GALENA, IL. – It was a rarity when Steve Orrick won the Illinois PGA Championship in August. He was the first non-Chicago area club professional to take that title in 60 years.
It wasn’t so unusual for Orrick, the head man at Country Club of Decatur, to rule the last of the section’s four major championships on Tuesday, however. Orrick won the IPGA Players Championship for the third time in five years on the North Course at Eagle Ridge Resort. In addition to his wins in 2008 and 2009 Orrick tied for second in 2011.
“There must be something in the air up here,’’ said Orrick. “I’ve played good every time I’ve come here.’’
This week was no exception. He coped with two days of chilly weather and swirling winds to post a 4-under-par 140 total for the tourney’s 36 holes. Only three other players bettered par. Cog Hill’s Garrett Chaussard and teaching pro Travis Johns, of Twin Lakes in Palatine, were two shots back in a tie for second and Kishwaukee’s Dave Paeglow was another stroke back in fourth.
Though he won two of the IPGA’s four majors of 2012 Orrick didn’t claim player-of-the-year honors. That went to St. Charles assistant Curtis Malm, who tied for sixth at Eagle Ridge. Not only did Malm win the section’s top player-of-the-year prize, he was also player-of-the-year among its assistant pros. Only two players have swept those awards in the same year – Dino Lucchesi (1997 and 1998) and Matt Slowinski (2009).
Malm did it with consistency. He won the first major, the IPGA Match Play title, in May, tied for sixth at the Illinois Open in July and was solo second at the IPGA Championship in August. Orrick skipped the Match Play and missed the cut at the Open.
“The Match Play is too early in the year. I don’t want to take that much time off,’’ said Orrick. “It cost me, and this year was also the first time I missed the cut in the Illinois Open.’’
Malm won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2000 and worked his way through the lower level professional ranks until his breakthrough season. He still has an IPGA stroke play event at Schaumburg on Oct. 22, a makeup of an event rained out earlier, and the PGA Assistants national championship at Port St. Lucie, FL., the following week. He was fifth in the national assistants event last year and has obviously gotten better.
“ I’m a better player in terms of consistency than I was when I won the Illinois Open, but I thought I was a pretty good player back then,’’ said Malm. “This has been a great year. I’m glad it’s (almost) over.’’
One footnote to Chicago’s last major golf event of 2012: Katie Dick, assistant pro at Bryn Mawr and the only woman in the 94-player field, make a hole-in-in on the 13th hole. She used a 5-iron and is in line for a $4,500 bonus if no one gets an ace in the final stroke play event at Schaumburg on Oct. 22.