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Len Ziehm On Golf

Western Am, Illinois Open are a good one-two punch for Chicago golfers

Brace yourself. This is the last big crush of tournaments in a Chicago golf season filled with bunched-up scheduling.

The 116th Western Amateur teed off on Tuesday at Sunset Ridge, in Northfield. It’ll end with the championship match on Saturday afternoon, and then the 69th Illinois Open finals begin a three-day run on Monday at both The Glen Club in Glenview and Ravinia Green in Riverwoods.

Usually the golf season extends into September, and sometimes-even October. This year, though, the only big event left after the upcoming “Big Two’’ is the 96th playing of the Illinois PGA Championship at Stonewall Orchard, in Grayslake, from Aug. 27-29. This fall will be a quiet one.

First cut is today (WEDNESDAY) in the Western, annually one of the most prestigious amateur events in the country. The 156 starters will be whittled to the low 44 and ties for Thursday’s 36-hole conclusion to the stroke play portion of the tournament. This day of competition could extend well into the evening, as playoffs may be needed to determine the Sweet 16 qualifiers for the match play portion of the event.

Locally the players to watch are Spring Grove’s Jordan Hahn, the 6-foot-8 University of Wisconsin golfer who won the Illinois State Amateur after being the runner-up in 2017, and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, who will conclude a solid amateur career at Sunset Ridge.

Flavin won both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open last year, a feat no golfer had accomplished in the previous 37 years, but he missed the cut in his State Am title defense. He’ll make his professional debut when he defends his Open title. Both Hahn and Flavin, though, will have their hands full keeping up with the Western field that features top amateurs from 21 countries in addition to the top American players.

The setting will be different at the Illinois Open, which is limited to state residents. This year it’s an unusual family affair with three father-son combinations and 10 sets of brothers among the 156 starters, and more could be added depending on the results of today’s (WEDNESDAY) Last Chance Qualifier at Willow Crest in Oak Brook.

On the father-son side the spotlight is on the Baumans, from Biltmore in Barrington. Father Doug, Biltmore’s long-time head professional, and son Greg are both exempt players while son Riley got into the field through one of the state-wide qualifying rounds.

Fathers are also head pros in the other two teams. Danny Mulhearn runs the shop at Glen Oak in Glen Ellyn and son Zach was a survivor of qualifying. David Paeglow is head professional at Kishwaukee, in DeKalb, and son Jack is a qualifier.

The brother combos are Luke and Nicholas Ambrust of Wheaton, Jim and John Billiter of Gurnee, Brian and Kevin Bullington of Frankfort, Tommy and Scott Dunsire of Naperville, Kevin and Cameron Karney of Crystal Lake, Tee-K and Will Kelly of Wheaton, Tommy and Pete Kuhl of Morton, Michael and Brandon Mounce of El Paso, Jarrett and Quinlan Prchal of Northbrook and Kurt and Kraig Rogers of Decatur.

The focus at the Illinois Open, though, will be on Flavin’s title defense – no player has successfully defended a title since Illinois men’s coach Mike Small completed a three-peat in 2007. Small, meanwhile, will make another bid to win the tournament for a record-tying fifth time.

Finalists will have rounds on both The Glen Club and Ravinia Green in the first two rounds and the final 18 on Aug. 8, for the low 50 and ties, will be at The Glen.

Here and there

Former Northwestern star Hannah Kim followed up her first professional win in the Illinois Women’s Open with another victory 10 days later at the 20th annual Golf Capital of Tennessee Women’s Open on the Stonehenge course in Crossville, Tenn. Her 4-under-par 212 score for 54 holes was enough for a one-stroke victory.

The course re-opening at Sunset Valley, in Highland Park, has been set for Aug.17. Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson handled the course work as part of a $7 million renovation that included both the course and clubhouse.

The Lake Bluff Golf Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Aug. 10 with a party designed to help meet the fund-raising goal of $265,000 needed for club improvements.

White Eagle, in Naperville, will host a PGA Junior League sectional qualifier on Thursday. It’ll feature 17 teams from all parts of Illinois and the top two will advance to the next round, on Aug. 18 at Pine Meadow in Mundelein.

The First Tee of Greater Chicago will hold its Birdies, Brews and BBQ event on Friday at Countryside, in Mundelein.