Winter damage is creating a difficult spring at Chicago golf courses

Chicago golfers beware. In most years virtually all Chicago courses are in full swing by the time the Masters tournament tees off in April. This year that wasn’t the case, and that’s not all.

The Midwest Golf Course Superintendents Assn. is conducting a survey of its courses this week and executive director Luke Cella doesn’t expect the results to be encouraging.

“We estimate that 80 percent of the courses in the area have suffered some turf loss, some significant,’’ said Cella. “The area, like much of the country, experienced a record cold winter. As spring slowly churns its way out we are finding turf that did not survive. It won’t be uncommon for this damage to be apparent while superintendents and their staffs begin the recovery process.’’

Cella says that winter ice caused the problems easily visible on the courses that have opened, particularly those that have Poa annua on the greens. Those with bentgrass fared better.

“This ice lasted for more than 60 days – a length of time that was too long for Poa annua to survive,’’ said Cella. “Even though the plants are dormant in the winter, they still need oxygen to survive. When ice encases the plant for extended periods of time there’s a buildup of deadly gasses that suffocate the plant. Even courses that employed the use of covers on their greens experienced ice buildup underneath the covers. Those (courses where workers) went out to break the ice and remove it from the putting surfaces experienced damage, too.’’

The problems encompass both public and private courses. Temporary greens were in evidence at some of the courses while others delayed their openings. At least two of the most prominent – one public, one private – aren’t even open yet. Mistwood, the Romeoville home of the Illinois Women’s Open, won’t open until April 25. North Shore, the Glenview home of Chicago’s only pro tour stop of the year, has set a May 1 opening. That private facility will host the Champions Tour’s Encompass Championship beginning June 16.

According to a report issued to member clubs in the Chicago District Golf Association’s Illinois Turfgrass program last month, some courses are as much as a month behind in their preparations and most won’t be in optimal playing shape until June.

Conway Farms names Slowinski

The offseason has led to some major changes in the club professional ranks. The biggest has Matt Slowinski, the long-time assistant at Glen Oak in Glen Ellyn, moving to Conway Farms in Lake Forest as the head man. Slowinski won two of the Illinois PGA’s major tournaments while at Glen Oak and was the section’s Assistants Player of the Year in 2013.

Harlan Chemers, who had been Conway’s head professional, will join Wildcat Golf Academy founders Pat Goss and Jeff Mory in the expansion of that highly-successfully junior program. A move to The Glen Club in Glenview has allowed them to take students beyond the junior level.

In other pro changes Josh Pius, a former North Shore assistant, is the head man at Inverness; Reagan Davis is in charge at Eagle Ridge, in Galena; and Mike Hainline has taken over at Ravisloe, in Homewood.

Here and there

A major change in the superintendents ranks has Scott Pavalko leaving Cog Hill, in Lemont, for Bob O’Link, the all-male club in Highland Park. Chris Flick came from Ohio to replace Pavalko at Cog Hill. Other superintendent changes have Michael Paciga moving from an assistant at Biltmore in Barrington to the head job at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove; Jeremy Duncan going from assistant at Cantigny in Wheaton to head man at Fox Run in Elk Grove; Brian Stout being promoted to the head job at Edgewood Valley in LaGrange; and Mike Mumper landing the head job at Villa Olivia in Bartlett.

The first event on the Illinois PGA schedule, Monday’s Pro-Assistants Championship at Naperville Country Club, was cancelled. The IPGA has a Pro-Pro event on tap at Chicago’s Harborside International next Monday. The Chicago District Golf Assn. opens its season with its first Better Ball of Pairs event next Tuesday at The Glen Club.

The Golfers on Golf radio show will unveil the first of 21 weekly broadcasts at 9 a.m. on Sunday. It’ll be carried on WSBC (1240-AM) and WCFJ (1470-AM) with Rory Spears, Ed Stevenson, Bill Berger and Mike Munro again co-hosting.