Chicago's two local qualifying tournaments for the U.S. Open are over. Now comes the hard part for the 10 golfers who survived.
They were the lucky ones among the 180 who entered the 18-hole eliminations at Northmoor in Highland Park and at Seven Bridges in Woodridge the last two weeks. Next up is the U.S. Golf Association's self-proclaimed "longest day in golf" on June 3, when the 11 sectionals, all 36-hole sessions, are contested around the country to complete the 156-man field for the 113th Open proper at Merion in Ardmore, PA, from June 13-16.
Chicago's 10 can pick their own sectional. Chicago won't host one for the first time in at least five decades. Based on geography, the closest is at Old Warson in St. Louis, but some players may opt for Columbus, Ohio. More qualifying spots will likely be available there with most of the PGA Tour players who haven't already qualified the week before at the nearby Memorial tournament.
Most of the record 9,865 entries for this year's Open were eliminated in the 111 local eliminations. Chicago's 10 survivors are headed by 2011 Illinois Amateur champion Brad Hopfinger of Lake Forest, who has been playing on the Gateway Tour since leaving the University of Iowa. He posted the low round at the Chicago locals -- a 66 at Northmoor.
Co-medalists at Seven Bridges were Chicago's Michael Smith and Libertyville's Michael Schachner, a perennial Illinois Open contender and mini-tour player who once shot a 60 while playing collegiately at Duke. Both posted 69s at the local.
Two of the top teaching club pros, Rich Dukelow and Travis Johns, also qualified for the sectionals. Dukelow was the Illinois PGA player-of-the-year in 2011. Johns, who won that honor in 2010, joined the staff at Medinah last week.
St. Charles assistant Curtis Malm, who swept Illinois PGA player-of-the-year and assistant player-of-the-year honors in 2012, didn't survive the locals. He shot 74 at Seven Bridges, one shot out of a playoff for the final two sectional berths available.
The lone Chicago area member on the LPGA Tour has qualified for the U.S. Women's Open. Berwyn's Nicole Jeray made it by posting a 143 total for 36 holes at Elkridge Club in Baltimore in last week's first qualifying session. She was five strokes behind medalist Christina Kim and is assured a spot in the Women's Open proper at New York's Sebonack course June 27-30.
Life is looking up for Jeray, who missed the cut in her first three LPGA starts. In addition to surviving the Open qualifier, she made the cut in her last two LPGA events and now has season winnings of $6,211.
Northwestern is in the NCAA women's finals for the second time thanks to a final-round charge in last week's East Regional. With Winnetka freshman Elizabeth Szokol shooting a 4-under-par 68, coach Emily Fletcher's team climbed from 10th to sixth in the final 18 of the 54-hole test.
NU's only other berth in the finals came in 2000. This time the freshman-dominated squad will compete May 21-24 at the University of Georgia's course.
Both Big Ten champion Illinois and Northwestern are in the men's NCAA tourney, which starts with regional play on Thursday. The Illini are the sixth seed of 14 teams in a regional in Fayetteville, Ark., while the Wildcats are the sixth seed among 13 teams at Baton Rouge, La.
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• For more golf news, check out lenziehmongolf.com. Len also can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays in the Daily Herald.