The likelihood of Steve Orrick winning the 90th Illinois PGA Championship Wednesday didn’t seem good.
No club professional from outside the Chicago area had won the event since Mike Sipula in 1952, and Orrick had two better established playing partners in the final threesome at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake. Illinois coach Mike Small had won the IPGA title nine times and Curtis Malm, assistant pro at St. Charles Country Club, had been the hottest player in the section this season with titles in the Match Play and Assistants championships.
Small, Malm and everybody else was no match for Orrick, however. The Country Club of Decatur head pro shot a sizzling 65 – including a 5-under-par 31 on the back nine – to take the title by five shots.
Orrick posted an 9-under-par 207 for the tourney’s 54 holes to beat Malm, who shot 66 in Tuesday’s second round to open a three-stroke lead on Small. Orrick was a stroke back in third at the start of the day but found himself the sole leader after Malm made bogeys at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 and then put a ball in the water at No. 9 for still another.
“It was pretty awful for awhile,’’ said Malm. “I had a horrid start, and some of the worst tee shots I’ve ever hit were on 3, 4 and 5.’’
But Orrick definitely won this title more than Malm lost it.
“I wasn’t paying attention to what Curtis was doing,’’ said Orrick. “I just hoped my putter would get hot, and it did.’’
Orrick was in position to win the IPGA title in 2008 at Medinah but, playing in the last twosome, he finished runner-up to Small. Orrick had won the IPGA Fall Classic at Eagle Ridge in Galena in 2008 and 2009, but the IPGA Championship is much more prestigious.
“Steve’s a really good player. I knew he’d shoot something good, but I didn’t see 65,’’ said Malm. “He was unbelievable.’’
In his sixth season at Country Club of Decatur, Orrick posted his best-ever tournament round and achieved a career highlight. His best previous performance came at the 2010 Professional Players National Championship at French Lick, Ind., where he came up one stroke short of qualifying for the PGA Championship.
Kishwaukee’s Dave Paeglow, playing six groups in front of the leaders, shot 67 and edged Small for third. Paeglow, at 1-under 215, was the only player besides Orrick and Malm to finish under par at the only public facility in the championship’s three-course rotation. It’ll be played at Olympia Fields in 2013 and Medinah in 2014.