St. Charles to host Open qualifier

Of the 8,300 players who entered this year’s U.S. Open, only 72 have qualified off past performance for the June 16-19 tournament at Congressional in Bethesda, Md.

Many of the rest were eliminated in 18-hole local qualifiers, but now things get more serious. The final spots in the 156-man starting field will be decided in 36-hole sectional qualifiers, and one of them will be on Monday at St. Charles Country Club.

Fifty-eight players will compete at St. Charles, and they include veteran PGA Tour player Tom Pernice and Scott Langley, Illinois’ NCAA individual champion of 2010. Also in the field at St. Charles are Hinsdale’s Bennett Blakeman, who made it to last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California, and Deerfield’s Vince India, who won the Illinois Amateur last year at Beverly and was this year’s Big Ten player-of-the-year for Iowa.

The USGA hasn’t announced how many spots at Congressional will be on the line at St. Charles, but in past years the Chicago sectional has had as few as two. The USGA bases the number at each site on strength of field, rather than number of players who decide to make their attempt at a specific course.

Congressional last hosted the U.S. Open in 1997, and that was a memorable one for Chicago golfers because David Ogrin — born and bred in Waukegan and a journeyman tour player — finished in a tie for 10th place behind champion Ernie Els. Ogrin, now a club professional in Texas, is now pondering whether to enter U.S. Senior Open qualifying.

Hall of FamersTwo long-time Chicago area club professionals, Steve Benson of Hillcrest in Long Grove and Sherm Finger of Knollwood in Lake Forest, were among four inductees into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday by the Illinois PGA.Joining those two at the Oct. 21 induction ceremonies will be Paul Voykin, whose career as a course superintendent including 47 years at Briarwood in Deerfield, and the late Bob Gardner, an outstanding athlete in the early 1900s. He won two U.S. Amateurs and was on four U.S. Walker Cup teams while playing out of HInsdale Golf Club. He was also a national doubles champion in squash and a world record-holder in the pole vault prior to his death in 1956.New dates for Women#146;s OpenThe Phil Kosin Illinois Women#146;s Open will have an earlier start this year. The 17th annual event will be staged at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville on Aug. 3-5. That#146;s about two weeks earlier than past years, and the new dates will put the state#146;s premier women#146;s competition opposite the Western Amateur, which will run Aug. 1-6 at North Shore Country Club in Glenview.In past years the IWO played its 54 holes on a Thursday-Saturday schedule. This time it will run Wednesday-Friday and will be open to all pros and amateurs with handicaps of 15.0 or less if they#146;ve reached their 17th birthday by Aug. 3. Last year LPGA Tour players Allison Fouch and Nicole Jeray decided the title in a sudden-death playoff, with Fouch winning on the second extra hole.Good match for Cats?Northwestern was seeded only 28th of the 30 teams in the NCAA finals, which began Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State#146;s home course in Stillwater, Okla. Illinois, one of five Big Ten teams in the field, is the No. 9 seed and the conference champion. Still, the Wildcats could be title contenders because the team title will be decided in match play and NU has won the last two Big Ten match play crowns.The entire field competes over 54 holes, and the individual champion will be crowned after that portion of the competition ends on Thursday. Then the top eight teams compete in match play until the team winner is determined on Sunday. Iowa is the No. 13 seed, followed by No. 15 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State.Mark your calendarsThe first two fundraising galas for Chicago#146;s First Tee of Chicago featured Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star who became golf#146;s No. 1 player with his win in the BMW PGA Championship in England on Sunday.This year#146;s Taste of the First Tee benefit will have more than Donald. Jack Nicklaus will join Donald and golf broadcaster David Feherty will serve as master of ceremonies. The Aug. 17 event will be held at Chicago#146;s River East Arts Center.Did you know?Next week#146;s Radix Cup matches at Oak Park Country Club on June 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the annual battle between the Illinois PGA#146;s top players and an amateur team selected by the Chicago District Golf Assn. #133; The first of seven qualifying rounds for the 62nd Illinois Open is Tuesday at Mistwood. #133; Qualifiers for both men#146;s and women#146;s Public Links tourneys will be held over the next few days. The men compete at Ironwood in Normal on Thursday and Village Links of Glen Ellyn on Monday and the women#146;s elimination is June 8 at Wilmette Golf Club. #133; Chicago will apparently be down to one winter golf show in 2012. North Coast Golf Shows, which staged a show at the Schaumburg Convention Center the past few years, doesn#146;t have it on next year#146;s schedule. That would leave the 28-year old Chicago Golf Show in Rosemont going it alone.Ÿ Len Ziehm#146;s column appears Wednesdays. To contact him, visit Langley, the reigning Big Ten men’s golf champ for the Illini, will play in Monday’s U.S. Open qualifier at St. Charles Country Club. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)Associated PressGLFGLF40002667Bennett Blakeman of Hinsdale, who made it to last year’s U.S. Open golf tournament at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, hopes to earn another trip in Monday’s qualifier at St. Charles Country Club. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Associated PressGLF