Ziehm: It's major tournament time for the Illinois PGA
While the four major championships on the PGA Tour are now history, the Illinois PGA has three of its four majors still coming up. The next is the Illinois Open, Aug. 2-4 at Stonebridge, in Aurora.
IPGA leadership did considerable soul-searching in trying to salvage the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, and their efforts are reflected in the streamlining of some events and the expansion of its role in others this year. Executive director Carrie Williams outlined the changes, event by event.
Illinois Women's Open:
The IPGA was reluctant to get involved when the late Phil Kosin organized the IWO 26 years ago, but now that's changed.
"We were always interested in increasing our reach when it comes to women's championship golf, and our relationship with Mistwood (in Romeoville) allowed us to establish a partnership for the first year, which we hope to expand." said Williams.
The IPGA provided starters, scorekeepers and rules officials for this year's event, played earlier this month, and the section's role could expand with Mistwood director of golf Andy Mickelson the tournament chairperson on the IPGA board of directors.
"It'll always be the Phil Kosin Illinois Women's Open," said Williams, "and I anticipate it will always be at Mistwood. It's the place we want to be, and we want to staff it with more females."
The expanded field for the finals is over. The IPGA dropped Stonebridge as the alternate site last year when the field was cut back to 156 players and it'll be the solo host this year. There were 312 finalists the past few years in an effort to stimulate more entrants in the qualifying rounds.
"We think 156 works better from an administration perspective as well as providing a better championship experience for the competitors," said Williams. "When we went to two sites in 2014 or 2015 we had 500 to 600 qualify and saw an immediate increase in entries. Over the last six years that's evened out. Now, in a typical year, we get 490 to 530."
The three-course rotation, used for more than a decade, is done. This year's event is Aug. 23-25 at Ivanhoe Club, and no future sites have been announced.
"Medinah has the intention to host every few years, and we hope to return to Olympia Fields in the future,'' said Williams. "We will remain regional, but not rotational. We may be downstate once in awhile. We want to go to clubs that want us to he there, clubs that will support us from a volunteer perspective, that are excited to have us.''
It's now turned into two events -- a best ball played at Metamora Fields and a 36-player invitational for the top players on the Bernardi Point List, to be played at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. That event is now The Players Championship.
"The old event always had an identity crisis,'' said Williams. "It was a points event to determine Player of the Year and also a celebration of the end of the season. We'd only get 70 players. Some of the top guys couldn't get there (it was generally held at Eagle Ridge, in Galena) and some who did had not played much all year."
Drive, Chip & Putt:
Williams is happy to announce that Medinah will be the site of a regional in which 88 qualifiers will battle for spots in the national finals on the Sunday before April's Masters in Georgia. The regionals are rotated around the country, and Medinah has been the only Chicago site used. That was five years ago.
IPGA Junior Tour:
Operated by the IPGA Foundation, the new circuit called for seven 90-player tournaments played at high-end private clubs. Dana Gattone, of the IPGA staff, is running the circuit with the finals coming up July 26 at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.
"The IJGA (Illinois Junior Golf Association) embraced it, and we had a fantastic launch in a very abbreviated season," said Williams. She had headed the IJGA for eight years before moving to the IPGA six years ago.
Here and there:
Dylan Frittelli, who missed the cut in defense of his John Deere Classic title two weeks ago in Silvis, bounced back with a fifth-place finish at the British Open and earned $480,000. Wheaton's Kevin Streelman, who also missed the cut at the JDC, wasn't bad across the pond, either. He tied for 19th and earned $109,000. ... Nicole Jeray, a longtime competitor on the LPGA Tour who is now on the teaching staff at Mistwood, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Women's Open. ... The 90th Illinois State Amateur concludes Thursday at Mistwood. One former champion, 2012 winner Quinn Prchal, couldn't compete this time but -- working with his father Tom -- he has come out with a book to help young players who want to play competitive golf. It's called "Lessons Learned, Playing Junior and College Golf." … The 119th Western Amateur begins its six-day run on Monday at Glen View Club and the IPGA Senior Masters will be played on Monday at Onwentsia.
• Illinois Golf Hall of Famer Len Ziehm is on the "Golfers on Golf Radio 820" show at 4 p.m. Saturdays. He co-hosts the "Ziehm & Spears Golf Podcast Series" on social media. Past columns are at lenziehmongolf.com.