Ziehm, Esposito enter Illinois Golf Hall of Fame
As he stood at the podium Friday night at the Glen Club in Glenview, Len Ziehm talked down his golf game.
"I'm not a good player," he said. "My handicap has never been below 16. But I've been a lucky guy to be able to do all the things I've done."
One of six inductees into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, Ziehm took a different route to make his mark on the sport.
It started early in his 41-year run as a sportswriter with the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I came into the golf beat when I worked for the Sun-Times," said Ziehm, a 1961 graduate of Palatine High School. "I was the youngest guy in the department at the time and the sports editor, Jim Mullen, declared me the golf writer.
"The beat wasn't much back then. I only went to the local tournaments and did a few features and I was happy with that.
"But it was a time when the golf beat started exploding and it wasn't long before my summers would be spent going to a lot of major championships. It was a very exciting time."
Before leaving the Sun-Times, Ziehm covered 28 U.S. Opens, 11 Masters, 19 PGA Championships, 4 U.S. Women's Opens and dozens of Western Opens.
He was ready to retire and travel to golf courses around the country with his wife, Joy.
"Then a guy named Doug Ray came along," Ziehm said. "He's the publisher of the Daily Herald and for some reason, he didn't think I was quite ready to go out to pasture yet.
"I'm really glad he felt that way because these last 10 years now writing for the Daily Herald, a paper that is really committed to golf coverage, it's really been a lot of fun and an honor to keep going with that."
Joining Ziehm in the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame are local legend Emil Esposito, Carol Mann, a 38-time winner on the LPGA Tour, William Langford, a trailblazing golf architect, Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, the driving force behind the formation of the Chicago District Golf Association in 1914 and Harry Radix, who created the pro tour original ranking system in 1934.
A star golfer at Leyden High School and Western Illinois, Esposito went on to win the Illinois Open in 1966 and '74. He was also the Illinois PGA champion in 1979.
Esposito later served as the club professional at Brookwood and Mount Prospect and was at Kemper Lakes for over 40 years before joining the Glen Club.
A skilled teacher, Esposito is widely known as "The Problem Solver."
"For the past 53 years, golf has been my passion," an emotional Esposito said. "It's enabled me to play the game, teach the game and grow the game. I love growing and promoting the game of golf and I'm overwhelmed to be here. It's a dream come true."