Berger joins Johnson as JDC ambassador

Daniel Berger has joined Zach Johnson as a JDC ambassador.

Only Zach Johnson had been sporting the logo of Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event on his golf bag.  Now America’s next Ryder Cup captain has company.

Daniel Berger, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, sported the John Deere Classic logo on his bag for the first time at last week’s Masters. You might have had a hard time seeing it, as Berger finished in a tie for 50th place and didn’t get much TV time.

Now a charitable ambassador for John Deere, Berger’s involvement is a big boost for the tournament that will be played a week earlier than usual – June 30 through July 3 – at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

Berger and John Deere, in a multiyear agreement, will commit $100,000 in donations to various organizations in lieu of a traditional win bonus. Berger has two wins at the St. Jude Classic and one at both the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Charles Schwab Challenge in his PGA Tour career.  The Schwab win came in the first PGA Tour event conducted after the circuit took a three-month break because of pandemic issues in 2020.

“I’ll bet I’ve got the best looking bag around,’’ Berger said on Twitter.  He’ll be in the field at the RBC Heritage Classic, which tees off on Thursday in Hilton Head, S.C.  The field also includes Illinois-connected players Luke Donald, Kevin Streelman and Doug Ghim.

ILLINI BREAKTHROUGH:  Coach Mike Small’s current University of Illinois men’s team hasn’t been the dominant force it had been in collegiate golf but that could be changing with the most important tournaments of the season closing in.

The Illini tied for first with Cincinnati in their season-opening tournament in September, then went winless in seven straight until last week’s victory in Purdue’s Boilermaker Invite. Illinois senior Adrien Dumont de Chassart was the medalist and Tommy  Kuhl, Jackson Buchanan and Piercen Hunt also finished among the top 10 individuals.

“A solid team effort,’’ said Small.  “The guys weren’t fazed by the tough, cold conditions at the start, then we were going  head-to-head with a good team on their home course. To close solidly is a mindset that we have talked about embracing and becoming a habit.’’

The Illini compete in Ohio State’s Kepler Intercollegiate April 23-24 before the Big Ten championship and NCAA tournaments kick in.

BITS AND PIECE: Dubsdread, the long-time Western Open site at Cog Hill in Palos Park, opens on Saturday, as one of the last Chicago area courses to welcome players.  Cog Hill also has a new director of grounds.  He’s Reed Anderson, who previously worked at Butler National, Chicago Golf Club and New Year’s Winged Foot.

KemperSports has made some major hires at its Chicago courses.  Chris Stewart is the new general manager at Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove; Tom Grey becomes the general manager at Canal Shores, in Evanston; and T.J. Wydner is the GM at Chicago’s Harborside International.

Dave Lockhart’s Golf360 TV show now has a co-host. Katie Kearney will join ex-Bear Patrick Mannelly when the broadcasts begin in June on NBC Sports Chicago.

Taylor Lambertsen, who grew up in Palos Park and held assistant professional jobs at Kemper Lakes and Exmoor, is the new director of instruction for the First Tee of Greater Chicago.

The Illinois PGA has announced the site for its fourth and final major event of the season.  Lake Shore, in Glencoe, will host the IPGA Players Championship Sept. 26-17.