Curtis Malm had a chance to make some significant golf history on Thursday, and he didn't disappoint.
The new head professional at White Eagle in Naperville won his third straight title in the 63rd Illinois PGA Match Play Championship at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove. The last three-peater in the first of the IPGA's four major events came before Malm was born. Bill Ogden, the late pro at North Shore in Glenview, won the tournament from 1970-72.
"That weighed heavily on my mindset this week," Malm said. "When you have the opportunity to do something special, that adds a little motivation and excitement."
Malm, who was an assistant pro at St. Charles Country Club when he won his first two titles, endured some tough moments in his two matches on the final day of the four-day tournament. Both were played in hardly ideal golf conditions -- 40-degree temperatures accompanied by steady winds.
"It was brutal," Malm said, "and I didn't play my best. But you battle through the ups and downs. That's the way it should be."
He had Mistwood teaching pro Chris Ioriatti 4-down with four holes to play in the morning semifinals, but Ioriatti won the next three holes before Malm closed him out on the 18th.
"Way more drama than I wanted," Malm admitted.
But more was to come in the title match against Medinah teaching pro Travis Johns, the tourney's 2010 champion.
Johns was 2-up after eight holes, but Malm fought back and their duel was all square at the 18th tee. Both players hit solid drives and good approaches on the par-4, Johns' stopping 18 feet from the cup and Malm's to 12 feet.
After Johns' left-to-right breaker barely missed, Malm knocked in the winner.
Johns also had a tense semifinal match. He holed two shots from off the green to force extra holes against Conway Farms' new head pro, Matt Slowinski, but needed a 12-footer on the second hole of sudden death go earn his berth in the final.
Malm was a shot shy of advancement in Monday's local qualifier for the U.S. Open at Knollwood in Lake Forest, but his play in six matches at Kemper Lakes enabled him to pad his early lead in the IPGA player-of-the-year race. He's won that award the last two years and is in position to become the third player to win that award three straight times. Steve Benson, then of Hillcrest in Long Grove won from 1980-82 and Aurora's Bob Ackerman matched the feat in 1987-89.
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