Chien, Hopfinger lead first U.S. Open local qualifier

Monday’s rains forced the Illinois Public Links Championship to be reduced from 36 to 18 holes, but the bad weather didn’t hamper the first of two local qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open – the first significant competition of this Chicago golf season.

Northwestern student Sam Chien, an amateur, and Iowa alum Brad Hopfinger, winner of last year’s Illinois Amateur who in his ninth month as a professional, shared medalist honors with 3-under-par 69s at Inverness, and Illinois coach Mike Small also advanced to sectional play by shooting a 70.

Deer Park’s Greg Conrad matched Small’s score and Wisconsin resident Andy Hansen and Bennett Blakeman of Burr Ridge also qualified for sectional play through a sudden death playoff. Blakeman, qualified for the last two U.S. Opens, the first as an amateur and last year as a pro.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will host the second local qualifier on Monday at Schaumburg Golf Club. Most of the survivors of the 90-player eliminations are expected to bid for berths in the Open proper in the June 4 sectional elimination at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

According to the U.S. Golf Assn. over 9,000 filed entries for this U.S. Open, the finals of which will feature 156 players competing at Olympic Club in San Francisco June 14-17.

Illini head local NCAA invitees

Small, who has guided Illinois to four straight Big Ten championships, got more good news this week when his Illini were assigned the seventh seed among 14 teams in an NCAA regional tournament at Norman, Okla. Loyola, like the Illini a conference champion, had the 14th seed there.

Northwestern, an NCAA qualifier for the 13th time in coach Pat Goss’ 16 seasons, was the ninth seed among 14 teams in a regional at Bowling Green, Ky., while Notre Dame was the 11th seed of 13 teams at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Teaching pros on the move

Joe Bosco, who co-founded the Green To Tee Academy with Peter Donahue in 1991, has opened his own instructional operation at The Glen Club in Glenview.

Donahue, meanwhile, will take the Green To Tee teaching staff to Highland Park Country Club. The Academy had been based at Glencoe since 2004.

In addition to opening his own teaching program, Bosco will team up with Mike Adams, who has taught numerous pro tour players, on a Foundation for Achievement program that consists of four-hour sessions at The Glen on May 21 and 22. Bosco and Adams will also host a Teach the Teacher Workshop for Illinois PGA professionals on May 22 at The Glen.

Silver Lake range to open

The 45-hole Silver Lake facility in Orland Park will hold the ribbon cutting for its new practice range at 11 a.m. on Friday. Long drive champion Joe Hajduch will be featured at the ceremonies.

Silver Lake has operated without a range since its opening in 1927. The new range will be located near the No. 9 hole on the North course, and that hole has been reduced to a par-3 to accommodate the range construction.

Here and there

Luke Donald’s fourth annual Taste of the First Tee fundraiser has been scheduled for June 20 at Northern Trust’s headquarters in downtown Chicago. Fellow PGA Tour stars Steve Stricker and Mark Wilson will also participate….The rain-shortened Illinois Public Links tourney wrap up Tuesday with 18 holes at the George Dunne National course in Tinley Park…..The Northwestern women’s team is the 15th seed in the 24-team NCAA East Regional, which begins a three-day run Thursday at State College, Pa…..GolfVisions has added Chapel Hill, in McHenry, to its Chicago area portfolio….The Crystal Lake Golf Learning Center, which is located across the street from the Prairie Isle course in Prairie Grove, has undergone an ownership change with Eric Pelfresne the new general manager….Erin Hills, a future U.S. Open site in Wisconsin, opens for the season on Thursday (MAY 10)…..Lemont’s Cog Hill has scheduled a two-person scramble tournament for May 19 on the No. 1 course…..Settler’s Hill, in Batavia, has set a May 22 opening. It’s been closed to accommodate a Waste Management renovation.