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Len Ziehm On Golf

Olympia satisfies LPGA’s desire to play courses that have hosted men’s events

The tournament now known as the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is the second oldest event on the LPGA Tour, right behind the U.S. Women’s Open, but this week’s staging at Olympia Fields will mark the first time the tournament has been played in the Chicago area.

Olympia Fields will host the second of the five annual majors on the women’s tour. It was first played in 1955 as the LPGA Championship and took on its present name three years ago after an unprecedented collaboration with the PGA of America.

The site is critical in this arrangement, as the LPGA wanted more events on famous courses used for men’s tournaments. The first KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was played at Westchester, in New York, in 2015. Westchester was a frequent PGA Tour site from 1963-2007, then hosted the Senior Players Championship in 2011.

Sahalee, in Washington, hosted last year. It was the PGA Championship venue in 1998 and welcomed the U.S. Senior Open in 2010. Olympia Fields has a more impressive resume than both Westchester and Sahalee, having hosted U.S. Opens in 1928 and 2003 PGA Championships in 1925 and 1961, the 1997 U.S. Senior Open and five Western Opens.

“It’s a big deal for us to be here, and that was one of the stipulations we gave KPMG,’’ said LPGA star Stacy Lewis. “The history of the men playing here and, more specifically, the fact that the women have never played here. We need to be on golf courses we have historically not played in the past. That’s what the PGA has helped us to do.’’

The tournament will be played next year at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, which hosted the 1989 PGA Championship, and the 2019 version is scheduled for Hazeltine, the Minnesota course that has hosted multiple big events, most recently last year’s Ryder Cup.

All of the top 100 on the LPGA Tour money list are among the 156 players who will tee off at Olympia Fields on Thursday. That group includes 26 winners of major championships and those 26 have combined to win 53 majors.

The first major for the women this year was the ANA Inspiration, formerly the Dinah Shore tourney, played in March in California. It was won by South Korean So Yeon Ryu, who claimed the No. 1 spot in the women’s Rolex Rankings this week after her victory in the LPGA’s Northwest Arkansas Classic on Sunday.

After the tourney at Olympia is over the LPGA stars have three other majors – the U.S.Women’s Open, Ricoh British Open and Evian Championship.

Six locals in U.S. Senior Open

Chicago-based Champions Tour veteran Jeff Sluman isn’t the only local player in this week’s U.S. Senior Open – and not by a long shot. Six qualified for the 72-hole test that tees off on Thursday at Salem Country Club in Massachusetts. That’s the tourney biggest local contingent of qualifiers in years.

Mike Small, the Illinois men’s coach, comes in on a roll. He tied for third in the Professional Players National Championship in Oregon and followed with a tie for 20th in the Champions’ American Family Insurance Championship in Wisconsin on Sunday. By virtue of his top-20 finish in the PPNC Small will again play in August’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

Also in the Senior Open field are club professionals Danny Mulhearn of Glen Oak and Doug Bauman of Biltmore and teaching pro Jim Buenzli.

Here and there

Nancy Scranton, who came out of downstate Centralia to become one of the few Illinois players to make it to the LPGA Tour, and Sandra Palmer, a former U.S. Women’s Open champion, were selected for induction into The LPGA Legends Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be July 8 at French Lick, Ind.

It was an all-Kelly final in last week’s Illinois Women’s State Amateur at Pine Meadow in Mundelein. Kelly Sterling of Mokena defeated Kelly Anderson of Wheaton in the championship flight’s title match.

Next month’s John Deere Classic, the PGA Tour stop in the Quad Cities, landed two big names this week. Bubba Watson and Davis Love III will compete at TPC Deere Run.

William Mouw, a 16-year old Californian, was a wire-to-wire winner of the 100th Western Junior Championship last week at Park Ridge Country Club. His 14-under-par score for 72 holes enabled Mouw to win by eight strokes and match Hunter Mahan’s tournament record score, posted in 1999.