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Len Ziehm On Golf

Illinois’ two biggest tournaments are now back-to-back

The Chicago District Golf Assn. revamped its tournament schedule this year, and the biggest change comes this week when the men’s 83rd Illinois State Amateur tees off a month earlier than previous years.

It began a three-day 72-hole run at Aldeen, in Rockford, on Tuesday. After its conclusion on Thursday many of the same players will head for The Glen Club in Glenview, where the 64th Illinois Open tees off on Monday.

Both tourneys are steeped in history, and the back-to-back scheduling puts Glenview’s Quinn Prchal in the spotlight first. He was one of the youngest-ever winners in the State Amateur last year. Then 18, he took the title shortly after his graduation from Glenbrook South High School. He’ll try to defend after a successful freshman season at Princeton University, during which he was named the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year.

Prchal broke a string of five straight State Am titles for Big Ten golfers. This time he’ll try to become the first repeat champion since Todd Mitchell of Bloomington ruled in 2002-03. Mitchell, who is also in the field at Aldeen, is one of only three players to win back-to-back since the tournament went to a stroke play format in 1963. The other two – Bob Zender and D.A. Points – went on to become regulars on the PGA Tour.

The State Am has 137 starters, 114 of whom earned their spots at 10 state-wide qualifying rounds. Among the 23 players exempt from those was Aurora’s Bryce Emory, who won the CDGA Amateur and will try to become the fifth player to sweep the CDGA’s two premier titles in the same year. Those who accomplished that feat were Dave Huske (1963), Mike Milligan (1974), Dave Ogrin (1980) and Joel Hirsch (1988).

Prchal also entered the Illinois Open, but he won’t be in the spotlight at The Glen unless he wins at Aldeen. The player to watch in the Open is Illinois coach Mike Small, who will try again for a fifth title to tie Gary Pinns for the most wins in tourney history.

Small won for the last time in 2007 and was runner-up the next two years. Pinns won his last crown in 1990.

A record-tying win would be in keeping with the great year Small has enjoyed. In June he guided his Illini to a fifth straight Big Ten title and a runner-up finish in the NCAA championship. Then he tied for fourth in the Professional Players National Championship in Oregon, a feat that earned him another berth in August’s PGA Championship and a spot on the U.S. team for September’s PGA Cup matches against Europe in England.

In October Small, 47, will become the youngest inductee into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.

All of Small’s Illinois Open wins came at The Glen, which will host the tourney for a record eighth time next week. The tourney was played there from 2002-2007 and returned in 2012, when Chicago mini-tour player and Notre Dame graduate Max Scodro took the title in a five-hole playoff with 2010 winner Eric Meierdierks.

Meierdierks earned his PGA Tour card last fall and won’t return to this year’s Illinois Open where 156 players will tee off on Monday. The field, which includes a much more than usual 71 amateurs, will be cut to the low 50 and ties after Tuesday’s round. The survivors will play another 18 on Wednesday to decide the champion.

In the Illinois State Amateur the cut will come after Wednesday’s round, with the low 30 and ties or any player within 10 strokes of the lead going 36 holes on Thursday before the winner is crowned.

Did you know?

Bloomington’s Lauren English, runner-up in the recent Illinois Women’s Amateur, defeated Michigan’s Samantha Troyanovich, the reigning Illinois Women’s Open champion, in the round of 64 at last week’s Women’s Western Amateur in Dayton, Ohio. English was eliminated in the round of 32. Troyanovich will begin defense of her IWO title at Mistwood in Romeoville on July 31.

The Mount Prospect-based Bricton Group has taken over management of the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena. Texas-based Touchstone Golf will manage Eagle Ridge’s four courses.

The Encompass Championship, which brought the Champions Tour back to Chicago for the first time since 2002 last month, has announced June 16-22 dates for 2014. The event will return to North Shore in Glenview.