Illinois Open site change delights defending champion Arouca

For over three decades Illinois club professionals dominated their amateur counterparts. Those days are apparently over.

Last week the Chicago District Golf Association’s amateur stars beat the Illinois PGA’s best 11 ½-6 ½ in the 51st Radix Cup matches at Oak Park Country Club. That was the CDGA’s fourth win in five years in the competition, though the IPGA has a 32-17-2 edge in the rivalry.

With the team event over, both the CDGA and IPGA are preparing for their biggest championships and for Philip Arouca, the defending champion in the IPGA’s Illinois Open, that’s a big task.

Arouca won last year’s Illinois Open at Hawthorn Woods Country Club but won’t defend there. After four years at Hawthorn Woods the IPGA is taking the championship back to The Glen Club in Glenview, with the 54-hole showdown coming July 16-18.

Normally a defender would prefer going for a repeat on the same course. Not so for Arouca. The Wilmette resident caddied at The Glen Club, played in two Illinois Opens there and has joined his father as a member for the last three years. He was “absolutely ecstatic’’ when he heard about the venue switch.

Arouca hasn’t been so happy about his health since his biggest win of 2011. He developed a stress fracture in his right wrist during the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying school last fall, forcing him to not touch a club for five weeks. He’s resuming competition this week in a National Pro Golf Tour event at Michigan’s Treetops course. That mini-circuit has been Arouca’s playground since the last Illinois Open and will remain that way until the shooting starts at The Glen.

Last year that tour held small regional tournaments in the Chicago area, with Arouca winning at Highlands of Elgin and finishing second at Bolingbrook Golf Club. Over the next three weeks he’ll play in 72-hole $150,000 events the circuit is staging at Treetops, Bolingbrook and Brickyard Crossing in Indianapolis.

“The wrist pain at the end of last year wasn’t much fun, and it’s been a struggle lately,’’ he said, “but I’m real excited to finally have a good solid event schedule.’’

Amateurs were medalists at the first three qualifiers for the Illinois Open. Bloomington’s Alex Burge was best in the first qualifier with a 67 at Bloomington Country Club. Another amateur, Dan Strawbridge from Roselle, was low man at Deerfield with a 68 and still another, Joe Willis of Lake Forest, matched pro Tommy Bliefnick of Decatur for low round at Bull Valley in Woodstock. Both carded 70s.

The last four qualifiers are Wednesday (JUNE 20) at Lincolnshire, Monday (JUNE 25) at Inverness, Tuesday (JUNE 26) at Highlands of Elgin and June 28 at Effingham Country Club.

More changes for CDGA Amateur

Last year the 36-hole final of the CDGA Amateur was played on a different course than all the previous matches because the opportunity to play Medinah No. 3 was deemed too good an opportunity to pass up. September’s Ryder Cup venue produced a stirring climax to the historic championship, Bloomington’s Kyle English outlasting El Paso’s Andy Mickelson over 37 holes.

This year the tourney is making another unusual change for its 93rd staging at Cantigny in Wheaton. Departing from its traditional Monday-Thursday scheduling for the second straight year, the event will start next Tuesday and there will be another refinement with the 36-hole stroke play qualifying will be spread over two days. Match play for the 16 finalists will start next Wednesday afternoon – shortly after the second stroke play qualifying round.

As was the case last year, the scheduling change was made because outings were previously scheduled at Cantigny, the first public facility to host the CDGA Amateur since Pine Meadow, in Mundelein, co-hosted with Medinah in 1991. English and Mickelson are both entered, with English hoping to become the first repeat winner since Joe Affrunti in 2000 and 2001.

Here and there

Luke Donald’s fourth annual Taste of the First Tee fundraiser will be held Wednesday (JUNE 20) at Northern Trust’s headquarters in Chicago. PGA Tour stars Steve Stricker and Mark Wilson will also participate…..The Bears beat the Packers 10-2 in Monday’s Rivalry Cup at Medinah’s No. 3 layout…..Chalet, in Cary, and Chapel Hill, in McHenry, have been added to GolfVisions’ Player Pass program….Crane’s Landing, in Lincolnshire, and Willow Crest, in Oak Brook, are among the courses joining in the Fairways-Fore-Freedom program initiated by Marriott Golf to provide active, reserve and retired military personnel with both free and discounted golf opportunities….The Chicago qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Public Links tourney is at Oak Grove, in Harvard, on Wednesday…..Deerpath, in Lake Forest, will host the Illinois PGA Junior boys and girls championships Wednesday and Thursday (JUNE 20-21).