Chicago trio seeks success on Tour

The PGA Tour changed its qualification procedures last year, relegating its brutal 90-hole fall Q-School tournament to offering only spots on the satellite Tour in 2014. The new format, though, resulted in unprecedented success for Chicago players.

Rarely did a local golfer make it through Q-School to the PGA Tour under the older format, but three – Vince India (Deerfield) Andy Pope (Glen Ellyn) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (Elgin) — survived under the new one. They entertain hopes of playing their way on to the big circuit in 2015 via the circuit.

The trio has been in all seven events this year, five of which were held outside the U.S. border, and had only modest success. Pope, who attended Glenbard West and Xavier University, had the best tournament showing with a tie for 15th in last week’s weather-shortened WNB Classic in Midland, Tex. His payday there accounts for $10,200 of his $12,325 season winnings.

India, who won the 2010 Illinois Amateur at Chicago’s Beverly Country Club and was the Big Ten’s player-of-the-year for Iowa in 2011, has been the most consistent. He made the cut in five of the seven tournaments but has faltered on the weekends. His $8,673 in winnings is good for only 108th on the tour’s season money list, 14 spots behind Pope.

Sainz, from Larkin High School and Mississippi State University, was the best of the trio at Q-School with a 10th place finish. He was a hot player at the right time in late 2013 when – in a month’s stretch – he won The Players Cup on the PGA’s Canadian Tour, lost the Illinois Open title in a playoff at The Glen Club in Glenview and then won the Chicago Open at Cantigny in Wheaton, where he had worked the pro shop during his college days.

Those strong showings gave him momentum for Q-School, where he shot a final-round 63, but it didn’t carried over to 2014. Though he’s made only three cuts and $5,248 in seven starts Sainz made history when he holed a 250-yard second shot for a double eagle in the first round of the Chile Classic. It was the first albatross in the tourney’s three-year history.

All three players will be in the field for this week’s South Georgia Classic, played for the last seven years on one of the tour’s most respected courses – Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta, Ga. The field will be stronger, too, with John Daly and Lee Janzen – both winners of two major championships – joining such veteran tourists as Billy Mayfair, Jesper Parnivik, Dicky Pride, Hunter Haas and Rod Pampling.

Bob Spence, the first head professional at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove, supervised the building of Kinderlou Forest – a Davis Love III design that opened 10 years ago. Spence, back at Kinderlou for another design project, greeted the Chicago area trio upon their arrival.

Upgrades at Royal Melbourne

Jay Blasi, who assisted famed architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. on the construction of Chambers Bay – the new Washington course that will host the U.S. Open in 2015, is overseeing renovation work at Royal Melbourne in Long Grove. Tweaks are being made at the Nos. 8 and 17 holes but the most work is coming on the practice range.

A 4,200 square-foot green, a new green-side bunker and more fairway and rough turf are being added to allow for practice on longer approaches to the green. The work, to be completed by July 15, will permit more short-game instruction for both members and non-members at the Royal Melbourne Golf Academy.

The home explosion that damaged several homes near the course last week was only a minor problem for golfers. One nine was closed for a day to allow for removal of debris but it opened the following day.

Here and there

Northwestern, third in the Big Ten women’s tournament on Sunday, was given the No. 7 seed in the NCAA West Regional on Monday. NU will join defending NCAA champion Southern California in the 24-team field. Also headed to the West, to be played at Washington’s Tumble Creek course, are Wisconsin, seeded No. 16, and Notre Dame, No. 18. Illinois’ Amber Schuldt was given an individual berth in the Central Regional.

Two new charity events have been scheduled for May – the Wake Up Narcolepsy outing on May 10 at Whisper Creek in Huntley and the Champ Community Project Celebrity Pro-Am on May 28 at Old Orchard in Mt. Prospect. LPGA Tour player Nicole Jeray, who has coped with narcolepsy, will be featured at Whisper Creek.

The Golfsmith Demo Day will be held at Downers Grove Golf Club from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, and it’ll be followed by the nine-hole Spring Swing Scramble tournament.

A two-month series of fitness workshops hosted by Dr. Paul Callaway will begin at Cantigny next Tuesday.