Despite 9 LPGA wins, Jutanugarn sees Kemper Lakes as a huge challenge
How time flies. In 2011, Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn won the U.S. Junior Girls tournament at Olympia Fields. Now she's one of the very best players in women's golf with a No. 2 world ranking, winner of nine LPGA tournaments and the champion in two majors, including this year's U.S. Women's Open.
Olympia wasn't so kind to Jutanugarn in last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship, however. After finishing third in the tourney in 2016 she missed the cut at the south suburban private club and her prospects in this week's staging of the tournament at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer are precarious.
On Monday she played the back nine -- her first look at the course that hosted the men's PGA Championship in 1989 -- and on Tuesday her afternoon pro-am round was delayed by heavy morning rains. Her first comparison of the two Chicago area courses hosting the event in consecutive years suggests a tough week is ahead.
"I didn't play much golf in this tournament last year -- only two rounds," she said. "Both the courses are pretty hard, but this one is even harder. The fairways are really tight. The rough is really thick, and the greens are very, very big and really slow. Actually, everything is pretty hard."
Already she has decided that the driver won't be in her game plan for the start of tournament play on Thursday.
"No chance," she said. "I can't hit it here. I'm just going to keep hitting 2-iron and 3-wood."
She quickly came to appreciate The Gauntlet, the name the Kemper membership recently gave to the last three holes. Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are considered the toughest finishing stretch in Chicago golf and Jutanugarn won't argue with that statement.
"Every hole is pretty tough, and the last three are really, really tough," she said. "It's going to be a really great finish because of that."
Here and there
• Arlington Heights resident Doug Ghim, the collegiate player-of-the-year at the University of Texas, played his first event as a professional with a new caddie. Lance Bennett was on Ghim's bag at last week's Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut, and will carry for him this week in the Quicken Loans National in the Washington D.C., area. Bennett had previously carried for Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas and Daniel Berger on the PGA Tour while Ghim used his father Jeff as his caddie when he played as an amateur.
• The Illinois PGA had two near-misses in last week's PGA Professionals Championship in Oregon. The top 20 in the field earned berths in August's PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis. Brian Carroll, head professional at Royal Hawk in St. Charles, and Dakun Chang, assistant pro at Twin Orchard in Long Grove, were in a nine-way tie for 16th place. Both were eliminated in a playoff for the final five spots in the field reserved for club professionals.
• The weather severely hampered last week's major amateur events. The 101st Western Junior at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie was reduced from 72 to 36 and Jeff Doty of Carmel, Indiana, was awarded the title by virtue of being the 36-hole leader. In the 99th Chicago District Amateur the final between Illinois State teammates David Perkins of East Peoria and Trent Wallace of Joliet was reduced from 36 to 18 holes. Perkins won on the fifth extra hole.
• PGA Tour player Kevin Streelman will host a day of stories, golf and fun for junior golfers at Cantigny in Wheaton on July 9. Pre-registration is required.
• The renovation of the Players Nine at Schaumburg Golf Club has been completed and those holes will reopen on Saturday.
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