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Len Ziehm On Golf

Jim Sobb is a golf professional with a great record as a player as well

Jim Sobb’s playing record speaks for itself.

The 30-year director of golf at Ivanhoe Club won eight of the Illinois PGA’s four major tournaments, including the IPGA Championship three times. He also won nine of the section’s Senior majors, and this month he’ll go after his sixth title in the IPGA Senior Championship.

He has played in three national PGA Championships, five Western Opens, three U.S. Senior Opens and two Senior PGA Championships. In 2011 Sobb pulled off what may be his most outstanding accomplishment as a player when he swept the IPGA Match Play and IPGA Senior Match Play titles in back-to-back weeks. No other player has one that.

Now 62, Sobb has made more Radix Cup appearances (22) than any other IPGA member and – in the first year he was eligible – added the Illinois PGA Super Senior Open title to his resume.

Enough already?

Well, the remainder of the 2018 season presents a playing challenge that Sobb relishes – even though the first part of the campaign hasn’t produced a victory yet. There’s still enough big events left on the schedule for Sobb to make this year like most of the others, however.

Most notably, the IPGA Senior Championship is Aug. 13-14 at Merit Club, in Libertyville, and the IPGA Senior Match Play will be played Oct. 2-4 at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff. Spring weather problems forced its postponement earlier.

Also, you can never count Sobb out of his favorite tournament, the Illinois PGA Championship. Though it’s been 18 years since he won the last of his three titles, he’ll be at Stonewall Orchard from Aug. 27-29 to give it another try.

Time usually takes a toll on a player’s abilities, but Sobb might be getting better with age.

“Maybe I am – by a little,’’ he said. “I continue to learn and manage my game better. There’s a lot to be said for experience.’’

What’s more surprising about this Sobb story is the fact that – despite all his playing success within the Illinois section — he never entertained thoughts of being a touring pro.

“I’ve always wanted to be a club professional. I’ve never looked beyond that,’’ he said. “I like being competitive, but (to be a tour player) you’ve got to devote yourself 365 days a year. I’m happy where I am.’’

Clearly there’s more to Jim Sobb than being a tournament golfer. He’s a lifetime Chicago guy with a unique family. His wife Tina has battled Multiple Sclerosis for many years, yet the Sobbs worked to put their two children through college. Son Ryan graduated from Birminham Southern and daughter Abbey from the University of Mississippi.

Sobb started playing golf at age 10 while growing up in Palatine. He played at Palatine Hills and Pebble Creek, a nine-hole course that is long gone, and caddied at Inverness before starting in tournament golf in the Northern Illinois Men’s Amateur Golf Association events organized by Mike Spinello. Now both Spinello and Sobb are members of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.

Even back then Sobb’s focus wasn’t just on golf. He was a very decent quarterback at Palatine High School, where he also played basketball and golf, but wasn’t a scholarship athlete when he headed to Western Illinois for college.

Sobb encountered one of the very best college coaches when arrived at Western. Harry Mussatto welcomed him to the team as a walk-on, and Sobb performed well enough as a freshman to earn a scholarship the next year.

After his days at Western Sobb held assistant professional jobs at Hillcrest, in Long Grove, and the now defunct Thorngate, in Deerfield, and landed his first head job at Chapel Hill, in McHenry, in 1983. He also was the head man at Highland Park Country Club before beginning his long run at Ivanhoe.

Rather than aspire to be a touring pro Sobb had another role model.

“I wanted to be like Gary Groh,’’ he said.

While Groh did play on the PGA Tour – he even won the Hawaiian Open – his career was built around his long stint as head professional at Bob O’Link, in Highland Park. Groh worked there into his 70s and competed successfully within the state ranks much like Sobb is doing.

The Ivanhoe job has offered Sobb some other growth opportunities.. He created a high school tournament, the Ivanhoe Invitational, and was – for the last three years – the host professional for a Web.com Tour event, the Rust-Oleum Championship. He’s also mentored several former assistants who now hold head professional jobs.

Such projects helped earn Sobb the IPGA Professional of the Year honor in 1995 and 2000, the IPGA Private Club Merchandiser of the Year Award in 1997 and the Bill Strausbaugh Award, for service to his fellow pros, in 2012. He also spent 10 years on the IPGA board of directors and he’s not done yet.

“I’m very comfortable here,’’ said Sobb. “I haven’t set a date for retiring. I feel great. I like to compete, and I love what I’m doing.’’

Category: Features