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Len Ziehm On Golf

JDC is in the spotlight thanks to Stricker’s four-peat bid

By far the biggest month of the golf season in the Midwest begins in just a few days. July offers the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin and the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities , followed by the two state opens for Illinois golfers and the start of the Western Amateur at Exmoor in Highland Park.

None is bigger than the John Deere Classic, which spotlights Steve Stricker’s bid to become the fourth PGA Tour player to win a tournament four straight years. Only Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and Tiger Woods have done that – and Woods did it twice.

Stricker won’t be the whole show in the PGA Tour’s only Illinois top in 2012, however. JDC director Clair Peterson’s latest entry report showed that the customary dates the week before the British Open won’t hurt his field in the least.

Forty players who competed in the U.S. Open will tee off at TPC at Deere Run on July 12 and at least 20 qualifiers for the British will have their final tuneup for the year’s third major championship there before jumping on the jet that Peterson has chartered the last five years to get players directly to British site Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

Stars from the U.S. Open coming to the Quad Cities include Michael Thompson, who tied for second; Kevin Chappel and John Senden, who tied for 10th; and Jordan Spieth, who was low amateur at the Olympic Club.

In addition the JDC field includes the winners of eight PGA Tour stops this year and 24 from the last two seasons.

“We’re very excited with how the field is shaping up,’’ said Peterson. “Our fans are guaranteed to see not only players who are stars of the future; they’ll also see players who have proven themselves on golf’s greatest stages.’’

Women in waiting

The U.S. Women’s Open, which tees off on July 5, might have two players with Chicago connections in its starting field.

Notre Dame sophomore Ashley Armstrong, from Flossmoor, is first alternate out of the sectional qualifier in St. Louis, and Aimee Neff, the Michigan State alum who won the Illinois Women’s Open in 2008 and 2009, is first alternate from Chicago’s sectional, which was played at Big Foot in Fontana, Wis. They were among a record 1,364 entries, which included players from 47 states and 44 other countries.

The U.S. Golf Assn. doesn’t reveal the order of advancement for alternates of sectional qualifying rounds. Both Armstrong and Neff might have to wait until the first day of competition before knowing if they’re in the field.

A battle to end all battles

The Chicago-based Women’s Western Golf Assn. had a match for the record books at its 112th Amateur championship last week in Monroe, Mich. Mary Michael Maggio and Asia Adell went 13 extra holes in the Round of 16. The longest matches in the U.S. Golf Assn. records were nine extra holes in women’s championships and 10 in men’s.

The Women’s Western Amateur final was memorable, too – a battle of sisters in which Ariya Jutanugarn beat Moryia 2 and 1. Ariya won the U.S. Girls Junior crown at Olympia Fields last year.

Here and there

The match play portion of the 93rd Chicago District Amateur runs through Friday at Cantigny in Wheaton. ….Pam Tyska has retired after coaching Northern Illinois’ women’s team for 26 seasons…..Fourteen Illinois PGA members are in the Professional Players National Championship, which concludes today in California….Northwestern’s Eric Chun was given honorable mention All-America status after ending his senior season with a 71.38 stroke average. That’s fifth-best in NU history behind three of Luke Donald’s seasons in Evanston and one by Jess Daley in 2000….Illinois had NCAA champion Thomas Pieters on the All-American first team and Luke Guthrie on the second team. Guthrie, is the fourth Illini players to be selected multiple times, behind Stricker (1987-89), James Lepp (2002-03) and Scott Langley (2009-11)….Last of the seven qualifiers for the July 16-18 Illinois Open is Thursday at downstate Effingham Country Club.…Adam Wood of Zionsville, Ind., won the first of the Western Golf Association’s three championships of 2012. He took the Western Junior by four shots at Country Club of Florida last week…. Oakley has joined sponsors for the Illinois Open and will also be presenting sponsor of the Aug. 20 stroke play event at Schaumburg and the Nov. 3-7 pro-am at Georgia’s Reynolds Plantation resort.