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Len Ziehm On Golf

U.S. Senior Open hopefuls head to Village Links of Glen Ellyn

The Champions Tour players didn’t all leave town after the Encompass Championship concluded. Many in Sunday’s field stayed around for Monday’s sectional qualifying round for the U.S. Senior Open at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

Ninety players will battle for six spots in the Senior Open proper, to be held at Oak Tree in Edmond, Okla., from July 10-13. Among them are Champions Tour members Tommy Armour III, Tom Byrum, Jose Coceres, Rick Fehr, Anders Forsbrand and Brian Henninger. Because of its proximity to the Encompass, the Chicago sectional may have the strongest field of any of 34 qualifiers held across the U.S. to whittle the 2,715 entrants down to the 156 who will compete at Oak Tree.

Hinsdale’s Jeff Sluman didn’t have to qualify. He was already assured a spot in the Senior Open and looking forward to it with a touch of nostalgia. Sluman won his only major title there in the 1988 PGA Championship.

“In 26 years I went back just one day, and that was the following year,’’ said Sluman. “They had a Senior PGA Championship there, but that was before I turned 50. I know there have been changes made in the course, but I’ve been told the routing hasn’t changed.’’

Oak Tree is a Pete Dye design that Sluman is certain will be challenging.

“It had been labeled the world’s most difficult test at the time I won,’’ he said. “I led the tournament in fairways hit and greens in regulation. I’m excited because I know I can play that golf course well, but 26 years later? It is what it is.’’

Here and there

Professional Jeff Hart and amateur Jody Rotondo won the pro-am portion of the Encompass after the last pros finished their Saturday round on Sunday morning. They posted a 119 score for the two days and won by four strokes over pro Roger Chapman and amateur Andrew McCabe.

Bernhard Langer, leader in the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup standings, finished tied for 20th. It ended a streak of 20 straight tournaments in which Langer finished in the top 10.

Hale Irwin shot his age (69) on Sunday. The winner of a U.S. Open, Western Open and Champions Tour event in Chicago during his career, Irwin finished in a tie for 39th on Sunday.

Defending champion Craig Stadler won with a 13-under-par performance in 2013. He was 3-over-par in his title defense and tied for 68th place.

Sluman was the best of the locals, finishing in a tie for sixth after a 69 on Sunday. Gary Hallberg, who grew up in Barrington but has long resided in Colorado, tied for 39th and Lake Forest resident Chip Beck tied for 59th among the 81 contestants.

Category: Features