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Len Ziehm On Golf

Hardy poised to make his debut as a pro in Web.com stop at Ivanhoe

The college season ended for Northwestern after three rounds of the NCAA finals this week in Stillwater, Okla., and Illinois lasted one more round before an 11th place finish in the stroke play portion of the competition wasn’t good enough to get the Illini back in the top eight match play qualifiers. They will decide the national champion on Wednesday.

For Illini senior Nick Hardy, from Northbrook, the collegiate season didn’t end happily. In addition to his team’s finish, he tied for 32nd in the individual standings. The good news for Hardy is that it’s time to move on to the professional ranks and he’ll be able to do it as soon as next week.

Hardy, by virtue of a sponsor’s exemption, is in the field for the Web.com Tour’s $600,000 Rust-Oleum Championship, which will be played for the third straight year at Ivanhoe Club. Hardy will be in Monday’s pro-am as well as the starting field that tees of on Thursday, July 7.

Scott Cassin, the Rust-Oleum Championship director, has been generous in giving sponsor’s exemptions to Chicago area players and – in addition to Hardy – Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly, a two-time Illinois State Amateur champion; Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr., a former Illinois Open titlist; and Deerfield’s Vince India, another past Illinois State Amateur winner, are in the Ivanhoe field as invitees.

The local player to watch, however, is Brad Hopfinger, who prospered from an invite last year, using it to finish in a tie for 28th place. He has playing privileges on the PGA Tour’s alternate circuit this year so doesn’t need an exemption. In fact, he appears on the brink of earning a spot on golf’s premier circuit after finishing in a tie for fifth at the Web.com’s Nashville Open last week.

That strong finish enabled Hopfinger, one of only eight players to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, to climb from 56th to 32nd on the Web.com season money list. The top 25 at season’s end are automatically PGA Tour members in 2019 and 25 more can earn their spots in the circuit’s post-season playoffs. The Web.com Tour plays in the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C., this week before moving to Ivanhoe.

Senior Women’s Open draws 462 entries

The inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open has drawn 462 entries, and 61 won’t have to go through qualifying rounds for the July 12-15 event at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton.

Among the exempt players are 16 former U.S. Women’s Open champions headed by three-time winner Hollis Stacy and JoAnne Carner, who won the first of her two titles in 1971 and is still competitive on the LPGA’s Legends Tour. Six Open runner-ups are also in the field.

Pat Bradley, who won the 1981 Women’s Open at LaGrange Country Club, is foremost among the players who have been waiting for the event to materialize.

“I’ve had the Senior Women’s Open on my calendar for 17 years, so to say I’m excited to play is an understatement,’’ said Bradley. “It’ll bring back some great memories to go back to the Chicago area to compete for an Open title.’’

The turnout has delighted Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association executive director.

“We’re thrilled by the response of our USGA championship have had to this inaugural championship,’ said USGA executive director Mike Davis. “The consistent growth in women’s golf has been inspiring.’’

Most notable of the former U.S. Women’s Open titlists not entering is Nancy Lopez. She has undergone knee surgery, a factor in keeping her out of the walking-only 72-hole finals.

Roughly half the field for the 120-player finals will come from the 17 nation-wide qualifying tournaments. They begin on Monday. Entries came from 39 states, 73 of them from Florida. The Chicago qualifier is June 18.

Another Mid-Am win for Ehrgott

John Ehrgott, from Mt. Hawley in Peoria, defeated Winnetka’s Blake Johnson, representing the Glen Club in Glenview, in the title match of the rain-delayed Chicago District Mid-Amateur Championship at Hinsdale Golf Club.

Ehrgott’s 3 and 2 win gave him his two CDGA Mid-Am crowns in the tourney’s four-year history. He also won the Illinois State Mid-Am in 2007 and 2009 and his four overall Mid-Am titles are just one shy of Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell. All of Mitchell’s wins were in the state version.

Here and there

Texas’ Doug Ghim, from Arlington Heights, finished third in the NCAA finals as an individual and his team advanced to the match play portion of the tournament. Dylan Meyer, Nick Hardy’s Illinois teammate, concluded his collegiate career by finishing in a tie for fourth at the NCAA tournament.

Olympia Fields Country Club has named Virginia-based Keith Foster as the architect to oversee renovations of both its North and South courses.

The Lake Bluff Park District will keep its golf course open through this season but said private donors will have to raise $265,000 by Oct. 31 for the course to be available in 2019.