Play in next week’s Illinois PGA Championship won’t resemble the birdie blitz that was witnessed by visitors to the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship at Medinah last week, but this IPGA has been conducting the event since 1922 and the golf is plenty good.
Since 2001 the IPGA Championship has been dominated by University of Illinois coach Mike Small, who has won the event 12 times. Small won the Illinois PGA Senior Championship for the third straight year last week by a nine-stroke margin at Merit Club in Libertyville, but he’s had trouble getting into PGA Tour Champions events this year and has had – for him – a quiet season.
Several factors suggest the 54-hole IPGA tourney could be in for a changing of the guard this year. Small didn’t win the event the last two years and had a sub-par Illinois Open, tying for 40th place. Add to that the fact that the IPGA Championship will be played at a new site, Ruth Lake in Hinsdale beginning on Monday. (AUGUST 26)
Ruth Lake is replacing Olympia Fields’ South in the three-course rotation used for the IPGA Championship. The switch doesn’t help Small. He’s an Olympia honorary member and won three of his IPGA titles there. Ruth Lake, home base of immediate past IPGA president Mark Labiak, doesn’t have the same tournament history but it’s been used for smaller IPGA events and U.S. Golf Association qualifiers.
While Dakun Chang, of Twin Orchard in Long Grove, is the defending champion, the player to watch next week could be Frank Hohenadel. The head professional at Mistwood, in Romeoville, finished a solid third in the Illinois Open – an event in which the state’s club professionals have had only limited success in recent years.
Hohenadel has an historic win in the IPGA Championship. In 2011 he snapped Small’s eight tournament winning streak on Medinah’s No. 1 course.
“That was eight years ago now, and it feels longer to me,’’ said Hohenadel, who was encouraged by his strong showing in the Illinois Open. That tourney was played earlier this month at usual site The Glen Club, in Glenview, and Chicago’s Ridgemoor, which was used as the alternate site for the finals.
“I’d never contended in the Illinois Open, and it felt awesome,’’ he said. “I had been having trouble playing in it. I had no luck . I played too safe to compete.’’
Hohenadel’s colleagues – particularly those on the teaching staff at Mistwood – urged him to use his driver more often.
“I’d been hearing it from everybody that `You’ve just got to hit it if you want to compete with these guys.’ ‘’ said Hohenadel. “I’ve become a little more confident with it and getting rid of the demons from the past.’’
Slowly Hohenadel became a believer. The driver came out much more at the Illinois Open.
“I used to be the longest hitter by far,’’ he said. “Now I’m in the middle of the pack. I’m getting outdriven by kids 15 years younger than me.’’
If his good play continues at Ruth Lake Hohenadel will be in the hunt for IPGA Player of the Year honors and could also earn a spot in the Professional Players National Championship. The IPGA Championship doubles as a qualifier for the club pros’ national tournament.
Hohenadel is second, behind Skokie director of instruction Garrett Chaussard, in the Player of the Year race with only one major event remaining after the IPGA Championship. Chaussard won the IPGA Match Play title in May. Hohenadel was the best section pro at the Illinois Open. The final major is the IPGA Players Championship at Eagle Ridge, in Galena, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.
Here and there
Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim is in position to earn his PGA Tour card after the first of three Korn Ferry Tour Playoff events. He tied for 23rd in the first one on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. The top 25 at the end of the series get PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season. This week’s playoff event is the Albertson’s Boise Open, and the series concludes with the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National in Indiana.
Three Illinois players are in the field for the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, on Aug. 24-29 at Cedar Rapids Country Club in Iowa. fMaureen Sheehan of Grayslake, Hui Chong Doffelemyer of Belvisdere and Jessica Lederhausen of Chicago survived a qualifying session at the Glenview Park course. The Illinois State Senior Women’s Amateur is Sept. 10-12 at Bolinbrook Golf Club.
The 27th Illinois State Mid-Amateur ends Wednesday at Stonebridge, in Aurora.