The next big golf tournament in the Chicago area is the Western Amateur, and its organizers are somewhat justified in their claim that "there's nothing amateur about it.''
Without doubt a segment of the 156 starters in next week's tournament at North Shore Country Club in Glencoe can play with the best professionals.
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Witness recent performances of some of those who will tee off at North Shore next Tuesday:
• Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made the cut at this year's British Open and tied for ninth in the recent Nationwide Tour stop in Columbus, Ohio.
• Russell Henley won a Nationwide event last year and made the cut in the last two U.S. Opens.
• Patrick Cantlay tied for ninth at the PGA Tour's Canadian Open after shooting a 60 at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship. He tied for 24th at the Travelers and tied for 20th at the AT&T National after being low amateur at the U.S. Open.
• Jordan Spieth made the cut the last two years at the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson Championship and won the U.S. Junior title the last two years. The only other player to accomplish that was Tiger Woods, who won the event three straight times. Spieth celebrates his 18th birthday on Wednesday.
The Western Am will be played for the 109th time, making it second only to the U.S. Amateur in longevity. Players in this year's field come from 34 states and nine countries and they include 11 of the top 15 in the world amateur rankings.
And they'll all be in for the most physically-demanding challenge in golf. The Western Am calls for 72 holes of stroke play qualifying, to be conducted Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 2-4, to determine 16 match play participants. Then those 16 will fight for the title with two rounds of match play on both Friday, Aug. 5, and Saturday, Aug. 6.
David Chung, a 21-year old senior-to-be at Stanford who is defending his title in the prestigious Porter Cup amateur event, is defending champion and he'll have plenty of challengers in addition to those who did well in recent pro events.
Rockford's Brad Benjamin was the 2010 U.S. Public Links champion. Deerfield's Vince India was the Big Ten player-of-the-year for Iowa. Patrick Rodgers won the Western Golf Assn. Junior title in 2010 and chose to skip a title defense this year to play in the Western Am instead.
While the Western is mostly for college players, they're definitely golf's stars of the future. The Western's list of past champions include Jack Nicklaus (1961), Tom Weiskopf (1963), Lanny Wadkins (1970), Ben Crenshaw (1973), Curtis Strange (1974), Hal Sutton (1979-80), Scott Verplank (1985), Phil Mickelson (1991), Justin Leonard (1992-93), Woods (1994) and Ryan Moore (2004).
Senior Open hopefuls
Two Chicago amateurs, Curtis Skinner of Lake Bluff and Butler National member Vince Antoniou of North Barrington, will take on the top stars of the Senior PGA Tour this week in the U.S. Senior Open, which tees of Thursday at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Skinner and Antoniou shot 69s to share medalist honors at Wynstone in North Barrington, one of the 35 nationwide qualifying tournaments for the championship.
Kevin Marion, the Old Elm professional who made the cut at the 2009 Senior Open, was third in that sectional and is also back in the field at Inverness along with Jeff Sluman and Gary Hallberg, veteran touring pros with Chicago connections.
Did you know?
The Western Amateur will share the tournament spotlight next week with the 17th Illinois Women's Open, which runs Aug. 3-5 at Mistwood in Romeoville. Admission is free for both events . … Two courses run by Jemsek Golf will stage their 36-hole Crosstown Classic this weekend. There'll be play at Pine Meadow in Mundelein on Saturday and Cog Hill's Dubsdread course in Lemont on Sunday. … The Western Amateur will make be staged in the Chicago area for the third straight year at North Shore, with Conway Farms in Lake Forest and Skokie in Glencoe hosting the first two. The run will continue through at least 2016, with Knollwood in Lake Forest recently named the site for that year. … The University of Illinois has moved its major golf fundraiser from Stone Creek in Champaign to Olympia Fields on Aug. 22. … Reagan Kennedy, a 6-year old girl from Bloomington, IL, made a hole-in-one at The Links at Ireland Grove -- an executive-length course in her hometown. According to Golf Digest Clearinghouse, another 6-year old from Texas is the youngest female to record an ace, but the magazine only considers it official if the shot was made on a regulation course.
• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenzhiemongolf.com.