What a difference a year makes.
Last year the biggest tournament at Medinah Country Club was the Illinois PGA Championship, which decides the best player among the state's club professionals. Next month, of course, Medinah hosts the 39th Ryder Cup matches.
And the player who shocked the Chicago golf scene with his win at Medinah last year isn't focusing on his title defense.
Frank Hohenadel, a little-known assistant pro at Midlothian Country Club, ended Mike Small's eight-year reign as the IPGA champion over Medinah's No. 1 course last August. The lanky left-handed golfer defends his title next week at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake, but he's more interested in the big event coming to Medinah beginning Sept. 25.
That's when the U.S. stars battle Europe in the biennial team competition that's generally considered the biggest event in golf.
"I'm looking forward to watching those guys as much as I am the Illinois PGA," said Hohenadel. "I plan to go on Sunday (Sept. 30) and be part of the party -- and I hope the U.S. wins this time."
The IPGA Championship, which rotates between Olympia Fields, Medinah and Stonewall, begins its 54-hole run on Monday and concludes on Wednesday. Small, the Illini golf coach, had dominated the competition until Hohenadel caught fire on a weather-damaged layout.
"Conditions were different than what we're used to last year," said Hohenadel, who opened with a 65 and never looked back. "We played lift, clean and place in the fairways, but there was no problem with the greens."
The No. 1 layout -- the site of Hohenadel's victory -- has been reduced to nine holes to accommodate Ryder Cup preparations, and that entire 18 will be torn up after September's matches to allow architect Tom Doak to renovate the course, which was opened in 1925. The Ryder Cup will be played on the No. 3 course.
Hohenadel, who grew up in Tinley Park and went to Andrew High School and St. Francis College in Joliet, is in his third season at Midlothian after spending five at Wedgewood, a public facility in Joliet. He had played in only four IPGA events last season but has been in nine this year. He shot 68 to finish second in an assistants event, and his scoring average is a respectable 72.5.
"I've got more confidence in my game," he said. "This year there'll be a little more pressure. I was pretty much under the radar last year."
He's played Stonewall, the lone public course in the IPGA Championship rotation, only once and that was in the spring.
"It's very different than Medinah and Olympia," said Hohenadel. "My game is more suited to those long, old-school courses than it is to the links style."
Hasley, Wright pace qualifiers
There'll be a big contingent of Chicago area players in the 32nd U.S. Mid-Amateur, which is coming to Lake Forest courses Conway Farms and Knollwood next month.
Illinois had three qualifying tournaments last week, and Winnetka's Scott Hasley and Aurora's John Wright posted the best scores -- 69s at Chicago Highlands in Westchester. The other qualifiers there for the Sept. 8-13 national championship for players 25 and older were Matt Olson of Chicago, Chad Arsich of Mokena and Nick Schenk of St. Charles.
Lake Forest's Andrew Price was medalist in the qualifier at Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Club, in Rockford, with a 70. Scott Rowe of Hinsdale and Richard Balla of St. Charles were among the other qualifiers there and Chicago's Scott Rech made it at Piper Glen in Springfield.
Ryder Cup Team Europe
European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal named three vice captains for the upcoming matches.
He picked Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley. All are former players with at least nine Ryder Cup wins. They were also on the staff when Europe won the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales.
Here and there
"Wildcat Golf Day With Luke Donald," a fundraiser for Northwestern's golf programs, has been scheduled at Medinah on Sept. 10. Donald also will be in the Ryder Cup field Sept. 28-30. … The 85th Mid West Amateur runs Friday and Saturday at the Chicago Park District's Marovitz course. … The Bridges at Poplar Creek, in Hoffman Estates, will host a qualifier for the Illinois State Senior Amateur on Tuesday.