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Len Ziehm On Golf

Women’s major at Olympia Fields tries to match a successful U.S. Open

These are unprecedented times for spectator golf around the Chicago area. Last week it was the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Next week it’s a women’s major – the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields.

The best players in women’s golf start showing their skills at the south suburban private club on Tuesday in a star-studded pro-am. After a day of practice the 72-hole battle for a $3.5 million purse – one of the biggest in women’s golf — is on the line beginning on Thursday, June 29.

Once named the LPGA Championship, the tourney became an unprecedented collaboration between the Ladies PGA Tour and the PGA of America three years ago at Westchester Country Club in New York. Last year’s event was at Sahalee, in Washington, and Chicago gets the next two—at Olympia Fields and then at Kemper Lakes, in Kildeer, in 2018.

Tuesday’s pro-am, which tees off at 7:30 a.m., features former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, comedian George Lopez and Chicago sports legends Brian Urlacher, Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux.

The 156-player field in the tournament proper includes defending champion Brooke Henderson. World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn and American mainstays Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson.

U.S. Open aftermath

Back in 1990, when Medinah hosted the last of its three U.S. Opens, members weren’t happy with the record low scoring. Ideal weather, much like that last week at Erin Hills, led to the low scores but Medinah members felt the course setup wasn’t challenging enough as well.

With one exception, those U.S. Open scoring records set 27 years ago are no more thanks to the shootout in Wisconsin. Medinah yielded 28 sub-par scores for the 72 holes in 1990. Thirty-one players finished under par at Erin Hills.

The total number of sub-par rounds at Erin Hills was 140, which surpassed the previous record of 122 at Medinah, and the 44 sub-par scores in the first round at Erin Hills erased the record of 39 at Medinah. The one Medinah record still on the books is for most sub-par scores in one round. Medinah yielded 47 on its most vulnerable day while the most in any one round at Erin Hills was 46.

Medinah unveils new Nos. 2 course

Medinah’s No. 2 course is back in operation after undergoing a unique $3.6 million renovation jointly created by architect Rees Jones, superintendent Curtis Tyrrell, head professional Marty DeAngelo and instruction staffers Travis Johns and Rich Dukelow.

No. 2 was basically untouched since original architect Tom Bendelow designed it in 1927. The new course will be the most versatile of the three layouts at the club. Each hole has seven tee placements and will be the base for a “Golf for Life’’ program that DeAngelo has created “to bring enjoyment for all skills without the use of handicaps.’’

“The No. 2 course was always known as the ladies course, but now it’s the most appropriate venue for higher handicappers and casual golfers,’’ said Jones. “It has the potential to become the most popular golf course in the entire city of Chicago.’’

Here and there

Three of the 12 Illinois PGA members who qualified for this week’s Professional Players National Championship in Sunriver, Ore., survived the 36-hole cut. Curtis Malm, of White Eagle in Naperville; Mike Small, the Illinois men’s coach; and Jim Billiter, of Kemper Lakes, will compete through Wednesday (TODAY) and the top 20 qualify for August’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

More than 150 of the world’s top junior golfers are competing in the 100th Western Junior Championship this week at Park Ridge Country Club. The field will be cut to the low 44 and ties after today’s (WEDNESDAY) round and the survivors will play 36 holes on Thursday to determine the champion. Sean Maruyama, a UCLA recruit from Los Angeles, is bidding to become the tourney’s first repeat champion in 76 years.

The 98th Chicago District Amateur begins its four-day run on Tuesday (JUNE 27) at Briar Ridge in Schererville, Ind. The tournament has been played outside of Illinois only five times, the last in 1998 when The Dunes Club in Michigan hosted.

Canadian Maddie Szeryk captured last week’s 117th Women’s Western Amateur at River Forest in Elmhurst.

Medinah’s Tee-K Kelly followed up his win in the Dominican Republic with a fourth-place finish in Jamaica on Sunday on PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr., the reigning Illinois Open champion, tied fors seventh in Jamaica.