Western Golf Association braces for its amateur doubleheader

General manager John Parsons is about to celebrate the end of a five-year renovation at Schaumburg Golf Club (Photo by Rory Spears)

This has indeed been a strange year for the Western Golf Association. The organization’s two national junior tournaments had to be canceled due to pandemic concerns and its two professional events were rescheduled for the same reason.

The WGA’s two history-rich amateur championships, however, are going on as scheduled. The 120th playing of the Women’s Western Amateur teed off on Tuesday at Prestiwck, in south suburban Frankfort, and the 118th staging of the men’s Western Amateur follows almost immediately at Crooked Stick, in Indiana.

WGA staffers will get only a day’s break between the two. The 18-hole title match in the Women’s Western Amateur is on Saturday morning (JULY 15) and the practice round for the Western Amateur is on Monday. Five rigorous days of competition follow, with the 36-hole final on Aug. 1.

Local players are far more prevalent in the 120-player women’s field. Heading the list is University of Illinois senior Tristyn Nowlin, the tourney runner-up in 2018 and an Elite Eight qualifier last year. As an added perk from previous years, the champion and runner-up at Prestwick will be given spots in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Maryland’s Woodmont course Aug. 3-9.

Prestwick is hosting a Women’s Western championship for the first time since 1972, when Nancy Lopez won the WWGA’s Junior title. That tourney returns to Prestwick for the 50th anniversary of that event in 2022.

Only two Illinois players – Lake Bluff’s Andrew Price and East Peoria’s David Perkins — will be among the 156 starters in the Western Amateur at Crooked Stick. The invitational tourney will be played in Indiana for the first time since 1951 and the field includes 24 international players.

The Western Am is the third oldest amateur tournament, behind the British Amateur (1855) and U.S. Amateur (1895). The Western made its debut in 1899.

Only one spectator per player will be allowed at the two tournaments. The women’s calls for a second day of stroke play qualifying today (WEDNESDAY) , then the top 32 will decide the title in three days of match play competition.

The men’s event is grueling – two days of stroke play to cut the field to the low 44 and ties, then 36 more holes to determine 16 qualifiers for the concluding two days of matches.

The WGA’s tournament season concludes with the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, at Olympia Fields Aug. 25-30 and the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour stop, Sept. 9-13 at Chicago Highlands, in Westchester.

ILLINOIS OPEN QUALIFIERS: The 71st Illinois Open, scheduled Aug. 3-5 at White Eagle in Naperville, has had its trying times as well. To salvage the tourney the Illinois PGA had to make radical format changes. The field for the finals was cut from 264 to 156 and the number of qualifiers from eight to five, and one of those last week was reduced from 18 to nine holes because of bad weather.

Bryce Emory, of Aurora, and Varun Chopra, of Champaign, led the first qualifier with 67s at Flossmoor Country Club. Ethan Brue, of Ashland, and amateur Parker Govern, of Plainfield, posted 3-under-par 32s to lead the shortened session at Deerpath, in Lake Forest.

The other qualifiers are Wednesday, at The Hawk in St. Charles; July 29 at Willow Crest in Oak Brook and July 31 at Countryside in Mundelein.

The No. 9 green on the Tournament Course was the last to be completed in the Schaumburg renovation. (Photo by Rory Spears).

BITS AND PIECES: The lengthy renovation of Schaumburg Golf Club’s 27 holes is almost over. All 27 will be in play on Aug. 1. That will end five years of work, which includes two years of planning, remodeling of the clubhouse and separate work done on all three nines. The renovation at Sportsman’s, in Northbrook, is underway — and it’ll be more extensive — but the completion is expected to come sometime in 2021. Next renovation work will begin shortly Settler’s Hill, in Geneva.

Mark Krizic, director of golf at Chicago’s Ridge Country Club the last 16 years, will depart after this season. He’s the new owner of Fyre Lake, a course designed by the Nicklaus Design team, in Sherrard, IL., near the Quad Cities.

Steve Kashul kicked off the 27th season of the Golf Scene TV show last Sunday. It’ll be broadcast at various times on NBC Chicago.

Andrew Godfrey, a new assistant pro at Mistwood in Romeoville, was low man with a 4-under-par 67 in Monday’s Illinois PGA Stroke Play event at Riverside Golf Club. He was one shot better than Kyle English, of Crestwicke, in Bloomington. English won the IPGA Assistants championship last week.