This is an unusual year for big-time tournament golf in Chicago. Only September’s Ryder Cup at Medinah is on the calendar, but five other big-time events are within a short drive.
The first of those is the 73rd Senior PGA Championship, one of the majors on the Champions Tour. It begins a 72-hole run on Thursday at the spiffy new Harbor Shores resort course in Benton Harbor, Mich.
The field will have a touch of Chicago flavor. Mike Harrigan, the former Medinah pro who has been teaching at Chicago’s Diversey Range and the Players Club of Chicago in Justice, qualified for the starting field off a 17th-place showing in the Senior PGA Club Professionals tourney last October in Virginia and Billy Rosinia, the pro at Flagg Creek in Countryside, qualified off the alternate’s list last week.
Their opponents will include long-established stars like Freddie Couples, Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry and Hale Irwin. Last year’s winner, Tom Watson, won’t defend his title because of a pinched nerve in his wrist, but Harrigan and Rosinia will obviously be in some select company.
Harrigan, 63, never was a touring pro but this will be his fourth time in the Senior PGA and he also qualified for three U.S. Senior Opens. He survived the cut in the 2000 Senior PGA at Florida’s PGA National in a tourney shortened to 54 holes by weather problems.
“I just want to continue to compete,’’ said Harrigan, who spends nearly half of each year living in Jupiter, FL. “I’ve heard Harbor Shores is a great golf course. I’m looking forward to it.’’
Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus design that opened to rave reviews in 2009 and was awarded two Senior PGA Championship before it was even completely open. The tourney will return to Harbor Shores in 2014.
Harrigan keeps his game sharp in Florida, where he plays at The Fox Club in Stuart. Its members include 15-20 touring or club pros and some top-ranked amateurs. He believes last year’s qualifying tournament will help his chances this week. He qualified at Creighton Farms, a course also designed by Nicklaus.
“I understand it’s very similar to Harbor Shores,’’ said Harrigan. “It was very difficult, with very undulating greens. I thought they were impossible.’’
More big tournaments will follow the Senior PGA at reasonably nearby courses. The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, in the Quad Cities, is the only other one in Illinois but the U.S. Women’s Open will be played in Kohler, WI., the U.S. Senior Open in Orion, MI., and the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in Indianapolis.
Illini in finals again
Illinois, which won the Big Ten championship the last four years, will compete in the NCAA finals for the fifth straight year. The Illini, thanks to a second-place finish in the Oklahoma regional, will be in the field at California’s prestigious Riviera course. The tourney begins a six-day run there on Tuesday (MAY 29).
Northwestern also qualified for the NCAA tourney but finished eighth in the Kentucky regional and failed to reach the finals.
A shot for the ages
St. Charles Country Club assistant Curtis Malm won last week’s 61st Illinois PGA Match Play title at Kemper Lakes in Hawthorn Woods. He made Rich Dukelow, an assistant at Cantigny in Wheaton and the reigning IPGA player-of-the-year, the losing finalist for the second straight year, but the section’s first major tournament of the season may be best remembered for the dramatic shot Jason Lee hit to end a second-round playoff.
Lee, the head pro at Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club and the tourney’s 2001 champion, holed a hybrid shot from 225 yards for double eagle to eliminate Kevin Rafferty of Dick’s Sporting Goods-Vernon Hills in 22 holes.
Here and there
Steve Stricker, who will bid for a fourth straight title at the John Deere Classic in July, played a round at The Glen Club in Glenview last week…..Pete Jordan, who played the PGA Tour for several years after developing his game at Medinah, was the caddie for J.J. Henry during the golfer’s bid for the Byron Nelson title last week….. The Illinois Women’s Open will return to its July dates (July 25-27) after being pushed back to August last year to accommodate a renovation project. Mistwood owner Jim McWethy has set June 1 for the course’s re-opening…..Settler’s Hill, in Geneva, re-opened on Tuesday following a lengthy renovation….Ivanhoe pro Jim Sobb couldn’t defend his Illinois PGA Match Play title last week at Kemper Lakes but he’ll go for a three-peat in the senior version of the tournament beginning Tuesday (MAY 29) at Shoreacres in Lake Bluff….The Chicago District Senior Amateur concludes a three-day run at Rockford Country Club on Thursday….First qualifier for the CDGA Amateur is Tuesday (MAY 29) at Royal Country Club of Long Grove. Glenwoodie, in Glenwood, will also host qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament on that day.