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Len Ziehm On Golf

Western Am could have best field yet at Rich Harvest

They keep getting bigger. Within the last month the men’s and women’s Illinois State Amateurs have been played. Then came the men’s Illinois Open, and the Illinois Women’s Open concludes its 54-hole run on Wednesday at Mistwood, in Romeoville.

Next week’s tournament offering is even more prestigious. The 113th Western Amateur takes over Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, with the first tee shots scheduled for Tuesday following a practice day for all of the 156 competitors.

The Western Amateur, conducted by the Chicago-based Western Golf Assn., is a stepping stone to professional stardom. Its list of champions includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Lanny Wadkins, Andy North, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard and Tiger Woods.

Stamina is as much a requirement as shot-making in the Western Am. The entire field plays 18-hole rounds on the first two days of the tournament and only the low 44 and ties remain after that. They’ll play 36 holes on Thursday, Aug. 6, with the low 16 moving on to the match play portion of the event. There’ll be two rounds of matches on Friday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 8 before the champion is crowned.

Last year the winner was Beau Hossler, a junior at the University of Texas who has already qualified for three U.S. Opens. He won his Western title at Chicago’s Beverly Country Club and got an early look at Rich Harvest while helping a U.S. team of collegiate stars defeat Europe in June’s Palmer Cup matches there.

He’ll have to beat a flock of great amateurs to repeat, among them Texas teammate Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights – last year’s Western Amateur medalist – and University of Illinois stalwarts Nick Hardy and Charlie Danielson.

The 2013 Western Am champion, Jordan Niebrugge, is also in the field and is NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau. Niebrugge was low amateur at the British Open earlier this month.

Seven of last year’s Sweet Sixteen at Beverly are back as are six other Palmer Cup participants.

That star-studded turnout is a delight to Jerry Rich, the Rich Harvest creator who has done more than anyone else in bringing big tournaments to Chicago in recent years.

“The caliber of talent in this field is truly remarkable,’’ said Rich. “We’re honored to host the future of professional golf.’’

Play begins at 7 a.m. off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees next Tuesday and Wednesday. Both tees will also be used for the double round on Thursday, Aug. 6. Match play rounds will start at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7 and Saturday, Aug. 8. Semifinals are at 8 a.m. and the championship match at 2 p.m. on the final day. There’s no admission charge on any day of the tournament.

Qualified amateurs

Nine Illinois golfers have qualified for the U.S. Amateur, to be played Aug. 17-23 at Olympia Fields. The group is headed by recently-crowned Illinois Open champion David Cooke, who led a qualifying session at Royal Country Club of Long Grove. Also advancing to Olympia Fields from there were Ethan Farnam of Crystal Lake and Jordan Wetsch of St. Charles.

Others headed to Olympia Fields are two-time Illinois Amateur champion Todd Mitchell of Bloomington; Chicago District Amateur titlist Alex Burge, of Bloomington; Daniel Hudson, Western Springs; Andrew Price, Lake Bluff; Dan Stringfellow, Roselle; and Mack Foster, of downstate Knoxville.

Stephanie Miller, a junior at Illinois from Elgin, qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, coming up Aug. 10-16 in Portland, Ore. She shot 3-under-par 68 to finish second in a qualifying session at Sportsman’s, in Northbrook.

Shawn Rennegarbe, the medalist at the rain-shortened Illinois State Women’s Amateur, also qualified. The Addieville resident who plays at Arknasas survived an elimination at Dayton, Ohio.

Here and there

Royal Fox, in St. Charles, will host the Illinois PGA Assistants Championship on Monday.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct qualifiers for the Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship on Tuesday at Balmoral Woods in Crete, next Wednesday at Ironwood in Normal and Thursday, Aug. 5 at Palatine Hills. Finals are Aug. 25-26 at Flossmoor Country Club.

The Schaumburg Parks Foundation’s Links Technology Outing on Aug. 12 has a unique feature. Taste on the Tee will be a feature of it, with foods and beverages provided on virtually every hole.