Finally there's some good news involving Joe Affrunti, the Crystal Lake golfer who suffered a serious shoulder injury months after earning his PGA Tour card.
Affrunti earned the right to play on golf's premier circuit by finishing in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list in 2010. In June of 2011, however, he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder that required major surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation.
Now he's playing again. On a medical exemption with the PGA Tour, Affrunti is competing on the Web.com circuit. He made the cut in two of his four starts, earning $4,500. This week's South Georgia Classic will be the fifth and last Web.com start he's allowed as part of medical exemption procedures. After that, where he plays will be determined on a week-to-week basis.
"It's confusing," he said. "I get five medical starts to see how I'm feeling, then I can enter a (PGA Tour) event. I'm allowed 14 starts on the PGA Tour, but I still have to (be eligible to) get in (the tournaments). I won't get in all 14 until next year.''
As a low qualifier off the Web.com circuit, his eligibility for PGA Tour events is extremely limited. He was, for instance, only the 14th alternate for last week's Heritage Classic.
"My first tournament back will probably be in Memphis (St. Jude Classic in June)," said Affrunti, "but I can play on the Web.com as long as my (PGA Tour qualifying) number doesn't come up."
Affrunti played at the University of Illinois and won the 2004 Illinois Open at The Glen Club before earning his playing privileges on the pro circuits. Injuries, though, have slowed a promising career. He had major wrist surgery before the shoulder flare-up.
"I don't think I"ll ever be 100 percent," he said. "My wrist surgery was five years ago, and it still acts up. With the shoulder, I went a long time without playing. The rehab took a lot longer than I thought it would, and I've had trouble being consistent. But you never know when you'll have good weeks, when your games will come around. The more you play, the more comfortable you feel."
An Illini-NU duel?
The Big Ten men's championship, which tees off Friday at French Lick Resort in Indiana, figures to be an all-Illinois affair with Northwestern trying to end Illinois' run of four straight titles.
"We'll go in seeded one-two," said NU coach Pat Goss, whose Wildcats had a run of three straight Big Ten Match Play titles snapped by the Illini in February. "They have kids on their team who have experienced nothing but winning the Big Ten. That'll give them a lot of confidence. If both of us get going, we should have a fun battle."
NU tuned up by winning its Spring Invitational at The Glen Club. Illinois finished third in last week's Boilermaker Invitational at Purdue.
The men's tourney will be contested on French Lick's Pete Dye Course while the conference women's title will be decided at the nearby Donald Ross Course. Michigan State goes for a three-peat on the women's side.
Did you know?
• The full 18 holes of Elk Grove's Fox Run course, renovated by Aurora architect Greg Martin, are expected to be available this weekend. Last Sunday's grand reopening outing was canceled due to the heavy storms that forced the closing of many area courses.
• Cog Hill, in Lemont, will hold a Demo Day from 9 a.m. -3 p.m. on Saturday.
• The Illinois PGA holds its first stroke play event of the season on Monday at Bloomington Country Club. The IPGA Assistants Match Play Championship will also begin on that day at courses throughout the state.
• Flossmoor's Ashley Armstrong won her second tournament of the collegiate season for Notre Dame, taking the Lady Jaguar Invitational at Augusta, Ga.
• The Illinois Patriot Education Fund and the McCormick Foundation have joined forces in the staging of the May 28 Medinah Patriot Day outing. It'll be played over the Nos. 2 and 3 courses at Medinah.
• Mundelein-based GolfVisions has taken over management of Fyre Lake, a Jack Nicklaus-design near the Quad Cities.
• For more golf news, check out lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at email@example.com. His column appears on Wednesdays in the Daily Herald.