Illinois Am champion skips Western, takes aim at winning State Open

This week’s 119th playing of the Western Amateur may have one of its strongest fields ever at the Glen View Club, in Golf, but one notable name is missing. Ethan Farnam, who repeated as the Illinois State Amateur champion last week, won’t be there.

“I didn’t even apply for the Western Amateur,’’ said Farnam.  “Usually the top 100 (who receive invites) are the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. It’s just a hard tournament to get in, plus  I’m working.’’

Farnam, from Crystal Lake, is a caddie at Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club while preparing for a final year of college golf at St. Mary’s, in California. His accomplishment in the State Am at Mistwood, in Romeoville, was one for record books.  Only 15 players in 90 years have won multiple titles in the State Am and Farnam became just the 10th to win back-to-back.

Others to win titles in consecutive years include three who became regulars on the PGA Tour – Bob Zender (1970-71), Gary Hallberg (1978-79) and D.A. Points (1998-99). The last player to do it was Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell (2002-03).

Others going back-to-back were Warren Dawson, the tourney’s first winner in 1931-32; Harold Foreman Jr. (1944-45), Ed Moehling Jr. (1960-61), Joel Hirsch (1988-89) and Jay Davis (1991-92). Farnam’s first win came in 2019. The 2020 event was canceled due to pandemic concerns.

“Everyone was congratulating me for the first one,’’ said Farnam, “and it’d been so long just to reaffirm that you’re still here and that you’re still one of the better players in the state and the nation.’’

While he’s skipping the Western Am, Farnam will chase another historic feat when the Illinois Open tees off at Stonebridge, in Aurora, next week.  Only two golfers, David Ogrin 1980 and Patrick Flavin in 2017, have won both the Amateur and Open in the same year.

“I’m pretty motivated,’’ said Farnam.  “It’d be pretty cool, but it’ll be a lot more challenging to win against professionals who play tournaments all the time.  But it is do-able.’’

Farnam, 22, will consider turning pro after his college eligibility expires. He attended Northwestern as a freshman.

“I got kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons,’’ he said.  “It was a wild ride, and a growing-up moment, but it’s turned out well. I was born in California and, due to covid, I have one more year of college golf. I’ll go to Q-School in the middle of the school year while I’m still an amateur.’’

While the Western is in progress Farnam will pair up with Michael Fastert in Wednesday’s (TODAY) qualifying round for the Chicago District Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship at Blackstone, in Marengo.

The Western Golf Association takes 156 players into its Western Am,  and topping the list of locals this week is Hinsdale’s Mac McClear, who won the Big Ten’s individual title while playing for Iowa and was in a three-man playoff with Farnam for the State Am crown. Three other Illinois residents playing at Glen View are college golfers – Tommy Kuhl (Illinois), Timmy Crawford (Loyola) and Connor Polender (Liberty).

Veteran amateurs in field include Kenilworth’s Charles Waddell, the Glen View club champion and a qualifier for this year’s U.S. Amateur; Lake Bluff’s Andrew Price and Hinsdale’s Michael Castleforte.

The 72-hole stroke play portion of the tournament concludes on Thursday and the 16 survivors decide the champion in match play on Friday and Saturday.  That portion of the event will be streamed over Golf Channel’s digital platforms with more than 12 hours of coverage available.

University of Texas senior Pierceson Coody is the defending champion and the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world rankings. Champions of the previous two years —                                                                                                                                                                                                   Garrett Rank (2019) and Cole Hammer (2018) – are also in the field as are two former Western Junior winners.  William Mouw won that title in 2017 at Park Ridge Country Club, and Piercen Hunt was the 2019 champion at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove. Hunt, a sophomore-to-be at Illinois, just won the Wisconsin State Amateur.

HERE AN THERE:  Cog Hill, in Palos Park, has been named to host the 46th Boys & Girls Junior PGA Championship in 2022.  Dates are Aug. 2-5….Deerpath, in Lake Forest, has broken ground on The Lawn – a 30,000 square foot putting and chipping green….Northwestern alum Dylan Wu won the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., on the Korn Ferry Tour on Sunday….Mistwood teaching pro Nicole Jeray is in the field at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which starts its four-day run on Thursday (JULY 29) in Brooklawn, Ct….PGA Tour rookie Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, has been named an honorary ambassador to the First Tee of Greater Chicago….Marissa Wenzler was both medalist and champion at last week’s 121st Women’s Western Amateur at Park Ridge Country Club. The University of Kentucky student is also a caddie at NCR in Dayton, Ohio, which was just named the site of the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.