IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Mierdierks is on the brink of something big

Anybody who follows the golf scene in Illinois should tune in to what happens the next few days in the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School at PGA West in California.

Wilmette’s Eric Mierdierks, winner of the 2010 Illinois Open at Hawthorn Woods and runnerup (in a playoff) to Chicago’s Max Scodro at The Glen Club in 2012, hit the halfway point in the six-round marathon in a tie for ninth place. The top 25 and ties after the six rounds earn berths on the PGA Tour for 2013.

Mierdierks, 27, has never played in a PGA Tour event. A New Trier High School graduate, he developed his skills playing on Arizona’s Gateway Tour the past few years, and his game appears to be peaking at the right time.

The PGA Tour Qualifying School will be radically transformed in 2013. This is the last year its top players will earn berths for the following year on the PGA circuit, and Mierdierks wants to take advantage of what might be a last-chance opportunity. Q-School will offer only spots on the Tour in 2013. That means it’ll be even harder to get on golf’s premier circuit, and it’s plenty difficult already.

Mierdierks was one of 1,558 players submitting entries to the 2012 Q-School, which is being conducted in three stages. This final stage, still in progress, began with 172 players battling for the coveted PGA Tour spots. Through the first three rounds Mierdierks is at 203, and five strokes behind leader Meen Whee Kim. Mierdierks shot 66-67 in rounds 2 and 3 on Thursday and Friday over the Nicklaus Tournament Course and TPC Stadium Course to climb the leaderboard.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday rounds remain before playing privileges are determined. Most of the finalists will get privileges of some sort on the Tour in 2013 but, of course, the PGA spots are more coveted.

The last of the very few Chicago area players to earn a PGA Tour card was Crystal Lake’s Joe Affrunti. He earned his in 2010 by finishing in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list. Affrunti, like Mierdierks, was an Illinois Open champion (2004) and also won the Chicago District Amateur in both 2000 and 2001. His PGA Tour hopes, however, have been hampered by a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Mierdierks won his Illinois Open title with a one-shot win over Luke Guthrie, the University of Illinois star who made it to the PGA Tour in a hurry. Making good use of some sponsor exemptions, he was a smash hit on both the PGA Tour and Tour in the second half of the 2012 season.

KemperSports update

KemperSports, the Northbrook-based golf management firm, continues to build a broad impact world-wide. Its latest project is the Vista Mar Golf & Beach Resort in Panama, and the soon-to-open 36-hole Streamsong Resort in Polk County, FL., has already received rave reviews in various golf publications.

Scott Wilson has been named director of golf at Streamsong. He had been at another KemperSports location, Vellano Country Club in California.

On the more local front, Nate Mather is leaving his job as general manager of Glen Flora Country Club in Waukegan to become GM of The Club at Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tenn. – another KemperSports facility.

For the record

Hopefully this is the end of media reports suggesting Oak Brook’s Butler National might return as a big-tournament venue. Some club members would like the exposure Butler received as site of the Western Open from 1974-1990, but the vast majority want it to remain all-male and therefore not acceptable for U.S. Golf Assn. and PGA events. A vote was taken on the issue recently and my sources tell me only one or two members wanted to accept female members. Until that sentiment changes Butler as a tournament site is a non-issue.

Just my opinion

This joint announcement by the U.S. Golf Assn. and Royal & Ancient Golf Club banning the anchoring putting stroke isn’t that big a deal. Of course, anchoring a club against your body should be banned. It represents too big a departure from golf’s traditions. Royal & Ancient likely felt stronger about this issue than the USGA did, and the rule proposal was too long in coming.

And don’t forget, long putters (the belly variety and the longer “broom-handle’’) are still legal. That’s fine by me, though I suspect there’ll be some controversies over just what is anchoring and what isn’t once the rule is put into effect in 2016. How close to your body does the club have to be to be considered “anchoring?’’ Players might be willing to test the rule on that.

As far as I’m concerned, though, golf has a bigger issue to solve – slow play. That would be at the top of my list.

Calendar material

I’ve found golf just fine in this late-fall, early-winter period in Chicago and only wish more courses were still open. The Nos. 1 and 3 layouts at Cog Hill, in Lemont, are among the few that will remain open year-around, and some fun events are coming up on those.

The Frosty’s 3-Club Open will be held over No. 1 on Dec. 9 and the Eskimo Open will be played on both courses on Jan. 6.

Also notable is the Jan. 1 deadline established by the Western Golf Assn. for the sale of its holiday ticket package. The package includes two any-day tournament tickets, lanyards and ticket holders to next September’s BMW Championship at Conway Farms for a great price — $65. Only 2,500 such packages will be available.