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Len Ziehm On Golf

Newly-opened Medinah No. 1 might be more popular than No. 3 layout

Medinah Country Club has seen it all in its 90 years of existence – three U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, three Western Opens, the last Ryder Cup in September of 2012.

Virtually all the big events were held on Medinah’s No. 3 course, and that eventually became a problem. The demands for member and guest play made No. 3 so busy that getting a tee time became difficult. Now that problem’s solved. Last week Medinah re-opened its No. 1 course, and the membership believes it’s good enough to take play from No. 3.

“We love it,’’ said club president Matt Lydon. “This provides us with two distinct golf courses that have the quality to be top-ranted. Course One is no longer in the shadow of Course Three.’’

Medinah membership addressed the issue before the Ryder Cup, hiring Michigan architect Tom Doak to supervise a $6.5 million restoration of No. 1. All three of the club’s courses were built in the 1920s, but No. 3 received virtually all the attention after that. It was renovated several times in preparation for the big tournaments as well as to deal with flooding issues.

Flooding was also addressed when work started on the No. 1 course 13 hours after the Ryder Cup ended on No. 3, but the project turned into much more than that.

“We did know we had to do something about water retention,’’ said Lydon. “Engineers were brought in to tell us what we needed to do to solve the flooding problem. What they told us was that we needed to expand water retention areas in certain spots. Those spots interfered with the routing of the golf course.’’

The end result was that Doak had to change the routing, create six new holes and make alterations to the other 12. That made Medinah No. 1 Doak’s first course in Illinois. His work has been well-received in a variety of other places.

“He did a magnificent job,’’ said Lydon. “He retained the best of the old holes and the new ones he put in are exciting. We won’t have trouble attracting guest play because our members are excited. We’ve found that people who have played No. 3 want to play No. 1, which is more playable for our members. Those courses require different skill sets.’’

Lydon said the club has had “loose discussions’’ about Medinah hosting “a tournament that would involve Nos. 1 and 3 – an amateur event.’’ Though he wouldn’t confirm it, that event sounds exactly like the U.S. Amateur, which will be played at Olympia Fields in 2015. The size of the field (312 players) requires two courses, but that wasn’t a factor in the upgrading of No. 1.

“The real reason was that we wanted our members to have an alternative to No. 3, which can be a brutal test,’’ said Lydon.

Work isn’t over at Medinah, either. The No. 2 course, generally used for women and youth play, is due for a restoration next year. Like the others, it was designed by Tom Bendelow, by far the most active designer in the early years of American golf. Both Nos. 1 and 3 were updated by other architects over the years, but not No. 2.

“It’s an untouched Bendelow design,’’ said Lydon. “Our plans are to restore the original contours of the greens, restore the bunkers, level the tees, improve the fairways and restore it to what it originally was.’’

Rees Jones, the architect who handled the last of the No. 3 renovations, has provided the club with some design work already for No. 2. “But this isn’t a re-design,’’ said Lydon. “It’s a restoration.’’

Here and there

Three of the players in Champions Tour’s Encompass Championship at North Shore – John Inman, Tom Byrum and Jose Coceres — survived Monday’s U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Village Links of Glen Ellyn. So did Oak Lawn’s Lance Ten Broeck, the former PGA Tour player and long-time caddie on that circuit. Medalist was Wesley Short of Austin, Tex., with a 6-under-par 66.

The 95th Chicago District Amateur runs through Thursday at Hinsdale Golf Club. The championship match is over 36 holes on the final day.

Northbrook’s Vince India had a breakthrough round on the Web.com Tour on Sunday, shooting a 64 to claim his best finish (tie for 17th) and biggest paycheck ($9,000) in his rookie season on the developmental circuit.

Three University of Illinois golfers – Brian Campbell, Thomas Detry and Charlie Danielson – were accorded All-America status, the first time the Illini have had three so honored since Luke Guthrie, Scott Langley and Chris DeForest were selected in 2011.