The future of the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship may be in doubt, but one thing is certain. The $600,000 event, teeing off at Ivanhoe Club on Thursday, has the loyalty of the best local players.
This year’s event marks the professional debut of Northbrook’s Nick Hardy and tourney director Scott Cassin also awarded sponsor exemptions to Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly, Deerfield’s Vince India, Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Libertyville’s Michael Schachner.
Hardy won’t be alone among the University of Illinois alums in the field. Scott Langley, the NCAA individual champion for the Illini in 2011, is challenging Korean Sungjae Im for the Web.com money lead, and Langley is hot. He finished tied for second behind winner Joey Garber in last week’s Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C., and another former Illini, Brian Campbell, tied for fourth.
Im, Garber and Campbell are also in the Rust-Oleum field as players continue their battle to finish in the Top 25 on the season money list, which means promotion to the PGA Tour in 2019.
Also a factor in the Top 25 drama is Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, a former champion of both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open. Hopfinger stands No. 38 on the money list and a good finish at Ivanhoe would propel him into Top 25 range.
“What makes this tournament so compelling is the high level of competition due to the stakes being so high,’’ said Cassin. “And there’s no doubt that many of the players in the field will be competing next year on the PGA Tour.’’
Some already have. The rest of the field includes Elmhurst’s Mark Wilson, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour; former Masters champion Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel, a past winner of the PGA Championship. The Web.com Tour isn’t just for the kids, however. Seasoned veterans Stuart Appleby, Erik Compton, Brendon deJonge, Jason Gore and Dicky Pride will also compete at Ivanhoe.
Monday’s two qualifying sessions, at Stonewall Orchard in Gurnee and White Deer Run in Vernon Hills, didn’t bring out the best in local talent, however. None were included among the six qualifiers for the tourney proper from each site. Highlighting the qualifying sessions was an 8-under-par 64 by Bo Andrews, a Raleigh resident, at Stonewall.
Also surviving among the 163 entrants in the general qualifiers was Dan Woltman of Beaver Dam, Wis. Woltman also made the field through general qualifying in 2016 – the tourney’s first playing at Ivanhoe – and shared the lead through 54 holes before finishing fourth.
This week’s 72-hole test, which concludes on Sunday, ends Rust-Oleum’s three-year contract to host the event at Ivanhoe.
Lumsden, Meyer reach U.S. Open
College stars Ryan Lumsden of Northwestern and Dylan Meyer of Illinois were among those surviving Monday’s sectional qualifying rounds for next week’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in New York.
Lumsden made birdie on the last hole of the Columbus sectional to get his berth at Shinnecock. Meyer finished second in the Springfield, Ohio, sectional.
The Open started with 8,537 entrants, and 156 will tee off at Shinnecock. Meyer will be joined by Illini alum and PGA Tour Champions star Steve Stricker, who tied for second in the Memphis sectional. Lumsden is the ninth Northwestern golfer in the last 20 years to qualify for the U.S. Open and the fourth to do it while still an amateur.
Wheaton’s PGA Tour mainstay Kevin Streelman opened with a 66 in the first round of the 36-hole competition at Columbus but had his Open hopes dashed with a 73 in the afternoon. He finished one shot behind Lumsden.
KPMG countdown begins
The biggest tournament of this Chicago golf season, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, will follow the Rust-Oleum Championship with its June 26 to July 1 run at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer. It’s the third of the five annual major championships on the LPGA Tour.
Canadian Brooke Henderson, who won the KPMG event in 2016 and was runner-up to Danielle Kang last year at Olympia Fields, was a late withdrawal from last week’s U.S. Women’s Open in Alabama. No reason for the WD was provided at the time but Henderson has since revealed that her grandfather, 81-year old Bob Moir, had passed away after a brief battle with caner.
Here and there
Roy Biancalana, a former Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open champion who played briefly on the PGA Tour, recently returned to the Chicago golf scene and proved he can still compete. Now living in St. Charles, Biancalana qualified for the U.S. Senior Open by shooting a 3-under-par 69 in the Chicago qualifying round at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.
The 57th Radix Cup matches between the top players in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Association will be staged next Wednesday, June 13, at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.
First of the season’s Western Golf Assocation tournaments is the 101st Western Junior. It tees off on June 18 at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie with Californian William Mouw attempting to become the first repeat winner of the nation’s oldest national junior championship since Ben Downing in 1940-41. Mouw won last year at Park Ridge Country Club.