Streelman, International Crown create a buzz as Chicago season winds down

Chicago’s golf season may be in its final days as far as 2014 goes, but you wouldn’t know it by developments over the last few days.

On the PGA Tour Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman made a final-round charge in the Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open in Las Vegas on Sunday. Making five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, Streelman took over the lead before third round leader Ben Martin rallied to overtake him.

Streelman shot 65 in the final round but wound up as the runnerup, two strokes behind Martin, who posted a 20-under-par 266 to claim his first PGA Tour victory.

Before Streelman made his charge the PGA’s Champions Tour announced a change in leadership. Greg McLaughlin took over as president of the 50-and-over circuit, replacing Mike Stevens. McLaughlin was the long-time tournament director of the Western Open before directing the Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years.

The biggest news, though, was made on Sunday in Korea when the Ladies PGA Tour announced that Underwriters Laboratories will be the sponsor for its International Crown event.

UL, a premier global independent safety science company with a headquarters location in Northbrook, has been in operation since 1894 and has more than 11,000 employees world-wide. UL was an ambassador sponsor when the LPGA introduced its International Crown at Caves Valley in Owings Springs, Md., this season.

Jerry Rich, owner of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, was a leader in the creation of the global team competition that was won by Spain in its first staging. The second staging will be at Rich Harvest, with the dates of July 18-24, 2016, revealed when UL’s involvement was announced.

Rich had hoped the International Crown would be based at his course, but LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said the third playing in 2018 would be in Korea – a country that has produced a number of top players on the LPGA circuit in recent years.

In making the announcement Whan declared that “Big is coming to Chicago,’’ but said a staging in Korea was appropriate as well.

“The Republic of Korea has clearly demonstrated their support for the LPGA by hosting 18 different tournaments over the years with tremendous fan support,’’ Whan said. “It made perfect sense that the first time we take the International Crown out of the U.S. was to a country with so many dedicated fans who support women’s golf.’’

Rich’s private layout has become Chicago’s best tournament venue in recent years. The biggest event there so far was the 2009 Solheim Cup matches between the LPGA stars of the U.S. and Europe. The Western Amateur and Palmer Cup, a prestigious team competition for collegiate players, will be played at Rich Harvest in 2015 before the International Crown makes its appearance.

In addition to Chicago’s influences on the international golf scene, the Illinois PGA made its awards announcements for 2014. Heading the list was Medinah teaching professional Travis Johns, who was named the section’s player-of-the-year.

Johns earned the honor, based on season-long point standings, for the second time. He took it for the first time in 2010. In winning this season Johns snapped the two-year reign of Curtis Malm, who is completing his first season as head professional at White Eagle in Naperville.