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Len Ziehm On Golf

Illinois club pros will face a new challenge in return to Medinah’s No. 1 Course

First played in 1923, the Illinois PGA Championship has basically been The Mike Small Show since 2001. That’s when the Illinois men’s coach captured the title for the first time. He’s won the tournament 11 times in the last 14 years, but next week’s 93rd staging at Medinah’s No. 1 Course will be a little different.

The 54-hole tournament, which begins on Monday, will be the first major event played on the course since Michigan architect Tom Doak’s major renovation was completed.

Not only that, but Small will be returning to the place where his eight-year winning streak in the tournament came to an end in 2011. Then-Midlothian assistant Frank Hohenadel won that year.

“I’m not going to think about losing that streak,’’ said Small, who has won the last two years. “I’m thinking about going for No. 12. I’ll think positive. I’ve played well this time of year. It’s the perfect time of the year for me to play.’’

His coaching duties do cut in to Small’s competitive possibilities but he did win the IPGA’s Dubsdread Classic on Monday, shooting a 4-under-par 68 on the course that hosted the PGA Tour’s Western Open and BMW Championship for 20 years.

The IPGA Championship has been rotated between three sites – Olympia Fields’ South Course, Stonewall Orchard in Gurnee and Medinah No. 1 – in recent years. Small won at Medinah in 2008, but the course is much different now than it was before the renovation. The club professionals got familiar with the IPGA venues, but few have played Medinah No. 1 since Doak completed his work.

That might benefit Medinah teaching pros Travis Johns and Rick Dukelow, both long-time contenders in the IPGA’s big tournaments. Johns was last year’s IPGA Player of the Year. The leader in that point race is Brian Brodell, assistant pro at Mistwood in Romeoville.

The tourney calls for 18 holes on Monday and Tuesday before the field is cut to the low 60 and ties for next Wednesday’s (SEPT 2) final round.

FedEx Cup Playoffs begin

The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs begin Thursday for the season’s top 125 players. Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman goes in at No. 61, Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson at No. 114 and former Northwestern star Luke Donald at No. 119.

They’ll be in the field at The Barclays in New Jersey, which starts on Thursday, but only the top 100 will qualify for the second event – the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Chicago’s playoff event, the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest from Sept. 14-20, will take only the top 70 players.

LPGA Legends return to French Lick

The Legends Championship – highlight of the season for the LPGA’s senior players (45 and over) – will return for the third time to Indiana’s French Lick Resort. It’s been reduced from 54 to 36 holes this year, with the tournament rounds on Saturday (AUG 28) and Sunday (AUG 29).

Juli Inkster, the U.S. Solheim Cup captain, will make a rare Legends Tour appearance in the 56-player field on the rugged Pete Dye Course at French Lick. Recently-named World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies will also be in the field as will Rosie Jones and JoAnne Carner, who will be inducted into the Legends Hall of Fame at Friday’s Gala.

Laurie Rinker will defend her title on the course that hosted the men’s Senior PGA Championship. A $300,000 prize fund will be on the line for the Legends and there will also be a separate competition for former LPGA stars who are 63 and over.

Speedgolf coming to The Glen

The Glen Club, in Glenview, will host the Speedgolf World Championship Oct. 19-20. It’s a 36-hole competition in which players are judged on both their score and the time required to play their rounds. Eri Crum, a former college teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, is the defending champion, having won last year at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

Speedgolf’s premier event will have an elite division for Crum and about 30 other players as well as an amateur competition. Those interested should check out the website — speedgolfinternatinal.com.