Rough week, but local golf pro Biancalana finishes 49th at Senior PGA event in Florida
In this chaotic year for scheduling golf tournaments the Illinois PGA did the best of the three major local organizations. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the Western Golf Association's two national junior championships and the Chicago District Golf Association had to call off its two biggest events -- the Illinois State Amateur and Chicago District Amateur.
The IPGA salvaged its four major events even though its tournament schedule couldn't begin until July.
Last of the section's majors was last week's IPGA Senior Players Championship at Twin Orchard in Long Grove. Black Sheep's Kevin Healy won it, then with eight of his competitors traveled to the Senior PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla. A 10th IPGA member, Illinois coach Mike Small, was already there after opting to bypass the Players event.
Then things got very interesting -- especially for Roy Biancalana, a veteran teaching pro who divided his time between St. Andrews in West Chicago and Blackberry Oaks in Bristol this year.
The Illinois contingent had to test negative for the COVID-19 virus before they were allowed at the PGA Golf Club. Their flight arrived in Florida at midnight Tuesday, their tests were at 8 a.m. Wednesday with results at 7 p.m., meaning none of the players at Twin Orchard could get in a practice round.
Small did, but he had problems, too. He started the first round in spectacular fashion, going eagle-birdie on the first two holes, but -- after finishing the first 18 in a tie 27th of the 266 starters -- he became ill and had to withdraw.
The field was cut to the low 90 and ties after the second round, and only Biancalana, IPGA Senior Player of the Year David Paeglow of Kishwaukee in DeKalb, and David Hannon, a teaching pro at Links & Tees in Addison, survived to play in the third round. Paeglow and Hannon didn't advance to Sunday's final 18, when the field was limited to the low 70 and ties.
Biancalana didn't think he'd advance after his third round, but winds picked up after he was done and he managed to squeak into the field for the last round. By then, though, the week had taken a toll.
When he arrived in Florida he learned his laptop was missing. Then his rental car broke down the day he picked it up, and a bothersome tooth was acting up.
"It took two days to get a new rental car," he said, "and I was on the phone trying to get the computer six to eight times a day. That was distracting. By the time I started the first round I felt tired."
He was also out $1,800 for the still-missing computer.
Though he had played the tournament courses many times in past years, the lack of a practice round was a problem. Biancalana, who won two Illinois Opens and made the cut in a PGA Championship, has been a tournament player 45 years and this was the first time he went into competition with no practice round.
"I did feel a little uncomfortable. I didn't feel I read the greens right," he said. "I've played these courses hundreds of times, but it was a problem getting used to the grass."
Biancalana tied for 49th at 5-over 292 for 72 holes. He was 23 shots behind champ Omar Uresti, who set a tournament record at 18-under and won by 6 strokes. The top 35 qualified for the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Biancalana will be back to PGA Golf Club's courses. Thanks to a fifth-place finish in the IPGA Championship he's qualified for the PGA Professional Championship there in April where he will be "playing against the kids."
Now 60, he plans to beef up through weight training and diet changes in time for that competition.