New schedule salvages Illinois PGA’s four major tournaments

The Illinois PGA had planned to open its tournament season in March, but it still has yet to hold a competitive event. Twelve have been canceled and another nine postponed, and the state’s club professionals won’t have a competitive event until July 6.

Give the IPGA credit, though. The Section has – barring sudden changes in anticipated governmental restrictions imposed by pandemic concerns – salvaged its biggest annual events.

This is in sharp contrast to the Chicago District Golf Association, which had to scrap its two oldest and most prestigious events – the Illinois State Amateur and Chicago District Amateur – when those same governmental restrictions made their annual stagings unrealistic.

The IPGA took a different approach, particularly regarding its Match Play, Illinois Open, Section Championship and Players Championship. The first was postponed and has been rescheduled, the second restructured and downsized and the fourth received a major format change. All, though, are expected to be played before this season is over following a series of organizational meetings involving section members and staffers and host club personnel.

“It was important for us to keep our majors this year,’’ said IPGA executive director Carrie Williams. “It was a super collaborative effort working with our professionals and their facilities. We appreciate the flexibility they showed in working with us to schedule these events.’’

Brad Slocum, assistant executive director of operations, oversees the IPGA tournaments. He’s expected to announce the full schedule for the section’s four majors this week. Only a site for the IPGA Match Play Championship is in doubt. It had May dates at Kemper Lakes, in Kildeer, but the pandemic ruled out playing at that time.

Kemper, one of Chicago’s main tournament venues, hosted the IPGA Section Championship for 24 straight years before becoming the home venue for the Match Play. This year, amidst all the rescheduling of tournament and social events, the site is not available Sept. 14-17, the rescheduled dates for the tournament. Williams expects the Match Play will return to Kemper in 2021.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Open – the section’s biggest event — retained its Aug. 3-5 dates at White Eagle in Naperville but the field for the finals was reduced from 264 to 156 players and the state-wide qualify tournaments cut from eight to four. Two sites had been used for the finals in recent years. This time, though, White Eagle will host all 54 holes and the alternate site, Stonebridge in Aurora, will wait its turn in future years.

The Illinois PGA Championship won’t change at all. It remains Aug. 24-26 on Medinah’s No. 1 course but a major change is planned for the fourth and final of the section majors. The Players Championship, generally played at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena in recent years, will be played at an always tournament-ready layout – Conway Farms in Lake Forest – on Oct. 5-6.

The 36-hole season-ending event will become a 35-player invitational this year for the top players on the section’s Bernardi point standings. That’ll provide a more dramatic conclusion to the IPGA season than was created in the past.

Despite all the scheduling adjustments made by other pro tours and golf organizations, the IPGA’s Open series will go on virtually as originally planned. The Illinois Open will wrap up on the originally announced dates at White Eagle. The Super Senior Open remains on tap for Sept. 1-2 at Pine Meadow in Mundelein and the IPGA Senior Open is still at Royal Fox, in St. Charles, from Sept. 28-29.

The other section majors at the Assistants Championship, July 13 at Cress Creek in Naperville, the Senior Championship Aug. 10-11 at Merit Club in Libertyvile, the Senior Match Play Sept. 21-23 at Biltmore, in Barrington; and the Senior Players Oct. 12-13 at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove.

First of the Illinois Open qualifiers is July 14 at Flossmoor Country Club.

All was not salvaged on the IPGA calendar, however. Two team events, the Radix Cup and Thompson Cup, were canceled. So was the Drive, Chip & Putt and PGA Junior League playoffs. Still on the docket among the non-tournament attractions are the Birdies for Charity event Sept 8 at River Forest Country Club, in Elmhurst; and the Ryne Sandberg IPGA Foundation Pro-Am Oct. 1 at Onwentsia in Lake Forest.