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Len Ziehm On Golf

Northwestern freshman paces U.S. Open local at Midlane

The first tee shot of 117th U.S. Open at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills course, is still five weeks away but the battle to get there got into full swing this week with one notable surprise. Northwestern freshman Everton Hawkins not only survived one of the local qualifying rounds, he was also the medalist.

The U.S. Golf Association accepted 9,485 entries – the fifth highest in history – and Hawkins was one of 8,979 who began the road to Erin Hills at the local level. There will be 114 local eliminations held across the U.S. and Canada through May 18 and 525 survivors will go to sectional play May 22 through June 5. That’s when the 156 starters at Erin Hills will be decided.

Hawkins, from Irvine, Calif., wasn’t one of Northwestern’s stars during the Wildcats’ drive to next week’s NCAA regional play but he was red hot at Midlane, in Wadsworth, on Monday. He shot a 4-under-par 66, one better than McHenry pro Peter Kindstrom, in leading four players into sectional play. Hawkins’ more-heralded NU teammates, Dylan Wu and Ryan Lumsden wound up the first and second alternates.

Others to advance to sectional play from the 72 entrants at Midlane were Park Ridge’s Anthony Albano and Andrew Hansen of Mequon, Wis. Both shot 69s.

Wu and Lumsden were first-team all-Big Ten selections and Wu had the lowest stroke average in the conference during the league season. They, along with Hawkins, will be trying to get the Wildcats into the NCAA finals next week in NCAA regional play. The men’s finals are May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.

The Midlane competition was one of three Open locals scheduled in Illinois. Illini Country Club, in Springfield, also hosted one on Monday with its 62 players largely from downstate. Shane Smith, of Godfrey, was the only one to break par. He shot a 2-under 70 and Ian Nelson, of Macomb; Gideon Smith, of Quincy; and Michael Suhre, of Edwardsville, survived a six-players-for-three-spots playoffs to become the other sectional qualifiers there. All the Illini qualifiers were professionals

Cantigny, in Wheaton, will host the other Illinois local qualifier next Monday (MAY15) with 90 players battling for five sectional berths. Illinois hopefuls don’t necessarily have to go there, however.

Vince India, the Web.com Tour player from Deerfield, for instance, will put his Open hopes on the line on Thursday at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms – a Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., because that better fits his tournament schedule.

Here and there

The qualifiers for the women’s portion of the NCAA finals at Rich Harvest will be determined Wednesday (TODAY) with the conclusion of four 54-hole regional eliminations. Northwestern is making its bid in Albuquerque, N.M., and Illinois in Athens, Ga. The qualifiers compete at Rich Harvest from May 19-24.

Canadian Taylor Pendrith has received the third of four sponsor’s invites into next month’s Rust-Oleum Championship, a Web.com Tour stop at Ivanhoe Club. Pendrith, who played collegiately at Kent State, won the 2014 Porter Cup and was third on the Canadian Tour money list in 2015.

The Illinois PGA Match Play Championship, first of four major events on the section schedule, is near a climax at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer. The semifinals are Thursday morning with the final in the afternoon.

The Western Golf Association has announced that Sean Maruyama will attempt to become the first Western Junior champion in 76 years to successfully defend his title. Maruyama, who has made a verbal commitment to attend UCLA, plans to compete in the 100th playing of the Western Junior – the oldest national junior tournament, at Park Ridge Country Club next month.

Cantigny, the only Illinois course among the 30 selected for the U.S. Golf Association’s Play9 initiative, begins its participation on Sunday (MAY 14). Play9 events are also scheduled there on June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10 and October 8.

Chicago’s Wilson Sporting Goods will have a second season of its Driver vs. Driver competition on The Golf Channel. Deadline for inventors to enter the competition is June 4.