Illini golf teams get a boost from course donation

Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana just upgraded their golf facilities. Now Illinois is doing the same.

The school announced that the Atkins family has donated about 300 acres in Urbana, which includes the Stone Creek Golf Course, to the University. Stone Creek opened in 2000 and was closed in January. It’s expected to re-open for public play in 2021.

“Our teams have always felt welcome at Stone Creek, and it’s been a privilege to call it our home course for close to 20 years,’’ said Illinois men’s coach Mike Small. “Now, with this gifting, we can continue to improve and update the facility with the intent to rival the top college courses in the nation.’’

Stone Creek will be renamed the Atkins Golf Club at the University of Illinois. The Atkins family already has its name on tennis and baseball facilities at the school. The family’s latest donation is valued at $15 million.

Small, along with women’s coach Renee Slone, have struggled along with other college coaches since the pandemic wiped our their spring seasons. Both will have players involved in the first two big national amateur events coming up this month.

Slone has three players in the field for the Women’s Western Amateur, which tees off on July 20 at Prestwick, in Frankfort. Small has five players in the field for the men’s Western Amateur the following week at Crooked Stick, in Indiana, and he could have more. Two other Illinois players are on the waiting list to get in.

The men’s event is again loaded with four college stars. Florida’s Ricky Castillo, is the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world. Georgia’s Davis Thompson is No. 4, Florida State’s John Pak No. 5 and Texas’ Cole Hammer No. 7. Hammer won the Western Amateur in 2018.

COG HILL SETBACK: For 20 years Cog Hill, in Lemont, hosted the PGA Tour. Once the BMW Championship departed in 2011 the Jemsek family — owners of the 72-hole complex — have been looking for a big event to takes its place.

They thought they had one this year when the World Long Drive Championship was scheduled there from Sept. 3-9. Those hopes dwindled this week when The Golf Channel, the owner of the World Long Drive, announced that all five of the qualifying tournaments were canceled and the finals at Cog Hill were “suspended.’’

“We’re hoping for 2021,’’ said Troy Newport, the Cog Hill general manager.

SCHACHNER’S HOT START: Michael Schachner, named the assistant men’s coach at DePaul earlier this year after spending several years playing on a variety of professional tours, had seven birdies and an eagle en route to shooting a 4-under-par 68 in the Illinois PGA’s first tournament of the season on Monday.

Kyle English, of Crestwicke in Bloomington, matched Schachner’s score at The Hawk Country Club in St. Charles. Schachner and English were one stroke better than host pro Brian Carroll. Illinois’ Small finished solo fifth.

BITS AND PIECES: The PGA Tour begins a two-week run at Muirfield Village in Ohio this week but there’s been one change in plans. Next week’s Memorial tournament was to be the first tournament since the resumption of tournament play on June 11 to be played with spectators. Now that’ll be without spectators as well.

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy is skipping this week’s TPC San Antonio Challenge on the Korn Ferry Tour after notching three top-10 finishes in four starts since the PGA’s satellite circuit restarted its season.

Jerry Rich, owner of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, has promoted Vicky McGowan to director of golf. McGowan has been on the staff there for 10 years.

Reagan Davis, who spent six years as director of golf at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena, just took a similar positions at World Golf Village, in St. Augustine, FL. World Golf Village is the home of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

David Cooke, a two-time Illinois Open champion and the winner in 2019, set the Naperville Country Club course record last week with a 64.

Dave Lockhart’s Golf360 television programs have resumed for another season. They’ll be aired at various times on NBC SportsChicago.