Golf Association had to reduce its primary championship to 54 holes for the first time sine 2007.

“I was looking forward to playing 36 and having half the tournament left,’’ said Flavin, “but once we started playing my attitude changed. I had to get off to a good start and I did it.’’

He made four birdies in the first seven holes to erase Hahn’s four-stroke lead at the start of the day. They were tied making the turn to the back nine and Flavin continued his solid play long enough to open a three-stroke lead with four holes remaining.

Hahn knew all along it’d be hard to follow up his spectacular round of a day earlier.

“I tried to keep it out of my mind, that I wasn’t going to make that many birdies and to just stay patient,’’ said Hahn, but his play – particularly on the par-5s where he was 1-over for the day – wasn’t close to what it was a day earlier; Still, the duel with Flavin was a good one right up to the end.

Hahn got within one stroke with a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 17 after Flavin made bogey on the same hole, and they were just a shot apart heading to the 18th. Flavin’s final tee shot sailed deep into the left rough and his caddie, older brother Connor, managed to settle his nerves before Flavin uncorked the key shot of the day – a 6-iron from 188 yards that found the green.

“I had to hit it below a branch, over a tree and hook it,’’ said Flavin. “It came out perfect, and was definitely the shot of the day.’’

Both players missed lengthy birdie puts on the 18th and Flavin’s two-foot tap-in for par gave him the title. No other player was within four of the two front-runners. Flavin posted a 10-under-par 200 for the 54 holes. Hahn’s concluding 2-over 72 left his a stroke behind.

Neither Flavin nor Hahn could wangle invitations to the upcoming Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club, though Flavin is still hopeful of getting into that prestigious national event. He will play in next month’s Illinois Open before heading back to school and Hahn hope to qualify for the U.S. Amateur on Monday in Wisconsin. If he doesn’t his summer season is over.

IWO champ Farnsworth followed in her coach’s footsteps

Illinois Women’s Open champion Alexandra Farnsworth is congratulated by Paula Kosin (left), sister of late tournament founder Phil Kosin, and Andy Mickelson, Mistwood’s director of golf.

Aimee Neff had good memories from winning the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open as an amateur in 2008 and 2009. Now an assistant coach at Vanderbilt University, she suggested that one of her players, Alexandra Farnsworth, use the IWO as a tuneup for her senior season at the Nashville, Tenn., school.

Farnsworth took Neff’s advice and is glad she did. On Wednesday Farnsworth rallied from a two-stroke deficit at the start of the day to post a two-stroke victory over Hannah Kim, the Northwestern star, in the 23rd staging of the IWO at Mistwood, in Romeoville.

Winless as a collegiate player, Farnsworth was in bad need of a victory and she got this one with a final-round 67, which completed a 54-hole score of 8-under-par 208.

“I had a lot of seconds and thirds in college play, so this breakthrough means a lot to me,’’ she said. “The last half of (her last college) year I put a lot of added pressure on myself about turning pro. I thought I had to shoot certain scores to prove myself, and that made the game miserable. I took two weeks off and am fully back to enjoying golf again.’’

Though she missed qualifying for next month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur by one shot Farnsworth is looking forward to the Tennessee Women’s Open in two weeks prior to the start of her senior season.

The key to her win at Mistwood was her play around the portion of the course dubbed Kelpie’s Corner. She made birdie at the par-4 thirteenth, was happy that her tee shot from the back tee at the long par-3 fourteenth cleared the water and reached the green and then she made birdie at the “visually intimidating’’ 15th , a par-5 with water impacting every shot en route to the putting surface.

The birdie at No. 15 was her sixth of the day and opened a three-stroke lead on Kim, a stalwart on Northwestern’s NCAA runner-up team in May at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. Kim, who struggled after making double bogey at No. 10, got one stroke back with a birdie at the 16th but could get no closer.

“I definitely took a couple weeks off after the NCAAs, but wherever I’d go people would ask me about that experience,’’ she said. “That’s been very motivating.’’

Since the tension-packed NCAA Kim has been taking a summer class at Northwestern and played in only the Women’s Western Amateur at River Forest, in Elmhurst, prior to the IWO. By far her biggest event of the summer is still to come.

“This was a prep for the U.S. Amateur,’’ she admitted. That tournament will be played in her hometown of Chula Vista, Calif.

The 27 professionals in the 72-player field were left to battle for a share of the $25,000 prize money after amateurs swept the first two places. Canadian pro Vivian Tsui, the 36-hole leader, and Samantha Postillion split the top pro prize. Each received $4,250. It was the biggest payday so far for Postillion, who turned pro in the spring of 2015 after graduating from the University of Illinois.

Postillion’s mother Kerry, who won three IWOs as an amateur between 1996 and 1999, walked the final round with her daughter. Since Kerry Postillion’s last victory the family has moved to Arizona. Top Illinois resident in the field was another University of Illinois golfer, Dana Gattone. The Addison resident, who plays out of Medinah, finished solo fifth.