logo

Len Ziehm On Golf

Chicago’s new Web.com Tour event will be an upgrade from its predecessors

The PGA Tour is bringing its secondary circuit back to the Chicago area for the first time since 2008, but things have changed a lot since then.

The Glen Club, in Glenview, hosted the LaSalle Bank (or Bank of America) Open on what was then called the Nationwide Tour through 2008 before sponsorship problems set in. The return comes under the banner of the Web.com Tour on June 6-12 when the $600,000 Rust-Oleum Championship comes to Ivanhoe Club.

Scott Cassin, tournament director at The Glen, is also in that role at Ivanhoe and this week he explained just how different the tournaments of the past were compared to the upcoming event. It goes far beyond the tour’s name change. The Nationwide was more of a developmental circuit.

“That’s no longer the case,’’ said Cassin. “Now (the Web.com Tour) is the pathway to the PGA Tour. It’s gained a lot of stature in the last couple years with international players coming in.’’

Previously, players used the Nationwide Tour to prepare for the PGA fall qualifying school. Now the Q-School feeds just to the Web.com Tour. So does the PGA’s Latinoamerica, Canadian and China circuits, which weren’t under the PGA banner a decade ago. The Web.com Tour’s best go directly to the PGA Tour in 2017.

“This (Web.com) tour is still about fun, and there’s a lot of young, hungry golfers,’’ said Cassin. And some older ones, too.

The initial entry list for Ivanhoe includes such names as Jonathan Byrd, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour; Len Mattiace, a PGA Tour champion twice and once a runner-up in the Masters; and Greg Chalmers, a veteran of the international circuits with wins in both the Australian Open and Australian PGA championships.

Based on the early entrants Ivanhoe will get nine of the current top 10 money-winners on the Web.com circuit, the only one not signed up yet being No. 1 Wesley Bryan. There’ll be a number of local players as well, headed by Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger — the last of only seven players to earn wins in both the Illinois Amateur and Illinois Open. Winner of the Amateur in 2011 and the Open in 2014, he moved up to the Web.com from the Latinoamerica circuit this year.

The structure of the Rust-Oleum Championship, which had been held the last two years in Cleveland, will be more comprehensive, too. At Ivanhoe – the tourney site for the next three years — there’ll be a celebrity pro-am and two qualifying rounds on Monday and the first local qualifier for the 2017 Drive, Chip & Putt contest on Tuesday before the 72-hole championship tees off. Tickets, though, remain affordable. They’re $20 for the week with those 17 and under admitted free.

Here and there

The Chicago District Golf Assn. concludes its three-day Mid-Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Lake Shore Country Club, in Glencoe, before conducting a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open on Monday at Oak Park Country Club. Only two players from the 90 teeing off at Oak Park will advance to the Women’s Open proper at CordeValle in California in July.

Wauconda’s Josh Esler shared medalist honors at Monday’s U.S. Open local qualifying round at Exmoor in Highland Park with Chicago’s Brian Atkinson. Those two, plus Chicago’s James Lelliott, Maryville’s Keenaj Sampson and Rockford’s Kyle Slattery, qualified for next month’s sectional eliminations.

The NCAA men’s six regionals conclude Wednesday (TODAY), but Doug Ghim – a Texas sophomore from Arlington Heights – was an immediate sensation with a 64 in Monday’s first round of a regional in Franklin, Tenn. He had six birdies and an eagle in his first bogey-free round as a collegiate player. Illinois and Northwestern complete their bids to reach the NCAA finals on Wednesday with the Illini competing in Kohler, Wis., and the Wildcats in Stillwater, Okla.

Bears’ kicker Robbie Gould will co-host the Good as Gould event on June 4 at Eagle Ridge, in Galena. Gould and host professional Reagan Davis will conduct a free, interactive golf demonstration for families and individuals and the resort is also offering a VIP Golf Package for participants.

Jay Freitag of Glen View Club and Simon Allan of Prestwick, in Frankfort, led the way in Monday’s Illinois PGA stroke play event at Westmoreland, in Wilmette. Both shot 69s. Next up is the IPGA Senior Match Play Championship, which runs Monday through Wednesday at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff.