Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, aptly dubbed “golf’s longest day,’’ was especially long for the Chicago players hoping to land a berth in the Open proper at Pennsylvania’s Merion course in two weeks.
None made it through Monday’s 11 nation-wide 36-hole sectionals, and newly named Medinah assistant pro Travis Johns is the only one with even a faint chance of cracking the 156-man starting field at Merion.
Johns lost the second — and last — spot available in a sectional at Old Warson in St. Louis in a playoff. His opponent, Mackenzie Hughes – a 22-year old two-time Canadian Amateur champion – made par on the first extra hole to drop John into the first alternate spot. First alternates frequently make it into the field thanks to late withdrawals, so Johns still has a chance.
Hughes and Johns were both at par 142 for 36-holes at Old Warson, three strokes behind medalist Jay Don Blake. Blake, 54, finished second in the Champions Tour’s Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Ia., on Sunday.
Most of the Chicago players who survived the local qualifying rounds competed at Old Warson. Lake Forest mini-tour player Brad Hopfinger, who had the low score in Chicago’s two local qualifiers, was second alternate after posting 143. Reigning Illinois Open champion Max Scodro and Cantigny teaching pro Rich Dukelow were at 155.
Mixed results for the Illini
Illinois men’s coach Mike Small qualified for sectional play but understandably withdrew from the Old Warson elimination, citing fatigue after playing 22 holes. His Illini completed a spectacular season with a runner-up finish in the NCAA finals, which climaxed on Sunday in Atlanta.
The Illini, 4-1 losers to Alabama in the title match, had the best NCAA showing by a northern school since Minnesota won the title in 2002.
Two of Small’s former players now playing on the PGA Tour, Scott Langley and Luke Guthrie, will play at Merion. Langley survived sectional play in Memphis and Guthrie did the same at Columbus, Ohio. Guthrie needed a playoff to do it.
JDC lands 19 recent winners
Early commitments to next month’s John Deere Classic, the annual PGA Tour stop in the Quad Cities, included 19 winners of recent PGA Tour events along with at least 12 British Open qualifiers.
Tournament director Clair Peterson confirmed the entries of defending champion Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, the winner from 2009-2011. Other recent champions in the field include Boo Weekley (Crowne Plaza Invitational), Kevin Streelman (Tampa Bay), D.A. Points (Houston), Derek Ernst (Wells Fargo) and Sang-Moon Bae (Byron Nelson Classic).
Among the other entrants are Nick Watney, Bo Van Pelt, Charles Howell III, Ben Crane, Mark Wilson. Louis Oosthuizen, Carl Petterson, John Hug and John Senden.
Did you know?
The top players from the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Assn. will battle in the 52nd Radix Cup matches today (WEDNESDAY) at Oak Park Country Club. The six matches begin at 12:30 p.m.
The IPGA Golf Fest will run from noon-6 p.m. on Sunday at White Pines, in Bensenville. Cog Hill, in Lemont, will get a visit from the Ping fitting van from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday and host its Couples Scramble tourney on Sunday over the No. 3 course.
Kris Yoo, a University of Wisconsin junior from Schaumburg, was awarded one of two exemptions to the Island Resort Classic, a June 28-30 stop on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour at Michigan’s Sweetgrass course.
Bob O’Link’s Gary Groh outlasted Ivanhoe’s Jim Sobb in a 21-hole final at the IPGA Senior Match Play Championship at Shoreacres in Lake Bluff.
Volunteers and pro-am participants are still needed for the Champions Tour’s new Encompass Championship, coming to North Shore in Glenview June 17-23. Call 847-904-2397 for details. The tourney also announced two more celebrity participants – new Bears’ coach Marc Trestman and Blackhawks’ announcer Pat Foley.