Donald, Streelman join two Illini for another tough U.S. Open at Oakmont

Brian Campbell, the top player on Illinois’ golf team in 2015, was on hand to help former teammates Nick Hardy and Charlie Danielson celebrate after both qualified for the U.S. Open at last week’s sectional qualifier in Ohio.

Campbell didn’t make it into this year’s Open, which tees off on Thursday at Oakmont in suburban Pittsburgh, but he knows what America’s biggest championship is all about. Last year Campbell finished as low amateur (in a tie for 27th place) when the Open was played at Chambers Bay in Oregon.

Hardy, a Northbrook resident who just completed his sophomore season at Illinois, also qualified for the finals at Chambers Bay and survived the 36-hole cut before finishing in a tie for 52nd. This week he’ll try to duplicate that feat – and finish even higher — after being the medalist in his sectional qualifier.

Campbell and Hardy both played in last week’s Rust-Oleum Championship at Ivanhoe. Rookie pro Campbell tied for ninth place while Hardy, the only amateur in the field for the Tour stop, didn’t survive the 36-hole cut. Hardy’s shortcoming aat Ivanhoe might be understandable, what with the tourney falling between the emotion-packed sectional qualifying and the U.S. Open proper.

“It was definitely a quick turn-around,’’ said Hardy. “It was hard to not look ahead to the U.S. Open, but I told myself I had to focus. I prepared fine for that tournament, but I just didn’t bring it.’’

He hopes for a better performance at Oakmont, which Hardy described as “the hardest course anyone’s ever played’’ before making the trip to Pennslyvania.

“I’ll just try to not be intimidated,’’ said Hardy. “Everyone’s got to deal with the same things.’’

Hardy and Danielson are amateurs going against the world’s best professionals, that group including defending champion Jordan Spieth and veteran Chicago area touring pros Kevin Streelman and Luke Donald. Streelman and Donald also survived sectional qualifiers.

Campbell, improving steadily as a touring pro, thinks Hardy will hold his own again though – at 20 – he’ll be one of the youngest in the field.

“To qualify two years in a row shows how special he is,’’ said Campbell. “It’s all about getting down and dirty, and that’s how we do it at Illinois. My advice to Nick Hardy would just `be who you are.’ He was a great player coming to Illinois and he’ll only get better. I’d just tell him to relax a little. He can get a little hyper and get a little crazy.’’

Hardy will retain his caddie of last year’s Open, former Glenbrook North teammate Eric Markus, for bag-toting needs at Oakmont.

Senior moments

Exmoor, in Highland Park, has been named the site for the Constellation Senior Players Championship in 2018. It’ll be the first time a Champions Tour major has been played in the Chicago area since 1997, when Olympia Fields hosted the U.S. Senior Open with Australian Graham Marsh emerging as the champion.

The Western Golf Association will add managerial duties for that event to its usual role with the BMW Championship, Western Amateur and Western Junior events. The Western Amateur was to be played at Exmoor in 2018, but it’ll now be moved to another, so far undisclosed, date.

Another senior major might be looking for a new course as well. Kitchen-
Aid, the Michigan-based sponsor of the Senior PGA Championship, has been under pressure from political activists to move the tournament from Trump National in Washington D.C. That’s the scheduled tourney site for 2017.

In the last five years the Senior PGA has been Midwest based, with three stagings at Harbor Shores in Michigan and others at Bellerive in St. Louis and French Lick in Indiana. The tourney is to return to Harbor Shores in 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024.

Here and there

Last year the Illinois Women’s State Amateur was rained out for the first time in its 82-year history. The IWGA hope for better luck this week at Forest Hills in Rockford. The 18-hole stroke play portion was Tuesday and the low 32 advanced to the championship flight for matches that run through Friday.

The UL International Crown, the LPGA global team competition to be played at Merit Club from July 20-24, is in need of volunteers. “We had hoped to get to 800; now we’re hoping to get to 650,’’ said tournament director Drew Blass. Blass also has opening for two teams in the 32-team tourney pro-am.

The Western Golf Association Junior Championship will begin a four-day run on Monday at Red Run in Royal Oak, Mich. First held in 1914, it’s the oldest national junior tournament.