This week the world golf spotlight in on Gleneagles in Scotland, where the 40th Ryder Cup matches begin on Friday. Don Larson, who was chairman of the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah, headed overseas to witness how things unfold this time, but he’ll never forget that epic week at Medinah in September of 2012.
“Now it’s like going to someone else’s wedding,’’ said Larson, who was also the chairman of the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and a leader in that tournament’s staging there in 2006.
All those big events were exciting, but none more so than the Ryder Cup.
“I can’t believe ours was two years ago,’’ said Larson. “It was a lifetime event for a lot of people. One thing is for certain: that tournament will be remembered for a long time.’’
Medinah has changed a bit since the European team’s gigantic rally in the singles matches on the final day deflated a U.S. team in dramatic fashion. Renovation work began on Medinah’s No. 1 course 13 hours after the last putt dropped on the No. 3 layout to conclude the Ryder Cup.
The next day director of golf Mike Scully resigned from Medinah to take a similar job at Desert Mountain in Arizona. Medinah’s membership has undergone minimal changes since the Ryder Cup, and the club has a few openings for new ones. Since the Ryder Cup is the biggest event in golf, it’s highly unlikely Medinah will ever host a bigger event and it figures to be quite awhile before any major event comes there.
“We’ve talked with both the USGA (U.S. Golf Assn.) and PGA (of America),’’ said Larson, “but they’re locked up way in advance now. A lot of clubs want to host tournaments, and the USGA and PGA can have their pick of locations now. We’ll have to see what’s offered us.’’
Medinah is one of only five clubs that have hosted a U.S. Open, a PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. The U.S. Open came three times (1949, 1975, 1990) and the PGA twice (1999, 2006). The club is still attractive for select events and would probably be willing.
“They’re a big undertaking,’’ said Larson. “What sets us apart is our championship golf course, our location, a willing membership and our facility.’’
Not many clubs anywhere have the space and clubhouse that Medinah has, and those are necessities for golf’s biggest events. So, Medinah could well host a big one again.
“We’re definitely not an every year place (which would rule out a PGA Tour stop),’’ said Larson, “but an event every six-eight years years would work out.’’
In the meantime, the club members and their guests aren’t playing their famed No. 3 course as much as they once did. Tee times were hard to come by leading up to the Ryder Cup. To correct that the club hired Michigan architect Tom Doak to elevate the stature of its No. 1 layout, and he did a good job.
“People can walk out to play No. 3 now,’’ said Larson, “and the demand to play No. 1 is extreme. The newness will come off eventually, but its fun to play. It’s a great golf course, and people are really excited about it.’’
The Illinois PGA Player of the Year will likely be decided at the last of the second’s four major championships. The IPGA Players Championship will run Monday and Tuesday (SEPT 29-30) at Metamora Fields.
Curtis Malm, head professional at White Eagle in Naperville, owns a 14-point lead on Medinah assistant Travis Johns going in the Players event. Malm is seeking his third straight Player of the Year award.
Here and there
Matt Swan, formerly an assistant t Westmoreland in Wilmette, has been named the new head professional at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove.
The Illinois Super Senior Open concludes its two-day run on Wednesday at Pine Meadow in Mundelein.
Ed Whitaker, of downstate Tremont, won the Illinois State Senior Amateur last week at Royal Country Club of Long Grove. He had a four-stroke edge on Skoie’s Paul Hindsley.