Return at Harbour Town could provide a big boost for Donald

This could be a big week for those who follow the Northwestern golf program.  Three former Wildcats’ stars return from a week off during the Masters to take on potential career-changing challenges.

Luke Donald, the greatest player in NU in NU history, will be on the comeback trail at a course that has been good to him in the past and David Lipsky and Dylan  Wu – stars of recent vintage – will be back on the Korn Ferry Tour with  PGA Tour cards hanging in the balance.

Donald, now 43, was the world’s No. 1-ranked player for 55 weeks in 2011 and 2012. Beset by long-time  back problems, he’s now ranked No. 577 after missing nine straight cuts on the PGA Tour but he remains hopeful.  Donald will be in the field at this week’s RBC Heritage Classic, which tees off on Thursday in Hilton Head, S.C., and he also figures to get a start in the Valspar Championship later this month.

If Donald is to regain prominence on the PGA circuit, April could be a key month. He has a great history at both the Heritage and Valspar events, and they could be a springboard in his comeback plans.

Donald never won the Heritage, but he finished second  three times and third twice on the Harbour Town Links course.  His last of 16 second-place finishes on the PGA Tour came at the Heritage in 2017.

His last PGA Tour victory came in 2012 at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course, the site of the Valspar Championship in two weeks. The event was called the Transitions Championship when Donald won there.

The last staging of the Valspar was at Innisbrook in 2019, when Donald finished in a tie for ninth. He seemed on the way back to regaining his top form then, but it didn’t happen and the Valspar was canceled in 2020 due to pandemic issues.

Born in England and now a long-time resident of  Jupiter, FL., Donald has  over $36 million in career tournament winnings since his graduation from NU in 2001.  He played on four European Ryder Cup teams and in 2011 became the first player to win money titles on both the U.S. and European PGA tours. He has remained close to NU and the Chicago golf community through his many charitable efforts.

In addition to Donald the other two Chicago-connect PGA Tour players —  Kevin Streelman and Doug Ghim – will return to action in the Heritage after sitting out Masters week.

UP-AND-COMING: On the Korn Ferry front, neither Lipsky nor Wu has approached the success that Donald did in his 18-year pro career after leaving Northwestern but they appear on the brink of making it to the PGA circuit. The Korn Ferry  sends its Top 25 to the PGA Tour at the end of the season and Lipsky is No. 8 and Wu No. 20 going into this week’s MGM Resorts Championship in Las Vegas.

Lipsky, 32, was a 2011 NU graduate and Wu, 24, finished up in Evanston in 2018. Lipsky had a shot at winning the last tourney on the Korn Ferry circuit two weeks ago but lost in a playoff to Germany’s Stephan Jaeger.  Wu has had two runner-up finishes on the PGA’s developmental circuit.  They have 16 tournaments left before The Top 25 is determined.

HERE AND THERE: The Golfers on Golf Radio Show begins its 31st season on Saturday  in a new  time slot – 4 p.m. –on WCPT (820-AM).  Rory Spears, Ed Stevenson and Bill Berger return as the hosts….After two seasons at Illinois Noah Gillard has transferred to Indiana.  From Greenwood Ind., Gillard won the Indiana Amateur and Indiana Amateur Match Play titles in 2020….Mistwood, in Romeoville, will host its Pick Your Pin Scramble on Saturday and will also be the site of the Illinois PGA’s first in-state event of the year, the Pro-Pro-Pro Scramble on Monday, April 19….The popular Friday Night Fish Fry at White Deer Run, in Vernon Hills, will continue through April and May…..Entries are already closed for the first two events on the Chicago District Golf Association schedule, qualifiers for the CDGA Mid- Amateur Championship on April 26 at Maple Meadows, in Wood Dale, and April 28 at Palatine Hills….As for now the June 11-13 Arnold Palmer Cup, an international team event coming to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, will be closed to the public because of pandemic concerns.