Illinois Open is downsized after major restructuring

Though some restrictions were lifted for Illinois golfers on Friday, the season remains a trying one for the state’s golf organizers. Tournament scheduling remains a fluid thing due to concerns over the COVID-19 Pandemic.

First it was the Chicago District Golf Association canceling the Illinois State Amateur and the CDGA Amateur – its two oldest and most prestigious championships – and joining the Illinois PGA in dropping the Radix Cup matches.

Then came Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville, calling off the Illinois Women’s Open and, on Thursday, the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic was canceled.  It was scheduled to celebrate its 50th anniversary at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

Now it’s the Illinois Open in the spotlight – but at least it’s not because of a cancelation.  The Illinois PGA announced a major restructuring of the 71st staging of the championship.

The Illinois Open normally draws about 700 entries from all parts of the state and they’re whittled to 264 for the 54-hole finals through eight state-wide qualifying rounds. Now the tourney – the biggest event for Illinois residents — has been downsized.

White Eagle Club, in Naperville, remains as the host of the Aug. 3-5 finals, but there will be only 156 finalists instead of 264.  There won’t be the usual alternate site for the finals.  Stonebridge, in Aurora, was to co-host for the first two days.

“We are hopeful to bring the event back to Stonebridge in the near future,’’ said Carrie Williams, executive director of the Illinois PGA.  “We are confident this revised format will provide a competitive test for players and continue the tradition of crowning a champion of Illinois Golf.’’

Qualifying rounds will also be reduced.  Four have been canceled and the remaining four will be July 14 at Flossmoor Country Club, July 16 at Deerpath in Lake Forest, July 22 at The Hawk in St. Charles and July 29 at Willow Crest in Oak Brook Hills. The survivors will join the players exempt off past performance in the finals.  Players who registered for earlier qualifiers have until July 8 to transfer to another qualifying event.

The Illinois PGA is already assured of a lean tournament season.  Normally its season starts in May, but now the first of the stroke play events is July 6.  The CDGA schedule is also filled with cancelations, and its next event is on July 8.

Two bigger Chicago area events remain on the Western Golf Association schedule – the Women’s Western Amateur at Prestwick in Frankfort from July 20-25 and the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event for PGA Tour players, is Aug. 25-30 at Olympia Fields Country Club.  The WGA also has the Evans Scholars Invitational, a stop on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, rescheduled from May to Sept. 9-13 but no site for that event has been announced.