PGA Tour Champions, the circuit for the men stars who have reached their 50th birthdays, have two of their five major tournaments in easy reach of Chicago this year. The first, though, might not quite feel like a major.
Bernhard Langer, who has dominated the circuit for years and won all five of those majors at least once, won’t be in the field when the 79th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship returns to Harbor Shores in Battle Creek, Mich., on Thursday.
Langer completed his sweep of the Champions’ majors last year when he won the Senior PGA at Trump National in Virginia. He had previously included the Regions Tradition, U.S. Senior Open, Constellation Senior Players Championship and British Senior Open among his 37 wins on the Champions Tour.
“I usually defend my titles but I want to support my son Jason, who is graduating form high school,’’ said Langer, who attended Harbor Shores’ media preview even though he knew he wouldn’t be playing in the 72-hole tournament. “I would love to be at Harbor Shores, but family comes first. Obviously majors are the most important tournaments, and I wouldn’t miss this one if it weren’t for my son.’’
First of the PGA Tour Champions majors was last week’s Regions Tradition in Alabama. Langer couldn’t defend his title there, finishing in 11th place behind champion Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Langer had an unusually slow start (for him) this season. He needed eight tournaments to get his first victory at the Insperity Invitational in Texas, but he had three second-place finishes prior to that. He’ll be in the field for the third and fourth Champions’ majors. The U.S. Senior Open and Constellation Senior Players Championship at Exmoor, in Highland Park, are back-to-back in July.
Both the Illinois and Northwestern men finished in the top five of last week’s Columbus regional and will be in the 30-team field for the NCAA Championships, which tee off on Friday at Karsten Creek in Oklahoma. The Illini were second and the Wildcats fourth at Columbus.
The women’s tournament concluded their season by losing 3-2 to Stanford in the quarterfinals. Northwestern qualified for match play for the second straight year on Monday, getting through the 72-hole stroke play portion of the championship in fourth place.
Last year coach Emily Fletcher’s NU team was the national runner-up, losing to Arizona State in the final match at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. This year’s team, with four returning players from last year’s squad, wasn’t as strong until the finals at Karsten Creek. Then Hannah Kim, a mainstay for four seasons but not quite as sharp as a senior, cemented herself as the best player in program history. She tied for 13th as an individual after playing the last 40 holes in 40-under-par.
The Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the women’s championship match plus next week’s individual finals and all three days of match play of the men’s event.
Ghim wins Hogan award
Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top collegiate golfer. The University of Texas senior was the low amateur at the Masters in April and will lead the Longhorns into the men’s NCAA finals. They won the Raleigh Regional with Ghim the top individual.
Weir joins Ivanhoe field
The Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship will have a former Masters champion in the field. Mike Weir, the Canadian left-handed player who won at Augusta in 2003, will compete on the PGA Tour’s alternate circuit at Ivanhoe Club from June 4-10.
Weir, 48, has $28 million in earnings and eight victories on the PGA Tour. He was awarded a place at Ivanhoe through a special eligibility category reserved for PGA Tour veterans in the 48 to 49 age group who are preparing for PGA Tour Champions. Weir’s parents are former Crystal Lake residents.
His play on the PGA Tour has been limited the last three years. He played in four tournaments on the main circuit this year off a major medical extension and had three missed cuts and a tie for 73rd place.
Format change for Women’s Western Amateur
The Women’s Western Amateur, a national championship that’s been played for 117 years, will undergo a format change when it’s held June 26-30 at Mistwood in Romeoville.
The tournament will be limited to 120 players, based on the lowest handicap index. Last year the field was limited to 144 players. As per previous years there’ll be a 36-hole qualifying session spread over two days to determine the match play qualifiers. In previous years the low 64 qualifiers went to match play. This year the number will be only 32, and there will be playoffs if there are ties for the 32nd position.
In previous years the players who didn’t qualify for the championship flight of match play were be flighted into lower level flights. This year there will be only the one flight.