Montgomerie goes for a three-peat in Senior PGA at Harbor Shores

As far as major championships go, this is a rare lean year in the Chicago area. Last year there was both the U.S. Amateur and the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship. The Amateur has come and gone and the BMW is taking a year away; it’ll be played at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in September before returning to Conway Farms, in Lake Forest, in 2017.

That leaves the 77th Senior PGA Championship, which begins its 72-hole run on Thursday at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. Roughly a two-hour drive away, it’s by far the closest major tournament on any of the pro tours to be played in the general vicinity of Chicago.

The Senior PGA was played at Harbor Shores in 2012 and 2014 and will return in 2018. Last year it was played on French Lick’s Pete Dye Course in Indiana.

This week’s tourney has by far the best storyline than any of those. Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie will be the focal point. He’s trying for a three-peat, something that hasn’t happened in the Senior PGA since Hale Irwin dominated from 1996-98.

“Three in a row would be something very special,’’ said Montgomerie during a recent visit to Harbor Shores, where he won his first major title of any sort in 2014. “That doesn’t happen very often in any sport.’’

Montgomerie was an established international star before joining the Champions Tour. He never lost a singles match in eight Ryder Cup appearances, but his career was also notable for lots of near-misses in the big events. He was second in five majors between 1994 and 2006.

He’s blossomed on the 50-and-over circuit, however. His first three wins were majors – the two Senior PGAs plus the 2014 U.S. Senior Open. The first of this year’s five Champions Tour majors was last week’s Regions Tradition. Montgomerie finished in a tie for 17th place as Bernhard Langer won the title.

Illinois Amateur champ in NCAA finals

Medinah’s Tee-k Kelly, an Ohio State senior who won two of the last three Illinois State Amateur titles, was medalist in the NCAA regional at Blackwolf Run, in Kohler, Wis., last week and advanced to the NCAA finals. They run Friday though Wednesday, June 1, at Eugene Country Club in Oregon.

Illinois also qualified as a team at Blackwolf. The Illini won their fourth straight regional title and will be making their ninth straight appearance in the finals, a streak topped only by the 10 in a row by Texas and Southern California.

Illinois coach Mike Small, still competitive as a player at the pro level, was also awarded a sponsor’s exemption to the Lincoln Land Charity Classic, a new Tour event to be played next month at Panther Creek in Springfield.

Here and there

Erica Shepherd, of Greenwood, Ind., and Ashleigh Simon, of South Africa, advanced to the U.S. Women’s Open finals at Monday’s sectional qualifying round at River Forest Country Club. Shepherd was medialist with a 3-under-par 142 over 36 holes, two strokes better than Simon. Sabrina Bohanno, of Norridge, and Dana Gattone, of Addison, were the top Chicago area players. They finished eight strokes back in a tie for 11th place.

Medinah Country Club hosts its Patriots Day event for the seventh time on Tuesday. Last year’s event raised about $300,000. This year’s has a full field on the recently renovated No. 1 course. The event, sold out since February, will feature 35 foursomes. Veterans will also be honored at Willow Crest. That course has invited veterans to play free after noon on Memorial Day with tee times required.

Kyle Nathan, of Exmoor in Highland Park, added the Chicago District Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur title to the Illinois Mid-Am he won four years. Nathan CDGA win in the second annual event came last week at Lake Shore, in Glencoe.

Ivanhoe Club is going to be a busy place. The club plays host to the Rust-Oleum Championship, Chicago’s new Com Tour stop, from June 6-12 and the next day it will host the College of Lake County Classic, a fundraiser for the school’s scholarship fund.

Libertyville Sports Complex will kick off its Lessons for Kids program on June 14. The five-day camps for boys and girls in the 4-6, 7-10 and 11-plus age groups will be directed by PGA professional Chris McConnell.

The Illinois PGA’s Senior Match Play Championship concludes on Wednesday at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff.