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Len Ziehm On Golf

Woodland is just the latest Wilson staff player to win a major title

The 119th U.S. Open ended on Sunday, but it won’t be forgotten – certainly not at Chicago’s biggest golf equipment company. Tim Clarke, who heads Wilson’s golf division, added Gary Woodland to the company’s player ambassador staff last winter and Woodland delivered big time.

Woodland won the title at Pebble Beach, and that should pay dividends to Wilson as well as Woodland.

“We couldn’t have a better story for our brand,’’ said Clarke. “It was unbelievable.’’

Kevin Streelman, who had been Wilson’s top gun on the PGA Tour though he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open, agreed via Twitter.

“I’m so happy for Gary and his entire family,’’ said Streelman. “I’m proud of the classiest company and the best-looking clubs in the business. I’m proud to be an ambassador and member of the team.’’

Back in golf’s good old days Wilson’s clubs were played by numerous champions. Woodland used Wilson’s irons and donned the company’s hat and glove en route to his dramatic victory.

“It was a pretty strong endorsement that our equipment works,’’ said Clarke. “ We still have had more major champions playing our clubs than any other company.’’

Woodland won the 62nd major title playing Wilson clubs. The first was Gene Sarazen in 1931.

“That was pretty much the starting point. It started the movement for companies to start stinging players,’’ said Clarke.

Others using Wilson clubs when they won a big one included Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper and Padraig Harrington.

It’s commonplace that major championship winners receive bonuses from their equipment companies, and Clarke said that’d be the case with Woodland – though he was coy about what that reward will be.

“It’s complicated,’’ said Clarke, “but everything has a price and obviously there’ll be a reward. I was 100 percent sure that he’d win a major when we signed him, and I even thought that it would be this year. We believe that elite athletes drive consumer awareness.’’

More Open aftermath

There were plenty of Chicago sidelights lost in the glory of Woodland’s victory. Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star, continued his comeback season despite a 77-73 finish in the weekend rounds. He tied for 58th place along with former University of Illinois golfer Charlie Danielson.

Danielson may have been the best sidebar at the tournament. He had been sidelined a year after major knee surgery but he survived sectional qualifying and had pairings with Phil Mickelson in the third round and Donald in the four. Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope, who qualified for the finals for the fourth time in four years, also tied for 58th.

Away from Pebble Beach Northwestern alum Dylan Wu went to a playoff in the Web.com Tour’s Lincoln Land Championship in Springfield. He lost on the third extra hole to Xinjun Zhang but Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger finished in a solid tie for 15th and Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, on a break from the PGA Latinoamerica circuit, tied for 49th.

On the women’s front LPGA rookie Elizabeth Szokol of Winnetka made her second straight cut in the Meijer Classic in Michigan. While the men’s majors are over in the U.S. thanks to the PGA Tour’s dramatic rescheduling in 2019 the women have one coming up this week. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, played at Olympia Fields and Kemper Lakes the last two years, is on tap for this week at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

WGA’s two-state doubleheader

The Western Golf Association will hold its two junior championships this week, but at courses in different states. The 102nd playing of the boys version will be at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The 93rd staging of the girls tournament is at Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Ind.

Formats and scheduling are a bit different, though. The boys started on Tuesday at Rich Harvest with the stroke play portion concluding today (WEDNESDAY). The low 44 and ties will compete over 36 holes on Thursday to determine the champion.

The girls completed two rounds of match play on Tuesday. Match play for the 16 survivors begins today. The semifinals and championship match are on Thursday.

Here and there

The Chicago District Amateur will be played for the 100th time beginning on Monday (JUNE 24) at Glen View Club in Golf. Four state-wide qualifying rounds determined the players in the four-day finals. They will compete over two days of stroke play to determine 16 match play qualifiers. The championship match is on June 27.

Weather problems led to the postponement of the 58th Radix Cup matches between the top professionals from the Illinois PGA and top amateurs from the Chicago District Golf Association. Both sides are trying to reschedule the event at Oak Park Country Club in River Forest.

The 30th playing of the Thompson Cup matches is tomorrow (JUNE 20) on Olympia Fields’ South Course. The event matches eight-player teams of the top senior players from the IPGA and CDGA.

Troon Golf, which is opening a Chicago office, has taken over the management of Naperville Country Club.