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Len Ziehm On Golf

Mistwood’s Mickelson a surprise winner in PGA Assistants tourney

There’s been a lot to celebrate at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville during these dwindling days of the Chicago golf season. First, one of its professionals — Brian Brodell — was named Illinois PGA Player of the Year last month while the club was preparing for the long-awaited opening of its new clubhouse.

Brodell beat out Jim Billiter, of Libertyville’s Merit Club, who won two of the IPGA’s four major titles. Billiter won the IPGA Match Play and IPGA Championship but didn’t play in the other two, the Illinois Open and IPGA Players Championship. Brodell didn’t win any of the majors, but still amassed enough points to edge Billiter in the Player of the Year race.

An even more surprising development happened over the weekend, however, when another member of Mistwood’s teaching staff — Andy Mickelson — captured the 39th National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

Mickelson, 34, had long struggled with the decision on whether or not to turn professional after finishing as runner-up in the 2011 Chicago District Amateur at Medinah.

After working as an apprentice at Mistwood Mickelson spent time on the Hooters Tour while working for a Lisle packaging company specializing in supply chain management. Then Mistwood invited him to return.

“I was working in a cubicle when I got the call,’’ said Mickelson. “This is what I am. I love the game of golf.’’

He especially enjoyed it last week when he posted a 16-under-par 272 score for 72 holes to post a two-stroke victory against assistant club professionals from around the country. Mickelson was only sixth in the Illinois PGA Assistants player-of-the-year race behind winner Brian Carroll of Royal Hawk in St. Charles and he didn’t have high hopes for a good showing in the national tournament.

“I just wanted to make it to the weekend (qualify for the final 36 holes),’’ said Mickelson. “That was my goal. I had a good year in our (Illinois) Section, but there was no way I saw myself winning. No way was I going to go 16-under for four days. I have not played a big four-round tournament in nearly 10 years.’’

Competing in the event for the first time Mickelson took charge with a second round 65 and was at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the second, third and fourth rounds. The win earned him $9,000 and a spot in next year’s PGA Professionals Championship.

“It was the biggest win I ever had,’’ said Mickelson. “It is just surreal. I am having trouble fathoming it, to be honest. All week I was in the mindset of shot-to-shot. I didn’t get ahead of myself. I just kept my head down.’’

NOTES: The Chicago area will have at least one less golf course in 2016. The City of Aurora closed its Fox Valley course on Sunday and won’t re-open it next year. Fox Valley was in operation for over 40 years.

University of Illinois sophomore Nick Hardy earned Player of the Year honors in the Chicago District Golf Assn. while Taylorville’s Dave Ryan was again the CDGA Senior Player of the Year.

The John Deere Classic, Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event, reported a record $8,734,000 was raised for 488 Quad City charities from this July’s tournament. That amount was a stunning $2.4 million more than was raised at last year’s JDC Classic.

Ivanhoe’s Jim Sobb, an inductee into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame last month, was named the Illinois PGA Senior Player of the Year for the sixth time in the last 10 years.