Luke Donald and Mark Wilson have long been the prime players with Chicago ties competing on the PGA Tour, and they were in the middle of some behind-the-scenes drama last weekend at the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct.
Neither were qualified for the British Open, which is coming up in two weeks at St. Andrews in Scotland, and four places in the year’s third major were on the line at Hartford. Donald, the former Northwestern star who spent 56 weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer before Rory McIlroy took over in 2012, needed to finish in the top 12 and be among the top four players at Hartford who were not otherwise qualified for the British to earn his spot in this year’s field.
After rounds of 68, 68, 67 and 66 Donald stood in a tie for seventh place overall – but four players not qualified for the British were still on the course. One of them was Wilson, who established a home in Elmhurst several years ago.
A bogey on the last hole had Donald fearing he’d be left out, but Wilson also made bogey on the last hole. In the end Donald, though five strokes behind champion Bubba Watson, landed in a tie for seventh with Bo Van Pelt and Wilson. Among those finishing ahead of them were Brian Harman, who will defend his John Deere Classic title next week; Graham DeLaet and Carl Petterson.
Those three got the first three British Open spots offered at Hartford and Donald got the fourth and final one thanks to having a higher world ranking (68) than either Van Pelt (248) or Wilson (441).
“The Claret Jug brings up a lot of great memories, watching the Open as a kid and obviously some memories playing it as a professional,’’ said Donald. “It’s the major I’d love to win the most, coming from the U.K.’’
Now he’ll get another chance with his game on the upswing again. Donald had two top-five finishes in the British since 2009 and tied for 11th the last time it was played at St. Andrews in 2010. He’ll next play at the Scottish Open, the European PGA Tour stop opposite the John Deere Classic.
Bill Murray in JDC Pro-Am
Actor/ comedian Bill Murray, the best pro-am attraction on the PGA Tour, will play in the John Deere Classic’s Wednesday Pro-Am on July 8. He’ll be paired with D.A. Points, a former University of Illinois golfer from Pekin.
Points and Murray were the sensation of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which was formerly the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in California. They won the team title in the two-man event and Points captured the individual crown.
Murray, who grew up in Wilmette and was a caddie at Indian Hill Club, starred in the movie hit CaddieShack – a role that triggered his popularity in the entertainment world.
Illini star Campbell turns pro
Brian Campbell won’t be a factor in the Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur or Walker Cup matches this year. A stalwart on Illinois’ team that won the stroke play portion of the NCAA tournament, Campbell has opted to turn professional. He’ll make his pro debut at the John Deere Classic thanks to a sponsor’s exemption.
One of his Illini teammates, redshirt senior Alex Burge, captured the 96th Chicago District Amateur title last week at Knollwood in Lake Forest. Burge did it by beating Medinah’s Tee-K Kelly, an Ohio State player who won the Illinois State Amateur in 2013.
Burge, from Bloomington, became the first golfer to become both medalist and champion at the CDGA Amateur since Joe Affrunti in 2001. Affrunti also attended Illinois and posted his CDGA sweep at Knollwood.
Maggert is coming to Encompass
Jeff Maggert, who won the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday and won another Champions Tour major at the Regions Tradition earlier in the year, will be in the field at the Encompass Championship at North Shore in Glenview beginning July 10. Other recent commitments include Hale Irwin and Steve Elkington, and former Bears’ center Patrick Mannelly will compete in the two-day, two-man team competition.
Pre-qualifying for the Encompass Championship will be Thursday and the final qualifying round is Monday at Deerfield golf course.
Here and there
The last day for public play at Oak Meadows in Addison is Monday. Then the course will be closed for nearly two years as Aurora architect Greg Martin conducts a massive renovation project.
Olympia Fields is looking for volunteers to help in the staging of the U.S. Amateur next month.
Ruth Lake, in Hinsdale, will host a qualifier for the U.S. Amateur on Monday and the Illinois PGA will conducts its 40th Junior Championship on Monday at Mauh-Nah-Tee- See in Rockford.
One of Chicago’s longest-standing private clubs, Glen Flora in Waukegan, is up for sale. Links Capital Advisors have announced a $2.75 million asking price for the club, which was built in 1911.