Late qualifier Malm repeats in IPGA Players

Curtis Malm, may have been the defending champion in the Illinois PGA Players Championship this week, but he was lucky to even be in the field.

The 36 players invited into the last of the IPGA’s four major tournaments is determined off a season-long point list, and Malm was one spot out until Shaun McElroy, of North Shore in Glenview, dropped out.

“It was the same as last year,’’ said Malm.  “I didn’t play much.  This was only my fourth event.  I snuck in off my finish (11th) at the (IPGA) Championship.’’

Malm’s win was no fluke, though.  The director of golf at White Eagle, in Naperville, has  been one of the section’s top players for years. He won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2000, then went on to win   back-to-back titles in the IPGA Match Play as well as the IPGA Players. Now he needs only to win the IPGA Championship to own a title in all four of the section’s majors.

“That’s No. 1 on my priority list,’’ said Malm, whose club will host next year’s Illinois Open for the second time in three years..  “It would be the culmination of everything if I could finish the Illinois PGA Grand Slam.’’

Malm  shot 68 in Tuesday’s final round of the 36-hole IPGA Players at Knollwood Club in Lake  Forest. His 3-under-par 141 was good enough for a one-stroke win over Brian Carroll of The Hawk, in St. Charles. Reigning IPGA champion Andy Mickelson, of Mistwood in Romeoville, and Garrett Chaussard, director of instruction at Skokie Country Club, tied for third, two behind Malm.

The tournament came down to the final hole.  Malm made birdie after hitting a wedge shot to three feet.  Then he waited for the rest of the field to finish.  Carroll, his main challenger, needed to make par from a green-side bunker to force a playoff but he couldn’t connect on his par-saving putt.

Chaussard came into the last event offering Player of the Year points trailing only Chris French, of Aldeen in Rockford.  French faded to a 79 in the final round and wound up in a tie for 13th place.  That enabled Chaussard to earn his second Player of the Year honor in the last three years.

 

 

 

 

U.S. dominates in this Ryder Cup

The U.S. enjoyed this Stanley Cup-style end to the 43rd Ryder Cup.

HAVEN, Wis.—The longstanding U.S. frustrations in the Ryder Cup are over.  After losing to Europe in four of the previous five meetings and seven of the last nine captain Steve Stricker found a combination of young  players who dominated the 43rd staging of golf’s premier team event at Whistling Straits.

In fact, this American team dominated like no other.  The 19-9 victory was underscored by the fact that the American side set the modern day point record. The winning 1981 U.S. team had 18 ½ in its victory at Walton Heath in England.

“It sure feels like this is the start of a new era,’’ said Stricker, who used a roster that included six first-time Ryder Cup players.  “The Ryder Cup means a lot to everybody, and this is the greatest team of all time.  These guys are unbelievable. They  came in with a lot of fire, had a mission and did it.’’

Stricker has been an emotional leader.  He has been a vice captain of the U.S. side since he stopped playing on the team and also captained the President’s Cup team. Winning the Ryder Cup, especially in his native Wisconsin,  was a well-deserved reward for one of America’s most popular golfers

“You’re trying to make me cry, aren’t you?’’ said Stricker, who played collegiately for the University of Illinois.  “This is very special.  I never won a major, but this is my major right here. ‘’

After building up an 11-5 lead in two days of foursome and four-ball matches the U.S. made quick work of reclaiming the Ryder Cup.  The clincher came when Ryder Cup rookie Collin Morikawa holed a four-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to assure the Americans had the necessary 14 1/2 points to win.

The U.S. side had a well-deserved celebration after years of waiting.

In a battle of the game’s brightest young stars Morikawa had a spirted duel with  Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the fifth of the 12 singles matches. Their match ended in a tie with seven matches left on the course but the tension remained with the point record on the line.

The U.S. team, had much more lofty goals than just winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2016.  Haunted by the Europeans’ domination of the event, U.S. players wanted a one-sided win. They needed. That was a possibility after Europe’s Rory McIlroy won the first match of the day.  At that point 11 matches were on the course and the U.S. led in nine.

In 1979 the Ryder Cup format switched to allow a team from all of Europe instead of just Great Britain and Ireland.  Two years later the U.S. team piled up 18 ½ points  at Walton Heath.   Such American successes were few and far between after that, the most painful defeat coming at Medinah in 2012 when they fizzled in singles after going in with a 10-6 lead.

This time singles success came in abundance.  Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were winners and Morikawa and Jordan Spieth tied in their matches to get the record point total.

The celebration is on, as the U.S. completes a record Ryder Cup win.

The Europeans took the loss hard.  McIlroy and Ian Poulter, for years the mainstays on the European team, were in tears even though both scored their only points of this year’s Ryder Cup on Sunday.

While the U.S. win was an obvious team effort, there were special performances.  Johnson, at 37 the oldest American player, won all five of his matches.  In 2019  Scheffler won the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour event held at The Glen Club in Glenview.  That helped him advance to the PGA Tour and on Sunday he was the man of the hour at the Ryder Cup, beating world No. 1 Jon Rahm.

“I got off to a nice start – five birdies in the first six holes –and kept the pressure on him the whole day.  I was super happy seeing a lot of red on the scoreboard,’’ said Scheffler.

Rahm took the loss in stride, but downplayed the magnitude of it.

“It not what any of us wanted,’’ said Rahm.  “We all tried our hardest and just got beat. You lose by a half-point or by 10, it doesn’t matter.’’

Cantllay, another of the U.S. rookies, won the FedEx Cup two weeks ago and kept the momentum going at Whistling Straits.  His win over Shane Lowry started Sunday’s 7-0-2 run in the singles matches.

“I wanted to send a message,’’ said Cantlay.  “We sent out four rookies in the first five matches.  That’s unheard of.  We’re young, but most of us have  played together since we were teen-agers.’’

Obviously the future of American golf is bright. They’re already looking ahead to the next Ryder Cup, in Italy in 2023.

Not all the spectators at the 43rd Ryder Cup were on the grounds at Whistling Straits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could this be the day the U.S. reclaims the Ryder Cup?

HAVEN, Wis. – If it wasn’t for a nightmarish day nine years ago the United States golfers and their supporters would already be in a celebratory mood at Whistling Straits. The U.S. went 3-1 in Saturday’s morning foursome matches for the third straight session to open a 9-3 lead.

The Europeans had their best session of the week in the afternoon four-ball, winning two of the matches, but the U.S. will have an 11-5 lead  going into Sunday’s concluding 12 singles matches

Europe will need to go 9-3 in singles to retain the Ryder Cup, which might seem insurmountable were it not for the haunting memory of the “Meltdown at Medinah’’ In 2012. The U.S. had a 10-6 lead after the two days of foursome and four-ball competition that year but fizzled in singles and left with a stunning defeat that’s hard to forget.

Michael Jordan, the basketball legend and golfing addict, showed up for his 12th Ryder Cup this week. and he hasn’t forgotten.  Jordan  hasn’t been as active with this Ryder Cup team, but he isn’t ready to celebrate just year.

“I m a little nervous,’’ he said. “I was there when it was 10-6 at Medinah and things changed in a moment.’’

They certainly did. The U.S. has lost four of the last five and seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, but none of the defeats was more painful than that one

On the brighter side this Ryder Cup might go down as the “Whipping at Whistling’’ based on the U.S. domination the last two days, but that’s not a done deal yet..

With six rookies on this American side captain Steve Stricker, a player on the losing side at Medinah, had a radically different roster than the teams that have been dominated by the Europeans in recent years. Despite the comfortable lead, Stricker is warning his players about relaxing too much.

“We want to just keep building on the lead,’’ he said. “We’ve got them down a little bit, and our goal is to continue that, and continue that momentum.’’

Immediately after Stricker’s warning the American players were openly celebrating.  Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger chugged beers and doubled as cheerleaders to the delight of the loud partisan gallery surrounding the first tee before the start of the final afternoon session of the competition.

“I don’t think any of us really expect anything,’’ said Thomas.  We just expect to go out and play well. We are all good friends and know each other’s games.’’

“Other than a couple of us we have known each other since high school, or even grade school,’’ said Jordan Spieth.  “We are having a blast off the course, and that’s feeding into the lightness in our rounds.’’

Stricker has his players in position for success on Sunday.  Only Dustin Johnson, at 37 the oldest player on the team, played in all four sessions of the foursome and four-ball matches and he won them all. The others had at least one session to rest.

The Europeans, in sharp contrast, are struggling and it showed in captain Padraig Harrington’s match pairings.  He sat Ian Poulter, the ringleader in Europe’s comeback at Medinah, for two consecutive sessions and his partner, Rory McIlroy, didn’t play on Saturday morning. They figured to be mainstays on the European team but neither score a point.

Only the Jon Rahm-Sergio Garcia pairing was a problem for the U.S. team. They won twice on Saturday, and that had historical significance for Garcia.  He notched his 24th and 25th victories in Ryder Cup play. Garcia started the day tied for the most wins with Nick Faldo at 23 apiece. Rahm is the only European player to compete in every session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At least there’s hope for the U.S. after great start in Ryder Cup

There couldn’t have been a more perfect day to open the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

HAVEN, Wis. – Beautiful weather greeted the 40,000 spectators when the 43rd Ryder Cup teed off Fridays. So did massive traffic jams on the rural roads that surround Whistling Straits. At the end of the day, though, there was at least hope for the American side that has been dominated by the Europe  in  in the  recent years of this biennial competition.

The U.S. ended day one of the three-day event with a 6-2 lead, the country’s biggest first-day lead in 46 years, but there’s a long way to go.  There’ll be another day on Saturday like Day 1 – four foursome matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon.  Then all 12 players on each team will decide the outcome in singles play on Sunday.

Friday was an extraordinary one on a day in which late afternoon winds topped 30 miles per  hour.  In the last Ryder Cup three years ago in Paris the U.S. took a 3-1 lead after the first morning session but the Europeans swept the afternoon matches and went on to a one-sided victory.  This year’s Day 1 was much different.

The high profile Spanish pairing of Jon Rahm. the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Sergio Garcia, the highest point-scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup, opened the day with a 3 and 1 win over Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

Europe had won four of the last five Ryder Cups and seven of the last nine , and that start didn’t bode well for the Americans. After that, though, it was a banner day for Team USA.  The U.S. won the last three foursome matches of the morning session and went 2-0-2 in the afternoon four-ball play.

What was particularly notable was the drubbing the U.S. administered to the fearsome Ian Poulter and his partner, Rory McElroy. England’s Poulter became a Ryder Cup legend after his showing at Medinah in 2012.  That year he won all four of his matches in dramatic fashion.

Poulter, with McIlroy as his partner,  birdied the last five holes of a critical four-ball match and then won in singles on the final day when the Europeans pulled off “the Miracle at Medinah’’ or – as the American fans call it — “The Meltdown at Medinah.’’  Europe came from 10-6 down after the two days of team play to pull off the victory with a Poulter-inspired run in singles.“

Despite his 14-6-2 career record in Ryder Cup play and his 5-0-1 mark in singles, the U.S. had no trouble with Poulter on Friday. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, both playing in their first Ryder Cup matches, won the first five holes – four of them with birdies – and took a 5 and 3 win over Poulter and McIlroy.  Euro captain Padraig Harrington sat Poulter in the afternoon four-ball matches.

“It was a shame, because we actually played quite well,’’ said Poulter.  “It’s not nice to get off to a 5-down start after five.  It’s not easy to come back from that, and they finished the match off.’’

McIlroy was called on to play again in the afternoon and he (along with partner Shane Lowry) were hammered again, this time 4 and 3 by Ryder Cup rookies Tony Finau and Harris English.  Finau and English weren’t part of the morning matches.

A couple oddities:  American Cantlay and Norway’s Viktor Hovland of Europe played most of the day without caps. It could be both feared the wind would blow off their caps in a crucial situation.  Also, for the first time in Ryder Cup history, no pairings from the morning session were brought back intact for the afternoon.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker and Harrington both used their entire roster on Day 1.

 

 

Stricker in the spotlight at Ryder Cup Opening Ceremonies

HAVEN, Wis. – Thursday’s Opening Ceremonies for the 43rd Ryder Cup was not without the unexpected.  U.S. captain Steve Stricker provided it.

First Stricker broke into tears while introducing his wife and daughters to a standing room only crowd who ignored a late afternoon rain to gather at the Dye Pavilion at Whistling Straits.

“I had a couple beers to help me get through that,’’ said Stricker, “but I just couldn’t do it.’’

Then Stricker told a gathering of mostly Green Bay Packers’ fans that he preferred the Bears.  He got some jeers for that one, causing Stricker to plead “Don’t turn on us now. I cheer for the Packers except when they play the Bears.’’

Stricker, one of the most popular American players, grew up in Wisconsin but played college golf for the University of Illinois. And he was not done with surprises when it came time to naming the eight players who would kick off the competition in Friday’s morning best ball matches.  Bryson DeChambeau, one of the U.S. teams strongest players and No. 7 in the world rankings, will sit out while Europe will lead off with its strongest pair – the Spanish team of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.

Rahm is the first No. 1-ranked player in the world to play for Europe since Rory McIlroy did it in 2014. Garcia has long been a stalwart for the Euros in the biennial matches.

“Being from Spain, you learn about the Ryder Cup early,’’ said Rahm, the latest in the line of Ryder stars from the country that previously contributed the late Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.  “It’s a lot to live up to.’’

Rahm and Garcia will take on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. While DeChambeau sits out, Brooks Koepka will go out in Match 3 with Ryder Cup rookie Daniel Berger. They’ll square off with 48-year old Lee Westwood, Europe’s veteran player, and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Koepka dismissed the silly feud he’s been having all season with DeChambeau in a morning interview but he wasn’t surprised about Stricker’s show of emotion.

“He’s so passionate.  He’s a softie, he cares so much,’’ Koepka said of his captain.“It’d be nice to see him cry on Sunday.’’

That might happen if the U.S. team wins. While the American side is rated the favorite in some betting organizations, Team Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups.

Match 2 will have the oldest U.S. player, 37-year old Dustin Johnson, and rookie Collin Morikawa taking on Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, the first Norwegian golfer to play in the Ryder Cup. The morning session will wrap up with the powerful European duo of McIlroy and Ian Poulter facing Patrick Cantlay, winner of the FedEx Cup Playoffs two weeks ago, and Xander Schauffele.

There’ll be four more best ball matches in the afternoon, and Stricker and European captain Padraig Harrington will announce their participants after the first four matches are completed. In addition to DeChambeau, the rested players available to Stricker include Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler – all on the Ryder Cup team for the first time.

The four Europeans sitting out Friday’s morning matches are Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger – the first golfer from Austria to make a Ryder Cup squad..

Stonebridge fits Tee-K Kelly’s golf game to a tee

Tee-K Kelly’s victory in the Illinois Open was cause for a family celebration.

Tee-K Kelly was the whole show at the 72nd Illinois Open, no question about that.

The Wheaton resident, Ohio State alum and Medinah Country Club member led wire-to-wire in winning the biggest event for Illinois resident.  He was a record-tying 17-under-par, posting a 54-hole score of 199 at Stonebridge Country Club in Aurora.

His rounds of 66, 65 and 68 gave Kelly a three-stroke victory over Luke Gannon, a former Southern Illinois golfer from Mahomet, and made him only the 10th player to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. The last to do it was Vince India, a regular on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour. He won the Amateur in 2010 and the Open in 2018.

Kelly compiled one of the best amateur records by a Chicago area player, winning the State Am twice and finishing second once before turning professional after a college career at Ohio State. He had three top-10 finishes in the Illinois Open in the previous four years including a tie for third in 2020 before his breakthrough this week.

“It feels amazing,’’ said Kelly.  I’d put myself in contention in this tournament a fair bit, but it sure is a lot of fun when you pull it out.’’

The first player to claim the Illinois Amateur and Open titles was Gary Hallberg, who went on to a solid career in the professional ranks. He won the Open in 1977 and the Amateur in 1978 and 1979.

“It was absolutely a goal of mine (to win both titles),’’ said Kelly.  “It was really cool because I played a lot of golf with Gary son Eric, and with him as well.’’

Others to own titles in both are Gary Pinns, David Ogrin, Bill Hoffer, Roy Biancalana, Mark Hensby, Brad Hopfinger and Patrick Flavin. All turned pro with the exception of Hoffer, a life-long amateur.

There wasn’t much suspense in Wednesday’s final round, played on a course that hosted the Senior PGA Tour for five years in the 1990s and the LPGA circuit three times from 2002-04.  Stonebridge had not hosted a big tournament since then until it landed the Illinois Open.

Kelly started the day with a four-stroke lead on pro Luke Gannon of Mahomet. Gannon got within three shots twice on the front nine got that close a third time when Kelly hit his tee shot out of bounds at No. 14.

“In the past that would have shaken me up a bit,’’ said Kelly, “but – having my brother Will CHECK on the bag – it didn’t affect me very much.  I just hit a bad shot and wasn’t going to hit another one.  I wasn’t going to lie down and let that affect me.’’

It didn’t.  Kelly made birdies on the next two holes and cruised the rest of the way to a $20,000 first place prize.

Kelly, who stands 6-4, and his caddie-brother Will (6-7) have formed an imposing duo in their six times working together this year.  Kelly came into the Illinois Open off a tie for third in a Forme (formerly Canadian) Tour event and he’ll stay on that circuit with Will on his bag until Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school begins this fall.

BITS: Daniel Hudson, a former Kansas golfer who lives in Chicago, tied the Stonebridge course record with a 62 in the final round.  The 10-under-par mark was set by Babe Hiskey in the 1992 Ameritech Senior Open and tied by  Annika Sorenstam and Rosie Jones in 2003 when the LPGA’s Kellogg Keebler Classic was played at Stonebridge. Hudson climbed into a tie for third place with the hot round that included 10 birdies, an eagle and two bogeys…..Hinsdale’s Mac McClear, who was the Big Ten Conference’s individual champion for Iowa, finished in a tie for fifth and was the low amateur…..Crystal Lake’s Ethan Farnam, who won the last two Illinois State Amateur titles, finished tied for ninth in his bid to become only the third golfer to win both state titles in the same year.

 

Fast start at John Deere Classic shows how much progress Ghim is making

 

SILVIS, IL. – Being a rookie on the PGA Tour isn’t easy.  Doug Ghim, who got to golf’s premier circuit after growing up in Arlington Heights, is making headway and Thursday’s first round of the John  Deere Classic provided proof of that.

Ghim came into the JDC with $1,152,732 in season winnings and had made 16 cuts in 23 starts.  While his standing in the Official World Golf Rankings was only No. 217, he is No. 81 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup race.  That pretty much assures he’ll be in the lucrative postseason playoffs.

A 5-under-par bogey-free 66 certainly didn’t hurt Ghim’s cause on Thursday. He enters today’s second round three shots behind co-leaders Sebastian Munoz, from Colombia, and Chesson Hadley.

Ghim is in a five-way tie for seventh place.  Chez Reavie, Camilo Villegas are one stroke behind the leaders and Ryan Moore, the tourney’s 2016 champion, is another stroke back. Joining Ghim at 5-under are Luke List, Kevin Tway, Cameron Champ and Michael Gellerman.

While he attended Buffalo Grove High School, Ghim didn’t play much golf in Illinois his his amateur days. He preferred to play a nationwide schedule of American Junior Golf Assn. events instead and it paid off when he starred at the University of Texas, finished as runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Amateur and was low amateur at the 2018 Masters.

In fact, Ghim played in the John Deere Classic only once, and that wasn’t a happy experience. He got into the 2018 JDC on sponsor’s invitation and, after shooting a first-round 73, he withdrew with a case of food poisoning. That made this tournament more special.

“We don’t have many chances to play in my home state, so I always relish the opportunity to be here,’’ said Ghim.  “I’ve been circling this one on the calendar for awhile.’’

The good start was encouraging, but Ghim was hardly giddy about it.

“It’s a little too early to be talking about the lead, or anything like that,’’ he said.  “Scores are always low here, and I’ll have to keep the pedal down.’’

He’s contended several times, most notably in The Players Championship when he was paired with eventual champion Justin Thomas in the final pairing on Sunday.  Ghim struggled to a 78 and finished tied for 29th.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to make it a real good year,’’ he said.  “I’ve had a lot of growing pains, but considering where I started from last year, it’s a huge improvement.  I’ve learned a lot.’’

One of the tournament’s most popular players, Steve Stricker, is in danger of missing today’s 36-hole cut. He opened with a 1-under 70.

Stricker is a legend in this PGA Tour stop, which is three hours from his Wisconsin home.  He won the JDC three straight times, from 2009 to 2011. He’s won more money in the tournament than anyone else, and he was 186 strokes under par in his first 17 appearances in the tournament.

In this his 18th visit, though, he is 54 years old. Nobody else in the field has reached his 50th birthday. The oldest previous winner on the PGA Tour was Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open, and that was three years before Stricker was born.  Stricker wants to beat Snead’s record, and the bad first round won’t help.

“It was an early wakeup call,’’ said Stricker.  “I’m not used to getting up at 5 in the morning anymore to play.  I played like I was still asleep for awhile. Hopefully I can come back tomorrow and put up a good number.’’

In addition to being the U.S. Ryder Cup captain Stricker is a PGA Champions Tour mainstay now – and he’s been a good one.

Last year he won the U.S. Senior Open, and he won another Champions’ major in his last start, taking the Bridgestone Senior Players at rugged Firestone two weeks ago by a whopping six strokes. After that he opted for a return to the JDC even though it conflicted with what would have been his title defense in the U.S. Senior Open.

“I wish they weren’t the exact same week, but I’m glad I’m here,’’ said Stricker. “It’s a special place for me and my family.’’

 

 

 

Illini alum Nowlin is now two-for-two in state open tourneys

Tristyn Nowlin finally won a big golf tournament at Mistwood on Wednesday.

The University of Illinois graduate student from Richmond, Ky., who turned pro two weeks ago, was a runner-up on te Romeoville course twice in 2018.  That year she dropped a match play final to Emilee Hoffman in the Women’s Western Amateur and was edged by Northwestern alum Hannah Kim in a three-day, 54-hole stroke play format at the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open.

Nowlin wasn’t stymied playing a third different competitive format at Mistwood – 54 holes over just two days – in her return to the IWO. She held off another graduate student who just turned pro, Loukyee Songprasert, in a tense final round to keep her winning streak alive in state open tournaments.

Last week Nowlin won the Michigan PGA Women’s Open at Crystal Mountain.  She’ll follow her win in the IWO with state opens in her home state of Kentucky next week and then compete in similar events in Tennessee and Florida before going to the Symetra Tours qualifying tournament at Mission Inn in California in the fall.

“This whole week was a real blast,’’ said Nowlin.  “This course welcomes you right in, and those previous tournaments gave me a little edge, in that I knew I could play well here.’’

After going 69-69 in the tourney’s 36-hole opening day on Tuesday she managed a 70 on Wednesday to finish at 8-under-par 208. That was two better than Songprasert, who shot the best round of the week – a 67 on Tuesday to get within a shot of Nowlin going into the final 18.

Songprasert, who attended high school in Thailand before doing her undergraduate work at West Texas A&M, pulled even twice in the final round before Nowlin took the lead for good at No. 16. She made birdie there and Songprasert three-putted the next hole for a bogey to fall two shots back.  Both parred the finishing hole.

“In the second round I was more aggressive, and it turned out real good,’’ said Songprasert, who is living in Bloomingdale this summer and working at Medinah Country Club under the guidance of director of instruction Travis Johns. “Today I tried to be more aggressive again, because I was behind, but it didn’t happen. I lipped out four or five birdie putts.’’

Nowlin, who is finishing up work on a Masters degree in sports management at Illinois, had some lipouts, too, but her familiarity with the Mistwood setting helped her overcome that.  Bing Singhsumalee, a former Illini teammate, was her caddie the first two days and another Illini, senior-to-be Crystal Wang, ended up in third place and was the tourney’s low amateur.

The IWO, which was canceled last year because of pandemic concerns, was staged for the 26th time.  Nowlin picked up $5,000 from a $20,000 purse for her victory.

It was Mistwood’s first of two major tournaments in July. The finals of the 90th Illinois State Amateur will be played there July 20-22.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowlin leads in a day of memories at the Illinois Women’s Open

Tuesday marked the start of the biggest six days of tournament golf in Illinois this year. The 26th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, at Mistwood in Romeoville, started things off with a 36-hole session.  The final round is Wednesday (TODAY) and then the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic begins its four-day run on Thursday in downstate Silvis.

Neither event was held in 2019 due to pandemic concerns, and that only magnified some fond memories in the IWO field.

Tristyn Nowlin, the recent University of Illinois star, takes a one-stroke lead over Ueakarn Songprasert, of Bloomindale, into the final 18 holes at Mistwood. Playing well at MIstwood is nothing new for Nowlin.  In 2018 she finished second in both the IWO and Women’s Western Amateur there.

“I love this place,’’ she said.  “Technically it’s been three years since I’ve been here, but it seems like two weeks.’’

Nowlin was low amateur in her runner-up finish in 2018.  She recently turned professional and recently won the Michigan Women’s Open.

“I’m just playing state opens for now,’’ she said.  “I’ll have a lot of good trips since making the transition, and whatever money I make I’ll use for (LPGA) Q-School.’’

After Wednesday’s final round she’ll compete in state opens in Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida before qualifying school begins in the fall.

While Nowlin has her own good memories of Mistwood, the field’s veterans stars Nicole Jeray and Jenna Pearson have theirs, two.  Both won the tournament twice, Jeray in 1998 and 2003 and Pearson in 2007 and 2011.  Only amateur Kerry Postillion, with three wins in the IWO’s first six stagings, won more times.

Jeray and Pearson both looked back on the two individuals who did the most to get the tournament to where it is today but are no longer here. Kosin, who founded the event in 1995, was just named to the next induction class into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. He was a cancer victim in 2009.

Mistwood owner Jim McWethy, who provided strong support once the event moved to Mistwood in 1999, passed away within the last year after dealing with a lung ailment.

“I knew Phil for a long time.  He was such an advocate for women’s golf,’’ said Pearson, who lost an epic 10-hole playoff in a bid for a third IWO title.  “Phil was gung-ho to have us here, and both Phil and Jim were unbelievable guys.’’

Jeray is eighth and Pearson tied for 16th going into the final round.

“This tournament is all because of Phil Kosin,’’ said Jeray, who had a long career on the LPGA Tour and is now a full-time teacher at Mistwood.  “He was very upset that there was no Illinois Women’s Open.  I had played in the men’s Illinois Open. Who know if this tournament would have ever happened without Phil Kosin.  He was ahead of his time.’’

McWethy was in ill health when Jeray started working at Mistwood.

“I was just starting to get to know him,’’ she said.  “This club is all because of his heart and his passion.  I’m really sorry I didn’t get to know him better.’’

 

 

 

One good showing could pay big dividends for Patrick Flavin

The PGA Tour’s developmental circuit has gone by various names – Ben Hogan, Nationwide, Nike, Web.com — over its 32-year history, but the just-concluded Evans Scholars Invitational on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour was an event like no other.

Chicago has hosted various events over the years, but local players never made the impact that they did last week at The Glen Club, in Glenview.

Patrick Flavin and Nick Hardy tied for fifth.  David Lipsky and Vince India tied for 12th.  Luke Guthrie tied for 18th after enduring a string of 23 missed cuts.  Brad Hopfinger, Brian Campbell and Andy Pope also made the cut and went away with paychecks.

Flavin, from Highwood, was the happiest because the strong showing meant he could keep playing on the circuit, at least for one more week.  He’s not a Korn Ferry member and hopes the points he made will enable him to play beyond the REX Hospital Championship, which tees off on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. He earned a spot in Raleigh because he was in the top 25 at The Glen.

“It felt incredible to get a sponsor’s exemption and then capitalize,’’ said Flavin. “It definitely got my juices flowing.  I was bogey-free on the weekend, and I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I’m hoping to make enough points to play the rest of the year.’’

Flavin has gotten into only six Korn Ferry events and, prior to the ESI, had made the cut in only one. The Glen, though, had been good to him in the past.  He won the 2017 Illinois Open there to complete a sweep of that year’s Open and Illinois  State Amateur titles.  Only David Ogrin, 37 years earlier, won those two titles in the same year.

Hardy, from Northbrook, wasn’t as ecstatic as Flavin.  He hovered near the top of the leaderboard for three rounds and played in the last group with eventual champion Cameron Young on Sunday. In the end two double bogeys on the par-3 ninth hole led to Hardy’s undoing, but he still notched his third top-five finish and fourth top-10 in his last six starts.

“I learned a lot about handling my emotions,’’ said Hardy.  “I’m getting closer to winning out here.  I know it’s going to come.’’

Hardy maintained his No. 14 spot in the Korn Ferry standings. The top 25 get PGA Tour cards at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season in August.  With nine tournaments remaining that comfortable spot in the standings has led to Hardy skipping the Raleigh stop and return to action on June 7 in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio.

ILLINI FEAGLES IS FOURTH: Illinois’ Michael Feagles, a fifth-year senior, finished fourth in the individual portion of the NCAA men’s Division I tournament played in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz.  Clemson’s Turk Pettit was the individual champion but that paled in comparison to what’s on the line Wednesday.

The top eight teams following the wrapup of the individual competition on Monday advanced to the match play portion.  Illinois was fifth, trailing Arizona, Oklahoma State. Pepperdine and Oklahoma. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches were played on Tuesday with the national champion to be determined on Wednesday (TODAY).

HERE AND THERE: Doug Ghim tied for 14th and Kevin Streelman tied for 20th in the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on Sunday. Both are in the field for this week’s Memorial tournament in Ohio and Streelman has learned that he can bypass next week’s U.S. Open sectional qualifying because his status on the Official World Golf Rankings (No. 57) gives him an automatic berth among the 156 starters in the Open finals at Torrey Pines, in California, later this month….Brian Tulk has departed Royal Fox, in St. Charles, and is now general manager at Klein Creek, in Winfield….Foxford Hills, in Cary, will hold a two-person scramble event on Saturday.