Former No. 1 Donald back in the swing at Heritage Classic
The Masters, captivating as usual, is history for another year after Hideki Matsuyama's victory Sunday. The next stops on the tournament trails merit attention -- especially as they pertain to the Northwestern golf program.
One of NU's all-time greats, Luke Donald, faces an important stretch in his comeback efforts starting this week, and David Lipsky and Dylan Wu -- Wildcat stars of a more recent vintage -- return to action on the Korn Ferry Tour with PGA Tour cards in the balance.
Donald, 43, was the world's No. 1-ranked player for 55 weeks in 2011 and 2012. Beset by back problems, he's now ranked No. 577 after missing nine straight cuts on the PGA Tour but he remains hopeful. He is in the field at the RBC Heritage Classic, which tees off Thursday in Hilton Head, S.C., and he figures to get a start in the Valspar Championship later this month.
If Donald is to regain prominence on the PGA circuit, April could be a key month. He has a great history at both the Heritage and Valspar events, and they could be a springboard in his comeback.
Donald never won the Heritage, but finished second three times and third twice on the Harbour Town Links course. His last of 16 second-place finishes came at the 2017 Heritage.
His last PGA Tour victory came in 2012 at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course, the site of the Valspar Championship in two weeks. The event was called the Transitions Championship when Donald won there.
The last staging of the Valspar was at Innisbrook in 2019, when Donald finished tied for ninth. He seemed on the way back to regaining his top form then, but it didn't happen and the Valspar was canceled in 2020 due to pandemic issues.
Born in England and now a longtime resident of Jupiter, Fla., Donald has more than $36 million in career winnings since graduating from NU in 2001. He played on four European Ryder Cup teams, and in 2011 became the first player to win money titles on both the U.S. and European PGA tours. He has remained close to NU and the Chicago golf community through his many charitable efforts.
In addition to Donald, the other two local Tour players -- Kevin Streelman and Doug Ghim -- are at the Heritage after sitting out Masters week.
Up and coming: On the Korn Ferry Tour, neither David Lipsky nor Dylan Wu has approached the success Donald did in his 18-year pro career after leaving Northwestern, but they appear on the brink of making it to the PGA Tour. The Korn Ferry sends its Top 25 to the Tour at the end of the season and Lipsky is No. 8 and Wu No. 20 going into this week's MGM Resorts Championship in Las Vegas.
Lipsky, 32, is a 2011 NU grad and Wu, 24, finished in Evanston in 2018. Lipsky had a shot at winning on the Korn Ferry two weeks ago but lost a playoff to Germany's Stephan Jaeger. Wu has two seconds on the Korn Ferry, which has 16 tournaments remaining.
Here and there: The "Golfers on Golf" radio show begins its 31st season at 4 p.m. Saturday on WCPT (820-AM). Hosts are Rory Spears, Ed Stevenson and Bill Berger. ... After two seasons at Illinois Noah Gillard has transferred to Indiana. Gillard, from Greenwood Ind., won the Indiana Amateur and Amateur Match Play titles in 2020. ... Mistwood in Romeoville hosts its Pick Your Pin Scramble Saturday, and will also be the site of the Illinois PGA's first in-state event of the year, the Pro-Pro-Pro Scramble Monday. ... Entries are closed for the first two events on the Chicago District Golf Association schedule -- qualifiers for the Mid-Amateur Championship April 26 at Maple Meadows in Wood Dale and April 28 at Palatine Hills. ... As of now the June 11-13 Arnold Palmer Cup, an international team event at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, is closed to the public because of the pandemic.