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Len Ziehm On Golf

Women’s PGA at Kemper Lakes will be a wide-open affair

Golf’s only major championship presently scheduled at a Chicago area course tees off next week when the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship comes to Kemper Lakes in Kildeer.

The event, one of five majors on the Ladies PGA Tour, was played at Olympia Fields last year with Danielle Kang the champion. Based on what’s been happening on the LPGA circuit the last few weeks this year’s tourney may have a different cast of leading characters when it comes to Kemper starting on June 26.

Canadian Brooke Henderson was the defending champion at Olympia, but she finished runner-up to Kang. Both pulled out of tournaments in the last two weeks for what was initially declared “personal reasons.’’

Henderson was a WD from the biggest event — U.S. Women’s Open — and it was later revealed that her grandfather had died. She was back in action as the defending champion at last week’s Meijer Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich., but wasn’t her usual sharp self, finishing in a tie for 44th place.

Kang played well in the U.S. Women’s Open, finishing fourth behind champion Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, but she pulled out of the Meijer Classic after playing 11 holes. No reason for that withdrawal has been given, though Kang said she’d return to the tour for the Northwest Arkansas Championship, this week’s LPGA stop, which begins its 54-hole run on Friday.

Meanwhile, Jutanugarn ‘s play tailed off after she won the most recent of the LPGA majors. She was in a tie for 56th place after three rounds of the Meijer tournament a week later but caught fire in the final round, shooting a 10-under-par 62 that included a 29 on the front nine. She finished the event in a tie for 12th.

Also showing at least some good form in the Meijer event was the best American player, Lexi Thompson. She shot 67-67 in the weekend rounds, but that wasn’t good enough to keep up with South Korean So Yeon Ryu. She posted a sizzling 21-under-par over 72 holes at Blythefield Country Club.

Last year Ryu moved to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings prior to hitting her first tee shot at Olympia Fields. The rankings have changed a bit since then, however. Ryu is now No. 5 behind Korean Inbee Park, Jutanugarn, Thompson and China’s Shanshan Feng. Ryu may be ready to make a move back to the top spot at Kemper Lakes, however.

Her victory in Michigan was her sixth career win on the LPGA Tour, but her first of this season. She is the defending champion in the Northwest Arkansas Championship and – unlike virtually every other player in the field – Ryu has already paid a visit to Kemper Lakes to get ready for the next major championship.

Here and there

Japan’s Eriko Gejo was the only player under par in the Chicago qualifier for next month’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. She shot a 1-under 70 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest on Monday. Conway’s only Chicago area qualifier for next month’s finals at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton was Lake Forest’s Jamie Fischer, who shot 77 to finish third.

Norridge’s Sabrina Bonanno, a recent graduate of Arkansas-Little Rock, is the new Illinois State Women’s Amateur champion. She defeated defending champion Kelly Sterling of Mokena for the title at Rockford’s Aldeen course. Bonanno led the stroke play qualifying with a 67 and none of her matches went beyond the 15th hole.

The Chicago area has a second qualifier for next week’s U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado. Gary March, a teaching professional at Mount Prospect, was co-medalist in a qualifier at the Warren course in South Bend. He joins Roy Biancalana, who survived an early elimination at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

Maddie Szeryk won’t defend her Women’s Western Amateur title next week at Mistwood in Romeoville. She’ll compete in the British Ladies Amateur instead but her sister Ellie will be in the field at Mistwood.

The Kids Golf Foundation, based at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, has announced its large single donation to date — $1 million from the Hansberger family. The Hansbergers had guided Ram, a long-time golf equipment manufacturer.

The 57th Radix Cup at Oak Park Country Club last week ended in a 10-8 win for the Chicago District Golf Association’s amateur team over the Illinois PGA’s best professionals, and the competition had some individual highlights. Jim Billiter, the Kemper Lakes pro, holed a 260-yard 3-wood shot for the first albatross in Radix history. Taylorville amateur Dave Ryan made a hole-in-one and Matt Murlick of Winnetka Golf Club, chipped in three times for the amateurs.

The 99th Chicago District Amateur concludes Thursday at Briarwood in Deerfield. So does the 101st Western Golf Association’s Junior Championship, which is being played at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie.