Chicago hopefuls talke U.S. Open dreams to St. Louis’ Old Warson

St. Louis was the site of the Senior PGA Championship, which concluded on Sunday, and it’ll also be the place of choice for the Chicago golfers who survived local qualifying for the 113th U.S. Open, to be played later this month at Merion in Ardmore, Pa.

Old Warson Country Club, in St., Louis, will have a 42-player field for a 36-hole elimination on Monday. It’ll be one of 11 such tournaments held across the U.S. on what’s known as “golf’s longest day’’ to determine the 156 starters at Merion. There were a record 9,865 entries for this U.S. Open and only 52 were exempt from the qualifying rounds.

Chicago has hosted a sectional every year for at least four decades, but not this time. That meant the 10 survivors of Chicago’s two local qualifying tournaments had to travel and Old Warson got the bulk of them. Newly-named Medinah teaching professional Travis Johns will be the first player to tee off there.

Also completing at Old Warson, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that opened in 1955 , will be Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, the 2011 Illinois Amateur champion who was low man in the Chicago locals with a 66 at Northmoor in Highland Park on May 6; Illinois Open titlist Max Scodro; Cantigny teaching pro Rich Dukelow; 2008 Illinois Am winner Zach Barlow; and amateur Kenneth Li of Westmont.

They’ll have tough competition at Old Warson. Champions Tour members Mark O’Meara, Jay Haas and Jay Don Blake have also entered there. The number of qualifiers at each sectional hasn’t been announced, but those with the strongest fields will get the most.

Old Warson has hosted three previous U.S. Open sectionals, the last in 2004, but the biggest event held there was the 1971 Ryder Cup matches.

Double duty for Small

Last week University of Illinois men’s coach Mike Small was selected for the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, but the excitement of that career achievement didn’t end there. His Illini won an NCAA regional at Fayetteville, Ark., and began play in the NCAA Championship at Capital City Club near Atlanta on Tuesday.

It’s Illinois’ sixth straight appearance in the NCAA finals, but the first time the Illini got there by winning a regional. The NCAA final extends to Sunday (JUNE 2) and if the Illini are still in the competition by then Small could have a travel dilemma.

He also survived local qualifying for the U.S. Open, having advanced through an 18-hole elimination in Noblesville, Ind. Small is entered in the Old Warson sectional. Getting an overnight flight from Atlanta to St. Louis might be possible but arriving fresh enough for a tense 36-hole day might not be.

Did you know?

The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic has given a sponsor’s exemption to a college player – Iowa junior Steven Ihm. He’s also among the U.S. Open hopefuls competing at Old Warson.

Cantigny, in Wheaton, has added Monica Coleman to its teaching staff. She’ll be the staff’s performance coach.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct two qualifiers today (MAY 29). U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links berths will be on the line at Wilmette Golf Club and spots in the CDGA Amateur will be available at River Forest, in Elmhurst.

The Illinois PGA’s Senior Match Play Championship concludes Thursday (MAY 30) at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff.

Shiloh Park, a nine-holer in Zion, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Thursday (MAY 30) by charging $1 for a round of golf and another 10 cents assessment to offset the cost of installing a fence to enclose the course.