Len Ziehm On Golf

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.

DeChambeau is the latest first-time winner of the JDC

Bryson DeChambeau enjoys the rewards for his first PGA Tour win at the John Deere Classic.

SILVIS, Ill. – Illinois golf and Bryson DeChambeau seem to be a perfect fit. DeChambeau won the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields in 2015 and now he’s also the champion of the John Deere Classic. The JDC, in fact, produced his first victory on the PGA Tour.

Few doubted that DeChambeau would be a budding star on the PGA circuit after he win at Olympia Fields. He even followed that up by winning the NCAA title that year. Few golfers have pulled off that double.

After turning pro, though, DeChambeau was hardly an immediate hit. Though he did have a tie for second at this year’s Puerto Rico Open, he also went through a stretch in which he missed 10 straight cuts.

The John Deere Classic, though, changed the perception of the colorful 23-year old. He found TPC Deere Run to his liking in a beautiful week of golfing weather and notched that elusive first PGA Tour win. It wasn’t easy, though. He needed to shoot 30 on the back nine to overhaul Patrick Rodgers, the leader after 36 and 54 holes.

DeChambeau caught Rodgers with a 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. DeChambeau’s putt barely caught the right edge of the cup and dropped as Rodgers was walking down the adjacent 17th fairway. Both were at 18-under-par at that point.

Rodgers didn’t stay there for long. He found his tee shot on the par-5 seventeenth behind a tree and had to chip out. The chip wasn’t good, either. It ran into the rough on the right side of the fairway 205 yards from the cup.

DeChambeau lines up his putt on the 18th green.

His third shot wound up on the green but in a most difficult spot – with a bunker blocking his path to the cup. Rodgers had to take the unusual method of chipping on the putting surface to get at the hole, but his fourth shot took a bad bounce, leaving him six feet away. When his par putt lipped out Rodgers’ time at the top of the leaderboard was over, and DeChambeau could celebrate.

“It felt like a long time coming, though I’m only 23,’’ said DeChambeau, who alternated tears of joy with boisterous victory comments after play was done while Rodgers – still looking for his first PGA Tour win – dealt with another near-miss.

“I had an aggressive mindset on 17,’’ Rodgers admitted. “I felt like if I made birdie that would probably put the tournament away.’’

Then he heard the roar from DeChambeau’s birdie putt dropping at No. 18, and that changed his mindset.

Rodgers tried to get back a share of the lead with a birdie on the 18th, but his play wasn’t up to it. His drive finished in the right rough with a tree again blocking his shot to the green and his second rolled over the putting surface. The birdie try from there was a good one, but the ball stopped a foot away. That made DeChambeau the tenth first-time champion on the PGA Tour this season and the 19th player to make the Quad Cities tournaments his first PGA Tour victory.

Then he coaxes the 14-foot putt in, just inside the right edge of the cup.

At the awards ceremony on the 18th green DeChambeau broke down at the mention of the late Payne Stewart, who also got his first win in the Quad Cities in 1982. DeChambeau somewhat patterns himself after the colorful Stewart, who went to college at Southern Methodist before DeChambeau arrived there and – like Stewart – got into the Quad Cities event on a sponsor’s exemption.

DeChambeau is a bit different than Stewart, though. He plays clubs of the same length and is very analytical about his game. Stewart was more a free spirit prior to his death in a plane crash.

“`I try to take a complex game and understand every variable,’’ said DeChambeau. “That’s very difficult to do. The one who came closest was Tiger (Woods). He probably figured it out for quite a while. I was a physics major in college, and I go after golf in a very scientific way.’’

And now it’s time to celebrate.

When it works he looks like a genius – and this time it worked.

The final round was not good news for the two Chicago players to make the cut. Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman made double bogey on the first hole, wound up shooting a 2-over 72 and fell 26 places into a tie for 44th place. He won’t be seen on tour again until August’s PGA Championship.

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy was paired for the second straight day with Ben Hogan Award winner Maverick McNealy, the only other amateur to make the cut. They started the day tied, and McNealy ruled the final round 69-71 to be the tourney’s low amateur.

Streelman, Hardy are lurking behind Rodgers in John Deere Classic

Former U.S. Amateur champ Bryson DeChambeau explodes from a green-side bunker at No. 18.

SILVIS, Ill. – If local players should shine at any PGA Tour event, it’d be at the John Deere Classic – the only annual stop on golf’s premier circuit in Illinois. Two are doing just fine through three rounds of this year’s $5.6 million tournament that concludes today.

Whether either Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman or Northbrook’s Nick Hardy can catch 54-hole leader Patrick Rodgers in today’s final round is doubtful, but both have made their presence felt with 18 holes to go.

Streelman, looking forward to a three-week break after playing four straight tournaments and 11 of the last 13, shot 67 on Saturday and is tied for 18th place – but he’s only two strokes out of a tie for sixth. Hardy, getting ready for his senior season at Illinois, is locked in a battle with Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, the winner of the 2017 Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s outstanding collegiate player, for low amateur.

Kevin Streelman (lelft) congratulates Daniel Berger on his 63 — best third round at TPC Deere Run.

The only two amateurs to survive the 36-hole cut, they played together Saturday and both shot 69. They finished the third round tied for 44th place playing against 80 touring professionals.

“I’ve felt comfortable here since I went to the first tee,’’ said Hardy. “It’s a great thing for amateurs that we’re allowed to compete here. This is the place (PGA Tour) I want to play in a year or two and I’d come back here every time. The tournament is great, plus it’s in Illinois.’’

Streelman has already won twice on the PGA Tour and he got a demonstration of what it might take to win on Saturday when playing partner Daniel Berger shot the day’s low round – a 7-under-par 63. Berger trails Rodger’s front-running 16-under-par 197 by two strokes and is tied for second with Scott Stallings.

Illinois’ Nick Hardy is battling for low amateur honors.

Though he didn’t play in either of the first two major championships and won’t be in next week’s British Open Streelman is on a solid stretch of play. He had four straight top-20 finishes before a tie for 29th last week in the Greenbrier Classic and a good finish today could propel Streelman high up the leaderboard.

He feels a change in scheduling has worked out “perfect.’’ Streelman decided to skip sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, which meant two weeks off before his productive four-tournament stretch.

“That freed me up to take the next three weeks off going into the PGA Championship,’’ he said. “This is something I’ve never done.’’

After the PGA, the year’s final major, comes the FedEx Playoffs – and that’s where the biggest paydays are available.

A big payday awaits whoever wins the JDC today. The champion gets the biggest check in tournament history — $1,008,000. Rodgers, 25, had a brilliant amateur career but has yet to win on the PGA Tour. He has happy memories at TPC Deere Run, however, and would be a fitting champion.

Patrick Rodgers (right), being congratulated by Zach Johnson, holds a two-stroke lead.

Tournament director Clare Peterson gave him a sponsor’s exemption in both 2012 and 2013, and he tied for 15th in his second appearance after leading briefly in the third round.

“He’s a terrific kid with talent that is immense,’’ said two-time major champion Zach Johnson, the unofficial tournament host among the players. “It just a matter of time (for him to win), not a matter of if.’’

Johnson, who won the JDC title in 2012, still has hopes of winning this one, however. He’s in a 10-way tie for eighth place, five shots behind Rodgers, who has made 150 feet of putts the last two days and 19 birdies in the first 54 holes.

“I love coming to this tournament,’’ said Rodgers. “It’s probably the most special stop on tour for me. It’s crazy. It’s already my sixth time playing here. I’m very comfortable in the area and on the golf course.’’

Rodgers, who grew up in Avon, Ind., before going to Stanford, would also become eligible for next week’s British Open if he wins today. Since the JDC moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000 the third round leader has gone on to win nine times, including the last three years when Brian Harman, Jordan Spieth and Ryan Moore were the champions.

The crowd was big and enthusiastic during the JDC’s third round at TPC Deere Run.

Trish Johnson is wire-to-wire winner of first Senior LPGA Championship

Champion Trish Johnson is flanked by Dave Harner, French Lick director of golf, and Steve Ferguson, whose visionary work led to the first Senior PGA Championship presented by Old National Bank.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – The first Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank had a lot of things – historical significance. television coverage, beautiful weather. The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort received the world-wide attention it has long deserved.

What the inaugural staging didn’t have was suspense. England’s Trish Johnson, winner of The Legends Championship in a six-hole playoff on the same course in 2016, was a wire-to-wire winner in this much bigger production.

Johnson opened with a 67 on Monday in windy conditions, lost but one stroke of her four-shot lead after a 72 on Tuesday and nursed her way to the $90,000 first prize with a 73 in Wednesday’s finale. Her 212-total was 4-under-par on the layout that was set up at 6,117 yards for the world’s best women golfers who have passed their 45th birthday.

Michele Redman, who played college golf at Indiana and is now the women’s coach at Minnesota, was the only other player under par for the 54 holes. Playing with Johnson in the last group, Redman finished 1-under for the tournament.

Trish Johnson had trouble with the champagne while celebrating her victory.

Johnson called her second-round play “rubbish’’ on Tuesday but her course management was good enough to protect the 3-shot lead she had at the start of the day on Wednesday.

“It’s different when you’re leading by a few shots,’’ said Johnson. “If someone comes at you, that’s fine. When no one is doing that you become defensive. It’s not a comfortable position to be in.’’

The key moment in the final round came at No. 15, a 345-yard par-4. Johnson splashed her approach shot and made bogey, but Redman – down by two and running out of holes – put her drive into deep fescue. She tried to escape with a hybrid but could move the ball only a few yards. Her third was in rough beside a cart path and Redman conferred several times with rules officials before getting her third shot back to the fairway.

After putting her fourth shot on the green, Redman two-putted for a double bogey and lost a shot to Johnson. Redman insisted the attempt to hit her second shot out of the fescue was the right decision, though the lie stirred some debate.

“I definitely would do it again, but I would try it with my wedge,’’ she said.

Johnson nursed her three-shot lead to the clubhouse where she learned that only England’s Laura Davies had made a big run up the leaderboard. Starting four groups ahead of Johnson, the long-hitting Davies was 10-strokes off the lead when play began. Her 4-under-par 68, though, was the best round of the day and Davies wound up in a tie for third with Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson and Australia’s Wendy Doolan.

Laura Davies could only wonder what might have been after finishing with a 68.

Davies started the tournament with a 7-over 79 but finished 70-68, which was seven strokes better than Johnson’s last two rounds (72-73). And Davies felt she left some shots on the course after Wednesday’s round.

“I three-putted twice on par-5s,’’ she said. “After that horrible 79 I gave Trish a 12-stroke lead. After that you’re never going to catch her.’’

Johnson, 51, plays mainly on the Ladies European Tour now, and she won on that circuit for the 19th time in 2014 after carrying a 5-stroke lead into the final round of the Scottish Open. Her win at French Lick last year was more dramatic. She went six extra holes with Juli Inkster, who wasn’t in the field this week, before securing the victory. The Legends Championship, though, wasn’t considered an official major. This week’s event was.

“It felt different,’’ said Johnson, “but it was as much being a major as it was being at French Lick. I absolutely love this place.’’

Fans on the hill beside the No. 18 green got the best view of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Johnson plays like `rubbish,’ but still leads Senior LPGA tourney

Trish Johnson takes aim at the No. 9 green amidst the sprawling landscape of the Pete Dye Course.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Scotland’s Trish Johnson described the golf she played in the second round of the Senior LPGA Championship on Tuesday as “rubbish.’’

Still, when the day was over on the rugged Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, Johnson’s lead dropped only one stroke from the start of the day. She played her first round on Monday in 67 and led by four shots. She only matched par of 72 on Tuesday and leads by three over Michele Redman, a former Indiana University golfer who now coaches the women’s team at Minnesota.

Johnson, who won The Legends Championship on the same course last year in a six-hole playoff with Juli Inkster, is at 5-under-par 139. Redman gained ground after a 69 on Tuesday but there are other challengers as well.

Lorie Kane of Canada and Nicole Jeray, the Northern Illinois University product from Berwyn, made charges on Tuesday and are lurking behind Johnson and Redman.

Nicole Jeray, teeing off on the first hole, made a nice climb up the leaderboard.

Kane shot 70 and climbed nine places into a tie for third with Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann. Jeray shot 71 and moved into a tie for sixth. Kane is six strokes behind Johnson and Jeray trails by seven. Both are scrambling to play on three different pro tours, and they’re the only players with LPGA membership striving to do that.

The winner of the first Legends Championship on the Pete Dye Course in 2013, Kane – like Jeray — plays more tournaments on the Symetra Tour – the LPGA’s qualifying circuit – but they also make appearances on both the LPGA and Legends tours. Coordinating their scheduled between the three isn’t easy.

“I love all three tours,’’ said Jeray. Kane calls herself “an LPGA member, period.’’

Kane is especially happy that she has still another competitive opportunity with the creation of the Senior PGA Championship. This $600,00 event has live television coverage and is the first major championship for senior women. Another is coming next year when the U.S. Golf Association’s first U.S. Senior Women’s Open comes to Chicago Golf Club.

The search is on for Trish Johnson’s first tee shot. The ball was eventually deemed to be in the water and Johnson took a double bogey on the hole.

“It’s about time,’’ said Kane. “I’ve always got to take myself out of this, but the ladies who play on the Legends Tour and the women I played with as a rookie built the LPGA, so it’s about time this tournament happened. I’m proud of the LPGA for taking this on but more proud of Mr. Ferguson (Steve Ferguson, head of the Cook Group who triggered the creation of the new tournament) for thinking so much of us. This is a celebration of women’s golf, as it should be every week.’’

Kane won’t rule herself out in today’s final round but says of Johnson “nothing surprises me about that woman. She’s a true competitor.’’

Jeray won’t rule herself out, either.

“She can be beat if somebody gets hot,’’ she said, “but it looks like we’re playing for second.’’

Johnson looked vulnerable from the outset on Tuesday. After a good warmup session she hit her first tee shot far left into a pond. That led to a double bogey and changed her mood in a hurry.

“The conditions were perfect, which probably didn’t help me,’’ she said. “I turned a positive – hitting it great in practice – into a negative, thinking I couldn’t possibly hit it as well on the golf course. Now that’s genius. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Johnson came to life with birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 to get back to even par for the day, and she insisted that the “bad mood’’ she was in all of Tuesday won’t be in evidence today when the $90,000 first-place prize is handed out.

Johnson grabs first-round lead in inaugural Senior LPGA Championship

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, Alice Dye and Cook Group’s Steve Ferguson get the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship underway on Monday. (Sue Fracker Photo)

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Monday’s first round of the Senior LPGA Championship was more about history than anything else.

Winds gusting to 33 miles per hour prevented spectacular scoring – with one exception. Scotland’s Trish Johnson, no stranger to the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, made five birdies in her last 12 holes to shoot a 5-under-par 67. That was good for a 4-stroke over Carolyn Hill, one of the early starters in the 81-player field. Johnson and Hill were the only players under par after Day 1.

Johnson, a late starter, was the 2016 winner of The Legends Championship on the same course when she beat Juli Inkster in an epic six-hole playoff. Inkster is on broadcast duty at the U.S. Women’s Open and not competing in this first major championship for senior women.

Johnson, though, was glad to be back on the Pete Dye design that is filled with dramatic elevation changes, spectacular views and confounding greens.

“I don’t really feel like the defending champion,’’ said Johnson. “I just love this golf course. It just fits my eye.’’

It didn’t seem to fit so well early in her round. After two birdies in the first four holes Johnson missed a three-foot putt at No. 5 and made double bogey on the next hole. Then the good times rolled. Johnson bounced back from the double with a bogey at No. 7 to get back in red numbers then birdied 11, 14, 15 and 18 No. 15 came on the shot of the ay, a chip-in.

Trish Johnson faces a media horde after shooting a 67.

The other players weren’t nearly as sharp as Johnson, but they weren’t complaining after finally getting their first major championship for women in the over-45 age group.

“I never thought this day would come,’’ said Nicole Jeray, an LPGA veteran from Berwyn, Ill.,who shot 75. “And, to think for this to be televised. That’s incredible.’’

Jeray was especially happy for the older players who meant so much to the development of the LPGA.

“These women are true legends, Hall of Famers,’’ said Jeray. “They paved the way for all the youngsters and I still walk around looking up to all of them – Betsy King, Joanne Carner, Sandra Palmer. And to think I’m one of them. Who would have thought that.?’’

None of the players were more appreciative than Jane Blalock, at 71 the oldest player in the field. She played in the Honors tournament held in conjunction with the Symetra Tour’s Donald Ross Centennial Classic on Sunday at the nearby Donald Ross Course.

Blalock created the Legends Tour and usually just plays in the small division for older members at its tournaments. She wanted to go all three rounds of the first Senior LPGA Championship, however, because of its significance to women’s golf. She also wants to compete in the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open, an event put on by the U.S. Golf Association at Chicago Golf Club in 2018.

A new choice viewing spot on the 18th hole is available for the Senior PGA Championship.

It’s all part of the boost that women’s golf expects to get from finally getting a major championship. This week’s has live coverage from The Golf Channel all three days and a $600,000 purse with the champion receiving $90,000.

By comparison, The Legends Championship – its predecessor at French Lick since 2013 –was by far the biggest event on The Legends Tour. When Johnson won last year it was a 36-hole tournament with $75,000 in prize money and a winner’s purse of $37,700.

“The Senior LPGA Championship is a combination of so many years of hard work striving to get the support from the LPGA,’’ said Blalock. “Obviously this tournament is because of French Lick and Mr. Ferguson (Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group). I wish I could take credit, but we’re going to capitalize. I believe the world will now know that we exist, and maybe the phone will even ring.’’

Mike Whan, commissioner of the LPGA Tour, joined Alice Dye, wife of course designer Pete Dye, in hitting the ceremonial first tee shots before Monday’s round. Whan sees big things ahead for women’s golf as well. French Lick has a five-year agreement to host both the Senior LPGA Championship and Donald Ross Centennial Classic.

“We’re lucky to be here,’’ said Whan. “We’ve been launching a lot of new things and this is one that will only build with time. This is major on all kinds of fronts.’’

Two former champions in The Legends Championship enjoyed the 18th hole on Monday. Laurie Rinker (left) rolled in an eagle putt from off the green and got a high-five from Trish Johnson, who made birdie.