This is American golf’s `other Augusta’

AUGUSTA, MI. – When you put Augusta and golf together you think of April, azaleas and the Masters tournament, right?

Well, that’d be understandable. Not all the great Augusta golf is played in Georgia, though. Check out Augusta, Michigan. Golf is pretty good there, too.

Vice president Tim Moskalic shows his eye-catching course at Yarrow Golf & Conference Resort.

This little town (population of only about 1,000) in southwest Michigan is the home of one of the premier families in the American golf industry as well as a unique resort/convention center complex that features one of that’s state’s premier courses. Put them together and you have the story of six courses just a few miles apart that create an ideal destination for group outings.

We’ll start with Yarrow Golf & Conference Resort. Its golf is good – an 18-holer designed by busy Michigan architect Ray Hearn in 2002. Hearn has either designed or worked on 25 courses in his home state (he lives in Holland, MI.) and has done quality work elsewhere. His renovations at two Chicago clubs – private Flossmoor Country Club and upscale public Mistwood – have drawn more attention lately but Yarrow is definitely one of Hearn’s best.

He gets your attention immediately with a highly-challenging 588-yard opening hole that has a bit of everything, most notably elevation changes and an undulating putting surface. Hearn wanted that to be No. 10 in his original plans, but ownership considerations eventually changed that.

Anyway, the rest of the course isn’t as intimidating and Hearn’s use of four other tee placements makes Yarrow suitable for players of all abilities. There’s lots of fun holes out there, but the layout is made for major competitions if played from the tips – 7,005 yards with a par of 72, rating of 72.4 and slope of 133.

Yarrow, though, is about more than golf. It has fine dining, 12 meeting rooms and 45 guest rooms spread over three separate buildings that make it a hub for company retreats and weddings. The staff is a friendly bunch, headed by resort vice president Tim Moskalic and general manager Toby Hilton.

In the same town of Augusta (or very close to it) is Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort. For four decades the Scott family has owned and operated this multi-course conglomerate. There’s some prominent families in the American golf industry, starting with the Jemsek clan in Chicago, and the Scotts are right up there.

Gull Lake View has welcomed golfers for over 50 years.

Gull Lake View isn’t one place. Actually, it’s Gull Lake View Inc. and it embraces five courses owned by the Scotts. This family pioneered the golf destination business in Michigan, and that’s saying a lot since the state has over 800 public courses despite its relatively short playing season.

Golfers from outside southwest Michigan started playing Gull Lake View courses in 1963. That’s the year that Darl and Letha Scott opened the first nine holes of their first course. Darl had been a course superintendent for 21 years at Gull Lake Country Club before deciding to build a course of his own.

The proximity of Gull Lake View’s five courses — located between the bigger cities of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek — is a big plus. The conditioning on all of them is well above average. So is the variety of the layouts, and cost-wise it’s a friendly place as well. That formula has brought back many golfers for return visits over the years. If you want to play a lot of golf on a lot of different courses in a short period of time Gull Lake View is the place for you.

There are three bases of operation for the five courses. The Gull Lake View West and East courses are equipped with Fairway Villas and the Kendall Academy of instructors is also based there.

The Stonehedge South and North layouts are three miles down the road, and Bedford Valley is off the beaten path a bit – it’s officially in Battle Creek — but still within a short drive of the others. Each has its own bit of history.

Gull Lake View West was expanded to 18 holes in 1965. The adjoining East course, rated as high as the tenth best course in Michigan at one time, was completed in 1976 and the 64 Fairway Villa condos were opened a year later. All were designed and built by members of the Scott family.

The par-70 East is on the short side (6,059 yards) but is loaded with water hazards, hilly terrain and undulating greens. West is longer (6,330 yards) with a slightly higher rating (69.8) and slope (126).

Both the Stonehedge courses are still longer and more challenging. Stonehedge South, the third of the family’s courses, was designed by Charles Scott. This very scenic layout opened in 1988.
No. 4 came via purchase that same year. The family acquired Bedford Valley, a one-time private club with a course designed by Boston architect William Mitchell in 1965. This charming layout, much different from Augusta’s other courses, is the favorite for many visitors who have tested them all. It’s the longest (7,070 yards) with the highest rating (73.5) and slope (131).

Bedford Valley is proud of its long history as a tournament site.

Mitchell may not be the most well-known course designer but his resume includes two interesting tidbits. He’s credited with coining the term “executive course’’ (though Bedford Valley certainly isn’t one of those) and he also designed Rolling Hills Country Club in Florida. The renowned movie “Caddie Shack’’ would eventually be filmed there.

Bedford Valley has been the home of the Michigan Senior Open every year since 1996 and also has hosted the Michigan Open and the NCAA Division II national championship. Locals call this “The Big Course’’ because it has huge greens, large bunkers and fairways lined with large oak trees. An 8,400-square foot clubhouse was opened in 2008.

Last of the Gull Lake View courses to open was Stonehedge North. Designed by Charles and Jon Scott, it opened in 1995 with a unique mixture of holes – six par-5s, six par-4s and six par-3s. Like the South, it has some dramatic elevation changes amidst a forest setting.

Along with the courses there’s Cranes Pond, a 250-acre private gated golf community adjacent to the Gull View West course that includes a 54-acre lake, and The Woods at Stonehedge, a 40-acre community located on the Stonehedge South course.

SR. PGA: Murota, Tinning could keep a tradition going

BENTON HARBOR, MI. – Little known foreign players won the last two titles in the Senior PGA Championship, and that could happen again.

Japan’s Kiyoshi Murota shot the best score of Friday’s second, holing from off the green twice en route to a 6-under-par 65 – and is in a six-way tie for the lead at Harbor Shores. The other co-leaders included another unlikely candidate, Denmark’s Steen Tinning who shot 66. If either wins on Sunday they’d continue a trend started by England’s Roger Chapman, who won here in 2012, and Japan’s Kohki Idoki, the champion last year at Bellerive in St. Louis.

The present leaderboard, though, isn’t filled with golfing unknowns. Joining Murota and Tinning at the top are Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Bart Bryant. All hit the 36-hole stop at 4-under-par 138.

Watson, Langer and Montgomerie formed the showcase threesome of the first two rounds and traded hot stretches. Langer and Watson shots 68s on Friday and Montgomerie had 69.

“All three of us played well,’’ said Watson, “and the course played a little easier (than it did in Thursday’s first round). They had the tees up on several holes, so it was a kinder, friendlier Harbor Shores today.’’

“Tom had a great finish (tie for sixth) in the Regions Tradition and Langer’s always there,’’ said Montgomerie. “I felt if I was equal or around them after two days I would be quite happy. I was, and I am.’’

The Senior PGA, celebrating its 75th anniversary, comes a week after the Champions Tour’s first major of the season, the Regions Tradition in Alabama. Kenny Perry won there – his third major title on the 50-and-over circuit – but shot 75 Friday and barely made the cut.

IPGA MATCH PLAY: Malm notches three-peat; Harris is next target

Curtis Malm hadn’t even been born when Bill Ogden won three straight Illinois PGA Match Play titles from 1970-72. That’s the last time any player scored a three-peat in the section’s first of four major championships.

Malm ended that dryspell when he took a 1-up victory over Medinah teaching pro Travis Johns in the 63rd playing of the championship (MAY 12-15) at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove.
The record for most consecutive wins in the tourney is still a ways off for Malm. Bob Harris, the only other player to three-eat, won six in a row in the 1950s.

The IPGA Match Play tourney finally has a dominant player again following Curtis Malm’s three-peat at Kemper Lakes.

Malm, though, was delighted with his third straight win and hopes to parlay it into a third straight IPGA player-of-the-year award. Only two other players have been three-peaters in the player of the year race – Hillcrest’s Steve Benson (1980-82) and Aurora’s Bob Ackerman (1987-89). Malm will also try to make history in the second major of the year, July’s Illinois Open at The Glen Club. He won that tournament as an amateur in 2000, and only three players have won that title as both an amateur and a pro.

Rick Ten Broeck did it first, and in usual fashion. He was the champion as a pro in 1973 at Barrington Hills, then won again after regaining his amateur status in 1981. Gary Hallberg, the veteran tour player, was the winner as an amateur in 1977 and as a pro in 1982. Gary Pinns, who also played on the PGA Tour, took the Open as an amateur in 1978 and won it four more times as a pro (1985, 1986, 1988, 1990).

Malm has some work to do before joining that select company but his latest Match Play victory was special, in that it came in his first major since becoming head professional at White Eagle in Naperville. He was an assistant at St. Charles Country Club the previous two years, and he anticipated a tough task in his three-peat bid.

“That weighed heavily on my mindset,’’ said Malm. “When you have the opportunity to do something special, that adds a little motivation and excitement.’’

He came through by winning six matches over four days, the last two in cold (40-degree temperatures), windy weather and occasional rain.

“It was brutal,’’ said Malm, “and I didn’t play my best. But you battle through the ups and downs. That’s the way it should be.’’

He had Mistwood teaching pro Chris Ioriatti 4-down with four holes to play in the morning semifinals on the final day, but Ioriatti won the next three holes before Malm closed him out on the 18th.

“Way more drama than I wanted,’’ Malm admitted. But more was to come in the title match against Johns, the tourney’s 2010 champion.

Johns was 2-up after eight holes, but Malm fought back and their duel was all square at the 18th tee. Both players hit solid drives and good approaches on the par-4, Johns’ stopping 18 feet from the cup and Malm’s 12 feet.

After John’s left-to-right breaker barely missed Malm knocked in the winner. Johns also had a tense semifinal match. He holed two shots from off the green to force extra holes against Conway Farms’ new head pro, Matt Slowinski, but needed a 12-footer on the second hole of sudden death go earn his berth in the final.

Rich Harvest is good site for Illini to earn a return to NCAA finals

Jerry Rich makes no bones about it. The biggest event he’ll ever host at his Rich Harvest Farms course in Sugar Grove is the International Crown, which won’t arrive until 2016.

Rich calls that new LPGA international team event “my legacy,’’ but that doesn’t mean that Rich Harvest won’t take on other big events. Five, both before and after the Crown, are already scheduled. Next up is the men’s NCAA Central Regional, which begins its three-day 54-hole run on Thursday.

The Northern Intercollegiate, hosted by Northern Illinois University, will be played at Rich Harvest in September and the 2015 season features both the Palmer Cup, an international team match for college players, and the Western Amateur. After Rich Harvest’s first International Crown – Rich hopes for many more after that — the ultra-private club will host the 100th playing of the Western Golf Association’s Junior Championship in 2017.

Rich Harvest is hosting an NCAA regional for the second time this week, and coach Mike Small’s Illinois team will be in the spotlight. The Illini are the No. 2 seed behind California in the 13-team field. Illinois, making its seventh straight NCAA appearance, is one of six Big Ten teams hoping to earn a place the NCAA finals at Prairie Dunes in Kansas from May 23-28.

Last year Illinois was fifth in the stroke play portion of the finals and second in the match play conclusion, losing the last match to Alabama after knocking off top-ranked Cal in the semifinals. This year Cal is No. 4 nationally and Illinois No. 8. Illinois is 10-1 this season vs. teams in the Rich Harvest field, and the top five teams advance to Prairie Dunes.

The Illini, however, were deprived of their sixth straight Big Ten title two weeks ago at Indiana’s French Lick Resort when unranked Minnesota took the crown. Illinois is the only Big Ten team at Rich Harvest, the other five being scattered among the other five regionals nation-wide. Northwestern will bid for a finals berth in San Antonio, TX.

Despite coming up short in the conference tournament the Illini dominated the league awards handed out last week. Junior Brian Campbell was named Big Ten player-of-the-year and sophomore teammates Charlie Danielson and Thomas Detry joined him among the six first-team selections.

Notre Dame’s Niall Platt will also compete at Rich Harvest. He was one of five individual selections, and the top one will earn a spot at Prairie Dunes.

Perry, Scodro advance

Northwestern star Jack Perry and 2012 Illinois Open champion Max Scodro were among the five survivors of Monday’s U.S. Open local qualifying round at Knollwood in Lake Forest. Perry shared medalist honors with Andrew Hansen of Mequon, Wis. Both shot 4-under-par 68s.

For the second straight year there won’t be a sectional qualifier in the Chicago area so the local players who made it through the last two weeks of local qualifiers will have to bid for spots in the finals on Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina elsewhere

Chicago’s qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open is Monday (MAY 19) with 71 players competing over 36 holes at Indian Hill in Winnetka. The U.S. Women’s Open doesn’t have local qualifiers so the Indian Hill survivors will advance directly to Pinehurst.

The men’s U.S. Open is June 12-15 and the U.S. Women’s Open is June 17-20. This is the first year both will be played on the same course on successive weeks.

Here and there

The Northwestern women’s team earned its second straight berth in the NCAA finals by finishing eighth among 24 teams at the West Regional in Suncadia, Wash. The finals are in Tulsa, Okla., May 20-23.

The 23rd Illinois State Amateur Public Links Championship concludes Wednesday MAY14 at Chicago’s Harborside International and the 13th Chicago District Senior Amateur begins at three-day run on Monday MAY 19 at Calumet Country Club in Homewood.

The 63rd Illinois PGA Match Play Championship concludes Thursday at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove, and Glencoe will host the second IPGA stroke play event of the season on MondayMAY 19.

A June 27 date has been set for the second Golf for Child Classic at Ruffled Feathers in Lemont. The event benefits CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) of Will County.

NU, Illini will defend titles in Big Ten golf at French Lick

Illinois and Northwestern have become perennial contenders for the men’s and women’s golf titles in the Big Ten Conference, and that’ll again be the case when collegiate postseason play begins this weekend.

The NU women shared last year’s Big Ten title and are the highest-ranked conference team (No. 12) in the national polls. Last year coach Emily Fletcher’s team shared the title with Purdue – NU’s first-ever Big Ten crown in women’s golf. This year’s team has no seniors and will defend on a different course starting on Friday.

French Lick Resort, in southern Indiana, hosted both the Big Ten men’s and women’s championships the last two years with the men competing on the newer, more difficult Pete Dye Course and the women on the history-rich Donald Ross Course. This time the tourneys won’t be held on the same weekend, so the women’s event is being moved to the Dye layout and will run through Sunday.

Illinois, runner-up in last year’s NCAA tournament and ranked No. 8 nationally this season, goes after its sixth straight title in the men’s tournament on the same course May 2-4. The Illini may have a tough time defending after finishing second behind league rival Iowa in last weekend’s Boilermaker Invitational at Purdue.

Individuals on both the Illinois and Northwestern men’s teams picked up major honors last week. Illinois’ Thomas Detry was named to the 10-man European team for the Palmer Cup matches – a Ryder Cup style team event for collegians. He’s the third Illini golfer selected, following Scott Langley (2010) and Thomas Pieters (2011). NU’s Jack Perry was named among five finalists for the Byron Nelson Award, which goes to the top player in the Golf Coaches Assn. of America.

NU coach Pat Goss also announced the signing of a major recruit. The Wildcats landed Sam Triplett, son of veteran touring pro Kirk Triplett. In addition to frequently working as his father’s caddie, Sam was the Ping Junior Match Play champion in 2012 and led Brophy Prep to the Arizona state high school championship in 2011. He’ll arrive in Evanston in the fall.

Two teams shoot 65 in IPGA opener

Bad weather cancelled the first tournament on the Illinois PGA schedule, but Monday’s Pro-Pro event at Chicago’s Harborside International was plenty competitive.

Chris Ioriatti, of Mistwood in Romeoville, and Frank Hohenadel of Midlothian posted a 7-under-par 65 to share honors with the downstate team of T.A. Hazlep of Lakeside, in Bloomington, and J.T. Thompson, of Deer Park in Ogelsby. Both teams played on Harborside’s Starboard course. The Port layout was also used in the event.

The two champion twosomes edged five two-man teams that posted 66. One of them featured two-time IPGA player-of-the-year Curtis Malm, who was playing in his first event representing White Eagle in Naperville. He had been an assistant at St. Charles Country Club before changing jobs in the offseason. Malm’s partner was Tim Dunn, of Naperbrook in Naperville.

Here and there

The Encompass Championship, the only pro tour event scheduled this season in the Chicago area, has selected four new charity beneficiaries for its June 16-22 Champions Tour stop at North Shore Country Club in Glenview – the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, Junior Achievement of Illinois, First Tee of Greater Chicago and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Illinois.

Cog Hill, in Lemont, will host Chicago’s largest outdoor demo day of the season from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. All the major equipment companies will display their products and free range balls will be available for visitors who wish to test clubs.

First Tee will hold an open house at one of its new locations, at Harborside International, from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday.

Palatine Hills held dedication ceremonies for its new clubhouse on Tuesday.

One of Chicago’s longest-standing recreational events, the 38th Pine Hollow Open, will be played Saturday at Downers Grove Golf Club.

Mistwood, the Romeoville home of the Illinois Women’s Open tourney, opens on Friday. This will be the course’s first full season since the completion of its two-year renovation.

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Georgia’s Summer Grove course could be called Jemsek South

NEWNAN, Ga. – It’s no secret that the Jemseks are the first family of golf in Chicago. In fact, it’s been that way for a long time.

A cheery welcome greets golfers when they arrive at Summer Grove.

It all started when Joe Jemsek purchased St. Andrews, in West Chicago in the 1930s. He later bought Cog Hill, in Lemont, and expanded it from 36 to its present 72 holes. The Jemseks are now three generations deep in Chicago golf. For years the family operated Glenwoodie, in Glenwood, and – in addition to Cog Hill and St. Andrews – the Jemseks also operate Pine Meadow, in Mundelein.

But the family’s golf involvement isn’t limited to the Chicago area. Though it’s not widely known, the Jemseks also have a course in Georgia – and it’s one that in some ways has more family involvement than the Chicago layouts.

Frank, Joe’s son, and his wife Pat considered building a course in Florida as a possible retirement retreat in the late 1990s. Negotiations on a location there fell through, but another opportunity – in the Atlanta, Ga., suburb of Newnan – materialized on land near the home of long-time family friend Rocky Roquemore, a Georgia course architect.
Another Joe Jemsek, the original Joe’s grandfather and Frank’s son, took on this project.

“I used to play on that property,’’ then-budding course architect Joe T. Jemsek said, “and I was in college in Boca (Raton, FL) then. It was a great site.’’

He was playing on the golf team at Lynn University while working towards a business degree and the project, now known as Summer Grove Golf Club, provided a chance to get involved in course design. Joining forces with Jeff Burton, Roquemore’s partner, Jemsek lived on and off the construction site for about 18 months.

The affable John Mahle has been checking in golfers at Summer Grove since the course opened in 1999.

Summer Grove opened in November of 1999 with a par-72 course that has five tee placements and measures 6,954 yards from the tips. The signature holes play around a big lake and the most fun holes are four short par-4s. From the tournament tees the course has a 73.4 rating and 132 slope.

“My first design was a pretty fun experience,’’ said Jemsek, who also worked as an intern for Joe Lee, designer of Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course, when he was in college. Summer Grove was immediately well received. Golf Digest magazine named it among its Top Ten Best New Affordable Courses in 2000.

After Jemsek finished his work his sister Katherine moved to Newnan and was Summer Grove’s general manager for 18 months. She’s now the president at Cog Hill and Joe has his own course architecture business, Jemsek Golf Services, which operates out of a Chicago office.

Summer Grove’s clubhouse blends in well with an upscale golf community.

Only Summer Grove carries Joe’s name as a designer but he’s worked on courses worldwide — 90 of them in 29 countries. He spent seven years working with the famed Dye family of designers – father Pete and wife Alice in Indiana, Perry in Denver and P.C. in Ohio – before opting to go off on his own.

He’s specialized in renovations, generally doing about two a year. Among the best known are Windermere in Florida and Glen Lake in Alabama. He also has done some work in course management.

Presently Jemsek is doing a renovation of Caujaral Club in Colombia and recently broke ground on a new practice range at a 36-hole facility in suburban New Orleans.

The elevated tee at No. 18 sets up a scenic finishing hole.

The work at Summer Grove, though, isn’t done. The Jemseks sold the upscale public layout to the Canongate group, which operates some nearby private courses, in August, 2005 and then reacquired the layout in February, 2013. Joe and Katherine were on the site for three months in the spring of 2013 to “re-launch’’ the golf course. It’s now a semi-public facility with about 100 members.

Summer Grove has a much different look than it did when the Jemseks first took over the 250-acre property and built a course that wanders through native dogwoods and pine trees, preserved wetlands and wildlife habitats. There’s now 2,350 homes in the general area of Summer Grove.

Women’s events will trigger busiest year for French Lick

By Len Ziehm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Golf’s newest Hall of Fame has been slow in developing since Dave Harner, director of golf at French Lick Resort, announced plans for the LPGA Legends Hall of Fame last September.

The facility, to be located off the lobby of the West Baden Springs Hotel in this little southern Indiana town, is still vacant though Harner has no doubts that the Hall will be a major attraction when the Legends Championship returns to French Lick’s Pete Dye Course from Aug. 15-17.

The indoor facility at Valley Links is French Lick’s teaching facility when the weather prevents outdoor play.

“We’d like to do a timeline on women’s golf at French Lick,’’ said Harner, who has been gathering memorabilia for the Hall. “I’ve bought a lot of pictures from the 1959 and 1960 LPGA Championships and we’ve invited all the ladies to send memorabilia. Sandra Hayne sent a pair of golf shoes, Kathy Whitworth sent a putter and Donna Caponi a trophy.’’

French Lick’s history, though, is extraordinary on the women’s side and needs more in its Hall of Fame exhibit. The resort is well-stocked with art of the early 1900s and one, still unidentified, woman is prominent from the days when French Lick was one of the country’s most prominent vacation hotspots.

“We’ve got eight-10 pictures from around 1907 to 1915, a time when you didn’t see many women in golf, and this same lady is in every one of them,’’ said Harner, who would like to find out who this mystery woman is.

In subsequent years French Lick was an LPGA tournament site. It hosted a tour event in 1958 and the LPGA Championships of 1959 and 1960 before a tumbling economy eventually put the resort on the brink of closing. Louise Suggs won the tour stop in ‘58 and Betsy Rawls and Mickey Wright won the LPGA Championships. They were the first inductees into the Legends Hall last year along with Jan Stephenson and Whitworth, the ceremonies coming in conjunction with the Legends Championship won by Lorie Kane.

The first Hall selections were obvious, though there were no big tournaments at French Lick for over four decades. Women still made use of the French Lick fairways, though.

Springs Valley, the town’s high school, was known for its basketball teams thanks to the talents of Larry Bird. It didn’t have a girls golf team, but three of the town’s residents – Libby and Kelly Akers and Angie Mills – earned Division I college scholarships in the 1980s. Libby is now Libby Pancake, and the wife of Tony Pancake – the head pro at Crooked Stick, Indiana’s prominent tournament venue near Indianapolis.

Libby played at Arizona State, Kelly at Southern Methodist and Mills at Indiana. They’ll also be part of the Legends Hall’s timeline, but there’s some suspense about who will be in the next class of inductees.

Who is this woman? She’s pictured frequently on French Lick courses from 1907-15, and director of golf Dave Harner would like to know who she is.

“It’ll be decided by the Legends board and us, and there’s been no discussion yet,’’ said Harner. “There are so many deserving women. Jane Blalock started the Legends Tour; she would be a natural. Nancy Lopez does more for women’s golf today even though she’s not playing on the LPGA Tour. Then there’s Rosie Jones, Joanne Carner, Carol Mann, Sandra Palmer.’’

The list of candidates goes on. In the meantime, the Legends’ second visit to French Lick will immediately follow the Alice Dye Invitational. The Dye course will also be used for the Big Ten women’s tournament for the first time on April 25-27. The last two years it was played on the Donald Ross Course.

French Lick originally had two 18-holers, the Donald Ross (or Hills) course and the Valley Links, as well as the one of the nation’s first par-3 courses. The Valley was closed in 2005 to make way for a casino and was rebuilt as a nine-holer honoring legendary designer Tom Bendelow and the teaching academy.

The featured layout is now the Dye Course, which has hosted the Professional Players National Championship and will welcome the Big Ten men’s tournament again this spring (May 2-4). It’ll also get French Lick’s first U.S. Golf Assn. national event when the USGA Men’s Team Championship comes from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

“We’re excited to get that one and hope the USGA sees fit to use us again,’’ said Harner.

Chances are it will, as French Lick will get even more attention in 2015 when the Senior PGA Championship is played there.

The Ross Course will host the Indiana Southern Open, one of the four annual majors for the Indiana PGA, and the Monday qualifying round for the Tour’s United Leasing Championship, which will be played at Victoria National. French Lick will also host an Evans Scholars fundraiser for the Western Golf Assn.

Instruction manager Mike Kerby has been teaching at French Lick since 1987.

In the meantime golf instruction manager Mike Kerby and head professional Adam Marshall got the Academy program going for another season after the winter’s 30 inches of snowfall had melted. They toiled at the Valley Links indoor facility during the cold weather with Kerby additionally operating a club-fitting facility. He’s been teaching at French Lick since 1987.

Moving outdoors, they offer a unique program on a practice facility honored two years running by Golf Range Magazine.

“We feel our Academy is unique because most academies are structured,’’ said Kerby. “You arrive at 8 a.m., work on the range, have lunch and then go play. Here we try to build the Academy to suit (our students’ time frame because there’s so many other things to do. We’re regimented to the point where we’ll cover certain things, but we’re not scheduled so tightly where –if we get behind a few minutes – it’ll throw everything off.’’

Kerby has a maximum student to teacher ratio of 4 to 1 for three-day, three-night stays that feature five hours of instruction per day, unlimited golf on the Valley Links and Donald Ross courses and unlimited range and practice facility usage. Students can take a break from the instruction sessions whenever they want and can play their rounds before or after their instruction sessions.

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Getting No. 1 seed gives U.S. boost for International Crown

By Len Ziehm

There’s a drawback to designating one prime superstar in a sport. That policy can work to the detriment of others, and that’s what happened this week, when Tiger Woods announced he wouldn’t play in this year’s Masters. In this case the victim was the LPGA, which had its own big news to unveil at its first major championship of the season.

Woods’ announcement, while definitely newsworthy, was by no means a surprise. He’s been damaged goods most of this season and his decision to undergo back surgery instead of trying to tough it out at Augusta National simply showed common sense.

This trophy will be on the line at the first International Crown.

The golf media – particularly The Golf Channel – tends to overload on all things Tiger and that wasn’t a good thing this time. Over in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the LPGA made some significant announcements just as Woods revealed his Masters pullout. The result was that the women’s announcements sadly got lost in the shuffle because of this latest example of Tiger-mania.

For one thing, the LPGA also lost one of its top stars for awhile. Suzann Peterssen, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, withdrew from the Kraft Nabisco Championship that begins on Thursday. Like Woods, she has had lingering back problems. Peterssen was also a late withdrawal at last week’s Kia Classic.

Of a more long-term nature, the LPGA also unveiled major particulars on its new International Crown – by far the most significant new event in golf this year. The biennial global team event will make its debut July 24-27 at Cave’s Valley in Owings Mills, Md., and be held for the second time at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, IL., in 2016.

The first International Crown took shape when the stunning 20-pound, 23-inch trophy was unveiled, three Ambassador Sponsors were revealed and ticket sales began on the event’s website –

Named as Ambassador Sponsors were Hana Financial Group., Pandora Jewelry and Rolex. The trophy was designed and hand-crafted by Tiffany & Co. and required 165 hours of labor during its creation. Grounds tickets were priced at $99 for the week and $25 per day with youngsters under 17 admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. All that came out in California to start off Kraft Nabisco week.

The latest Crown particulars came after the eight qualifying nations were revealed several months ago and the four players on each team were finalized via the world rankings after the Kia Classic concluded. Pettersen’s absence could well impact this week’s Kraft Nabisco tourney but it will have no bearing on the first International Crown. Even with Pettersen’s lofty ranking Norway didn’t make it into the eight qualifying nations so she has no team to play for in the competition.

Going strictly off the world rankings, the first International Crown figures to be a duel competition between the U.S. and South Korea with the U.S. Definitely going in with more momentum. When the qualifying format was announced in January, 2013, South Korea’s top four players were 44 points better than the U.S. foursome. The final rankings, though, found the U.S. with the 32 points to South Korea’s 33. That means the U.S. will be the top-seeded team at Cave’s Valley.

The U.S. foursome is Stacy Lewis (No. 3 in the world), Paula Creamer (8), Lexi Thompson (9) and Christie Kerr (12). South Korea has world No. 1 Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu (6), Na Yeon Choi (11) and I.K. Kim (15). Japan, the No. 3 seed, is way back with 131 world ranking points. Its top player is Mika Miyazato, at No. 27.

In pool play the U.S. will face Thailand, Spain and Australia while South Korea will battle Japan, Sweden and Chinese Taipei. That will start the unique competition, which will conclude with singles matches on Sunday, so seeding could be important. The South Koreans, though, don’t feel bad about losing the No. 1 spot in the final weeks leading in.

“We finished as the No. 2 seed,’’ said South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi. “We feel a little less pressure than before. The USA has a lot of pressure now, but it’s all fun for each country.’’

Lewis said improved play by the U.S. after the format was announced is encouraging.

“I’ve been beating my head against the wall for the last year and half and nobody would write about it,’’ said Lewis. “I’ve been saying that American golf is in a really good place….It’s nice to get that No. 1 seed to prove to people that we’re here, and we’re competing.’’

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Kiawah remains in the forefront after landing 2021 PGA

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – With so many golf facilities struggling these days, Roger Warren’s report on the popular Kiawah Resort is eye-catching to say the least.

“We had the best year in the history of the resort last year,’’ said Warren who left the Chicago area for Kiawah in 2003 and has been the resort’s president since 2005. “There was a halo effect from (hosting the 2012) PGA Championship, but we experienced four years of double digit growth from 2009 on.’’

Roger Warren has plenty of good memories from his recent Ryder Cup experiences.

Why is that?

“I know it flies in the face of what’s happening in the rest of the game, but there’s a segment in this country that’s doing just fine – and that’s my customer,’’ said Warren. “They continue to come here. This is a beautiful island, and there’s a lot to do here.’’

This five-course facility near Charleston, S.C., doesn’t need a commercial after already hosting an historic Ryder Cup (in 1991) and a major – the PGA, won by Rory McIlroy. Its Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course has witnessed it all, and it’s due to witness another big one. The PGA of America has announced that the PGA Championship will return to Kiawah for its 103rd playing in 2021.

“From a golf perspective, at the Ocean Course there’s not much higher you can go,’’ said Warren. “Now there’s a need to repeat. We’re looking at another opportunity for a PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup has never gone back to the same location in the U.S., so – while we’d love to have it back – I don’t think that will happen.’’

The return of the PGA seems reasonable but it’ll be awhile.

“We think we’ll get another PGA, but it’s booked through 2019,’’ said Warren, “and we’d prefer not to do it in 2020. In 2012 (Kiawah’s last PGA) we were in competition with a domestic Ryder Cup at Medinah and the Summer Olympics. When you do a major sports event in that climate it’s difficult to get major corporate support. We’d prefer not to do it in 2020 because there’s a domestic Ryder Cup at Hazeltine (in Minnesota) and the Olympics again.’’

A year later, though, things would be much more enticing.

“In 2021 that’d be the 30th anniversary of our Ryder Cup, and it’d be nice to play on that history, what those ’91 matches meant to it,’’ said Warren.

If not a PGA, then what?

The Kiawah clubhouse provides a dramatic backdrop to the finishing hole at the Ocean Course.

“At the Ocean Course you almost don’t do anything else,’’ said Warren, “but we’d do a Presidents Cup. That’s a team event that would be fun.’’

Kiawah’s bottom line, though, isn’t getting another big event on its most prestigious course.

“It’s a major championship golf course, but anybody can play it,’’ said Warren. “It’s hard, but still so much fun from the right set of tees. We’ll continue to make it a great experience for the people who play it.’’

Kiawah is much more than the Ocean Course. The other layouts will get special attention over the next few years. Osprey Point will get a makeover this year, Cougar Point in 2015 and Oak Point the year after that.

“We’ll probably build another hotel in West Beach, too,’’ said Warren. “Our challenge is to keep going, but it’s fun.’’

Things were much different when Warren arrived in 2003. A Western Illinois University graduate who grew up in the downstate Illinois community of Galesburg, Warren started in golf working three summers at Village Links, Glen Ellyn’s 27-hole facility. His main job was as a high school teacher and basketball and golf coach, first at Dundee Crown and then at Illinois Math and Science Academy.

He didn’t enter golf full-time until he was 38, when he took the head professional’s job at Village Links in 1986. He moved on to Seven Bridges in Woodridge , IL., when that facility opened in 1991 and remained there until going to Kiawah.

“I came here because I wanted the opportunity to do five courses, rather than one,’’ he said. “It was a career growth thing for me. You’re in a new region of the country, with new grasses. Then I was here about 18 months and the guy in (the president’s job) left and they asked me do it as an interim.’’

Alligators at the Turtle Point course measured in the eight-foot range.

Not long after that the interim tag was lifted and Warren was promoted to president of the resort. He presided over the opening of its Sanctuary Hotel in August of 2004. At the same time he was climbing the ranks of the PGA of America hierarchy. He served as that organization’s president in 2005-06.

“I had to learn the hotel and villa business and 12-13 restaurants also became my responsibility,’’ he said. “It all came together at the same time. I was one busy person, but it’s all been great.’’

The PGA duties were all voluntary, but they kept him away from Kiawah for 132 nights. That’s not unusual for the men who have held that job since then.

“Some have been out 170-180 days. I couldn’t do that,’’ said Warren. “If I had to do that job now I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up the time.’’

But he did then, and Kiawah has thrived.

“When I first got here people didn’t know much about Kiawah,’’ said Warren. “I came here in 1992 for a PGA meeting in Charleston, then I came again for another meeting. I never thought about traveling this way (from Chicago). We’d go to Florida or Arizona, not here. But it’s amazing that we’ve gotten a lot of people from Ohio and Illinois who are here now as guests or (home) owners.’’

Warren arrived at Kiawah after the Ryder Cup effort in 1991, but he has great memories of the event in his capacities with the PGA. He was captain of the U.S. team in the Junior Ryder Cup competition during the last staging at Medinah.

“Of all thing things I was blessed to do with the PGA, the Junior Ryder Cup was one of the finest,’’ he said. “We had a great group of kids, and they’re all playing at major colleges now.’’

Medinah’s Ryder Cup, though, got Warren thinking about changes to improve the epic competition.

“As a past president we’re almost over the line on what the Ryder Cup is now,’’ he said. “They had 50,000 people there, and it was the first time I went to a Ryder Cup and felt I just couldn’t see anything. For that kind of event people would pay more to see more and you wouldn’t have to have 50,000 there, I’m hoping as we move forward we can make an adjustment. It’s the greatest golf event in the world. We ought to make sure people who go there have a great experience.’’

IT ZIEHMS TO ME: International Crown trophy will be impressive

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. – I’ll let you in on a secret. The trophy that will go to the winner of the LPGA’s biggest-ever event will be one of the most impressive in all of sports.

I received a sneak preview of the prize that the players in the new International Crown event will play for in July during my first visit to LPGA headquarters here (photo below). No pictures of the trophy or descriptions of it were allowed then, and the trophy won’t be officially unveiled until April 1 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The Crown – 32 players from eight countries battling for that one crown in biennial global match play competition – will be contested for the first time July 21-27 at Caves Valley in Owings Mills, Md. Then it’ll come to Jerry Rich’s Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove in 2016. Rich hopes it’ll stay there, and that isn’t just his dream.

“Our goal is that we want to come back to Chicago,’’ said Kelly Hyne, vice president –LPGA properties. “We know it’s what Jerry wants to do. He wanted to start in 2016 and we wanted to start in 2014, but we love the city of Chicago. We want a partnership with Mr. Rich, and the people at Rich Harvest do a great job.’’

While no LPGA tour events have been played in Chicago since 2002, Rich did host the 2009 Solheim Cup — one of the circuit’s most captivating competitions. The International Crown, though, will be bigger once people understand just what it is.

The concept of a global team match play event is unique in golf, and something that special is just what the LPGA needs to elevate its profile.

LPGA International headquarters have been in Daytona Beach since 1989. A big sign off I-95 pinpoints the location of LPGA International Blvd. with its two 18-hole quality golf courses — designs by long-respected architects Rees Jones and Arthur Hills. But the major thoroughfare also leads to the PGA Tour’s TPC Sawgrass and World Golf Village, in St. Augustine — both a few miles north of Daytona – and the PGA of America is based in Palm Beach Gardens, a few miles to the south. They are also all multiple-course establishments.

Big annual PGA tournaments are played at both TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship) and Palm Beach Gardens (the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort) and the World Golf Hall of Fame is located at World Golf Village. Those attractions cause the LPGA base to get somewhat lost in the shuffle, but the LPGA likes being located in the middle of the big men’s organizations.

“That’s really the reason we decided to settle here,’’ said Hyne, in her 13th year with the LPGA. “Every time a new commissioner comes in there’s a rumor that the LPGA is moving, but we’ve got a great deal here.’’

The LPGA had been based at Sweetwater in Houston prior to moving to Florida in 1989. Its offices were across from the Daytona Motor Speedway until the mid-1990s, when the headquarters building and the Jones and Hills courses were built on the 4,000-acre property. The LPGA doesn’t own the courses –Jones’ Champions and Hills’ Legends. Both are owned by the city of Daytona Beach.

In their early years those courses were used for LPGA tournaments. The Sprint Centel Classic, later called the Titleholders, and the ATT Championship were played there, the last stop coming in 2000. Now the biggest events held on the home courses are the LPGA qualifying school and the season-ending event on the satellite Symetra Tour.

There was some turmoil within the LPGA in the years after the big tournaments were moved elsewhere, especially during Carolyn Bivens’ four-year term as commissioner. She preceded current boss Mike Whan, who has engineered some progressive moves headlined by the creation of the International Crown.

Carol Kilian (pictured at right with Hyne amidst paintings of legends Babe Zaharias and Dinah Shore at LPGA headquarters) noticed the evolution perhaps better than anyone else. She was the LPGA’s first director of creative services and an LPGA employee from the outset of the move to Daytona. Since her retirement she has remained in Daytona and is the women’s club champion at LPGA International.

“Mike Whan has revived what I call `the old LPGA,’’’ said Kilian. “He’s created a family atmosphere. The feeling in the building is back to the way it used to be, where you’re really proud of the tour.’’

LPGA headquarters opened in 1996 and has become a hub of activity recently. Ninety-nine employees work there. The building houses the LPGA staff, which includes its marketing, communication and administration personnel. The Symetra Tour, an offshoot of the former Futures Tour before the LPGA purchased that circuit in 2007, is also based there as is the LPGA Teaching Division, which is up to 1,500 members. While the LPGA recently opened an office in South Korea with three staffers, the global operations of the circuit all come out of Daytona.

Under Whan’s direction the LPGA schedule grew from 23 tournaments in 2009 to 28 in 2013 to 33 this year and the Symetra Tour went from 15 stops in 2013 to 20 this year. A new management company, ClubCore, replaced Buena Vista Hospitality as operator of the two courses and a point system – the Race to the CME Globe – was introduced this year.

Like the men’s circuit, the LPGA also has its tour for older players but the LPGA Legends, for stars 45 and over, operate out of Boston with Jane Blalock in charge. That circuit’s growing, too, and another reason why the LPGA’s slogan declares “It’s different out here.’’

Nothing will be more different than the International Crown. The PGA has its two-team events, the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and they’re very popular. Neither, though, has the scope of the International Crown, an ideal event given the LPGA’s more global schedule.

The eight countries qualifying to play in the inaugural Crown at Caves Valley have already been determined on a point system. They are South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Spain, Thailand, Sweden, Chinese Taipei and Australia. The four players who will compete for each of those teams haven’t been determined. The individual point race concludes with the April 1 announcement when the trophy is also unveiled.

This first International Crown doesn’t have a title sponsor. Hyne expects one to be in place for the second staging at Rich Harvest. If all goes according to plan the competition will remain in Sugar Grove, though an occasional staging in Asia hasn’t been ruled out for far down the road.

“We want to be U.S.-based,’’ said Hyne. “We’re marketing it in the U.S.’’