It's been quite awhile since an Illinois golfer made an impact in the U.S. Amateur, but Blake Biddle of St. Charles ended that dryspell last week in his first appearance in the prestigious tournament, and he could be a factor in such national competitions for years to come.
Biddle, a Wheaton Academy grad who is about to enter his sophomore year at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, enjoyed a solid freshman season, getting five top-10 tournament finishes. He threatened to break onto the national stage at the U.S. Open, but lost a berth in the big event at Congressional when he failed to survive a playoff in sectional qualifying.
And then came the U.S. Am, which concluded on Sunday.
Biddle finished second to UCLA's Gregor Main in the stroke play qualifying at Wisconsin's Erin Hills and Blue Mound courses and then won two matches to reach the Sweet 16 of the match play portion of the tournament.
The end came against Kelly Kraft, in a match that went 23 holes -- the longest at the U.S. Amateur in 11 years. Kraft, who plays for Southern Methodist, went on to win the title, beating Patrick Cantlay, the world's top-ranked amateur, in the championship match. Biddle, 19, gave Kelly his toughest match in the tournament.
"I feel very proud of myself," said Biddle. "I feel I've been getting a lot better for a long time, and I'm finally getting some results."
Biddle hopes to enter the pro ranks eventually, and UNLV may be the right place to get him there. Seven former UNLV players are currently on the PGA Tour, headed by seven-time winner Adam Scott.
A last look for IPGA
The 89th Illinois PGA Championship concludes Wednesday at Medinah, and when the tourney returns to the club in 2014 it'll be played on a different course.
Medinah's No. 1 layout, which is being used for the IPGA for the second time this week, will be closed as soon as next fall's Ryder Cup matches conclude on the famed No. 3 course. Michigan architect Tom Doak will then begin a renovation of No. 1. Medinah is scheduled to host the IPGA tourney in 2017.
Otherwise, the section has some planning to do for the second biggest of its four major events. Next year's IPGA will be played at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake. Olympia Fields asked out of hosting in 2013 because it's scheduled to host the Western Amateur that year. There also are no sites yet for 2015 or 2016.
Stricker: Cog Hill not popular
If the opinions of PGA Tour players have any input, the future of Cog Hill's Dubsdread course in Lemont as site of the BMW Championship is in serious jeopardy. The FedEx Cup playoff event returns there beginning Sept 12, but there's no guarantee it'll be played there after that.
Several players were critical of the course, renovated by architect Rees Jones, during last year's BMW. The well-respected Steve Stricker joined the chorus during the University of Illinois' recent fundraiser at Olympia Fields.
"I'm excited to go back there," said Stricker, a Western Open champion on Dubsdread in 1996. "But I'm disappointed about what transpired there. The redo is not conducive to our tournament there. It was a little severe. It's playable, but a little tricked up and goofy in spots. I feel real bad for the Jemsek family (owners of the course). They stuck a lot of money into (the renovation), and they're great people. I liked it before, but the players just don't like it (now). The redo isn't good. It's sad for the Jemsek family."
Frank Jemsek has been supportive of the work that Jones, who has renovated several courses nationwide for major championships, did on his course.
Did you know?
Chicago Highlands, the new private club in Westchester that has been mentioned as a future big tournament venue, hosted its first U.S. Golf Assocation event on Tuesday when the second of three Illinois qualifiers for the U.S. Mid-Amateur was held there. Chicago's Michael Sabo was medalist at the first, shooting 69 at Evanston. The last one is Thursday at Mt. Hawley in Peoria. … The Weekly Challenge Tour visits Ruffled Feathers in Lemont on Thursday. … The Harvest Invitational, a fundraiser for Northern Illinois University's golf programs, will be held at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove on Oct. 10. … Another charity event, the Chicago Legends Classic, is scheduled for Sept. 19 at Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale.
• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenziehmongolf.com.