A big win for Mistwood’s Mickelson

Mistwood’s Andy Mickelson dominated the Illinois PGA Championship at Ivanhoe. (Illinois PGA Photo)

The Illinois PGA Championship dates back to 1922, but rarely has it had a tournament like the one that Andy Mickelson won on Wednesday at Ivanhoe Club.

Mickelson, the director of golf at Mistwood in Romeoville, was the only player to complete the 54 holes under par.  He was at 3-under 213. That was the highest score to win since Mike Small’s 2-over was good enough in the 2003 staging at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove.

A 36-hole score of 16-over-par was good enough to qualify for the final round, and 7-over was all that was needed to crack the top 10 and earn a berth in next year’s PGA National Professionals Championship in Texas.

With the title on the line in the final round only seven of the 62 players could break par, the low scorers being Jim Billiter, Ivanhoe’s new head professional, and Steve Gillie, of Randall Oaks, at 2-under 70.

“It’s a tour-quality golf course,’’ said Jim Sobb, Ivanhoe’s director of golf and a three-time IPGA champion.  “You can’t rest on this course.  There’s not a breather hole.’’

The finalists wouldn’t argue that. Ivanhoe, designed by the late Chicago architect Dick Nugent, was a three-time site for the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour events but had never hosted the Illinois PGA Championship. Ivanhoe opened in 1991.

Mickelson is not a conventional champion.  He turned pro briefly after competing successfully in the Chicago amateur events, then regained his amateur status after entering the business world at a packing company.  The late Mistwood owner Jim McWethy convinced Mickelson to return to golf at his course that has blossomed into one of Chicago’s most popular public facilities.

Chaussard, director of instruction at Skokie Country Club, owned a one-shot lead on Mickelson entering the final round. Chaussard got off to a bad start and shot 76 while Mickelson had his third straight 71. Joining Chaussard in the runner-up spot was 60-year old Kurt Rogers of downstate Forsyth.  He’s a former coach at Millikin University, in Decatur.

The final round, though, belonged to Mickelson. He was in charge from the third hole on and won the $8,160 first prize by a four-stroke margin.

“I might have hit every green but two,’’ he said.  “This was as good as I’ve played over the last two days tee to green in a long time. I had control of my golf ball, and when I have that I can beat anybody.’’

The tournament was not without a touch of controversy. A two-hour rain delay late Tuesday caused a suspension in play and IPGA officials opted to bring the players back on the course after the rain subsided.  In a departure from protocol, they weren’t allowed a warmup period on the practice range. Once back on the course, they played only 30 minutes before play was called for the day.  Round 2 still had to be completed before the final round could begin on Wednesday.

There were a number of players who didn’t like that, and it certainly didn’t help Small, who was going after his 14th title in the event.  The 55-year old head coach of the University of Illinois men’s team made eagle at No. 15 to move into a tie for the lead just before play was stopped on Tuesday.  When it resumed he finished his round double bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey and that shaky play carried over to Wednesday when he made a triple bogey on his first hole.

Small, a three-time champion in the PGA National Professionals Championship, regrouped after that and wound up in seventh place.