Amateurs rally to capture madcap Radix Cup

Writing from River Grove, Illinois

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Just call it the craziest day in Radix Cup history.

An albatross. A ace. A guy chipping in three times. The host professional without his clubs on the first tee.

Throw in a rousing comeback by the amateurs, and Wednesday’s Radix Cup, the 57th in succession, is barely summed up.

The amateurs, the Chicago District Golf Association’s side, won 10-8 at Oak Park Country Club after trailing 4-2 at the turn by collecting eight of the 12 remaining points to knock off the Illinois PGA’s professionals.

It’s the second win in a row, third in four matches and seventh in the last 11 for the amateurs. However, mere statistics explain next to nothing.

Start with the albatross, or double eagle, if you prefer. Jim Billiter, the professional at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, authored it, and on the par-5 516-yard first hole, at that.

“I had a tree in my way so I was thinking high draw,” Billiter said of his second shot, from about 260 yards out. “I asked Dakun (Chung, his partner), ‘We didn’t come here to lay up, did we?’ ”

He pulled a 3-wood out of his bag.

“But it came off low off the heel, so I’m screaming ‘go, go.’ I was not super pleased with it, but it landed by the hole and went down. And (Brian) Brodell was screaming on the second tee. I said, ‘Did that go in the hole?’ ”

It did, the first albatross in Radix Cup history. And like that, he and Chung were 1-up on amateurs Greg Bauman and Matt Murlick.

Billiter and Chung were 5-under in the best-ball format at the turn, and scored a point for the pros. In the Radix Cup, each match has a point available on each side, and another overall.

Bauman and Murlick bounced back stunningly, especially Murlick, who plays out of the public Winnetka Golf Club. He took to Oak Park like he was a member, chipping in on the eighth hole, then twice more on the back, on the 13th and 16th holes, winning the hole each time. The amateur duo went around the back in 4-under to Billiter-Chung’s 1-under to win the inward point and the overall point as well.

Those two points won the Cup for the amateurs.

“They played great on the back and we just kinda stalled,” Billiter said. “It was a great day. I’ve made plenty of eagles in my time, but they were all 10-footers, no closer.”

The ace was almost routine in comparison. Amateur Dave Ryan of Taylorville accomplished that with a 4-iron from 200 yards on the sixth hole.

“It went past the hole, rolled back down the hill, and went in,” Ryan, the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, said matter-of-factly of his fourth career ace. “When you make a hole in one, obviously it’s lucky.”

“I’ve never hit that green, let alone get close to the hole,” said Illinois PGA Match Play champion Garrett Chaussard, who saw Ryan’s ball go in from the fifth fairway.

Ryan’s ace came some 10 minutes after Billiter’s albatross, and helped he and Oak Park club champion Justin Smith to a point on the front nine, but Oak Park pros Carson Solien and Ryan Peavey scored a point on the back and were able to halve the overall point for a draw.

Solien has been the head professional for about three months. It was he who left his clubs at home, not realizing that until scant minutes before the match.

“It just tells you how much golf I’ve been playing in the past three months,” Solien said. “I didn’t even know where they were. Luckily I don’t live too far from the club, so my caddie went home and got them. I had them by the middle of the first hole. I joined Ryan on the second hole.

“Makes for a good story, at least.”

You can’t make stuff like that up.

The only win by a pro duo was the 2 1/2-1/2 victory of Chaussard and Matt Slowinski over amateurs Brian Hickey and Chadd Slutzky. Otherwise, the amateurs either split or won the other three matches.

Tim Cronin

57th Radix Cup Match

Oak Park CC • Par 72


Amateurs 10, Professionals 8


Pros Kyle Bauer, Chris Green 1 1/2, amateurs Michael Fastert, Charlie Waddell 1 1/2

Pros Ryan Peavey, Carson Solien 1 1/2, amateurs Dave Ryan, Justin Smith 1 1/2

Pros Garrett Chaussard, Matt Slowinski 2 1/2, amateurs Mike Cushing, Todd Mitchell 1/2

Amateurs Brian Hickey, Chadd Slutzky 2, pros Rich Dukelow, Travis Johns 1

Amateurs Brian Ohr, Trent Wallace 2 1/2, pros Brian Brodell, Brian Carroll 1/2

Amateurs Greg Bauman, Matt Murlick 2, pros Jim Billiter, Dakun Chung 1


Hardy pro debut Thursday in Rust-Oleum

Writing from Chicago

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nick Hardy is level-headed enough to not see the dollar signs in his mind when he addresses the ball on the first tee of Ivanhoe Club at 9 a.m. Thursday.

That’s not to say he won’t have been thinking about it for the days beforehand. That first swing will mark his debut as a professional after a fine amateur career that was capped by his second Big Ten individual title – this one outright – in three years.

The Northbrook native thus makes the transition on an up, even though his Illinois team didn’t carry the torch into the NCAA Championship match play segment this year. It wasn’t because Hardy and Dylan Meyer, who on Monday qualified for next week’s U.S. Open, didn’t try.

Even though he’s in on a sponsor exemption, Hardy is one of the headliners for this year’s Rust-Oleum Championship, the Tour tournament that has decamped at Ivanhoe Club for the third year running. It’s a field of PGA Tour hopefuls and once-weres, and this year buttressed by former Masters champion Mike Weir, who’s using the tournament to prep for the Champions Tour. He starts Thursday at 12:55 p.m.

Also in the field are a pair of Illinois Open champions: Chicago’s Brad Hopfinger (2014) and Elgin’s Carlos Sainz (2016), Wheaton’s Tim “Tee-K” Kelly, who captured a tournament on the Latinoamerica circuit last season, Libertyville’s Michael Schachner, Chicago’s Vince India and Quincy’s Luke Guthrie, who had a few stellar outings on the PGA Tour early in his pro career and then fell back into the pack.

Eighteen of the top 25 on the tour’s money list – the cutoff for advancement to the PGA Tour at the end of the season – are on hand, including No. 1 Sungjam Im of South Korea. Other notables including 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel and 2007 Western Amateur winner Jhared Hack. They’re in a threesome with Josh Teater off the 10th tee at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Tim Cronin


Chaussard scores a major victory

Reporting from Kildeer, Illinois

Thursday, May 10, 2018

First Garrett Chaussard had to get to the championship match. Last year, he dropped a semifinal decision to Danny Mulhearn.

Thursday at Kemper Lakes Golf Club was different for Chaussard. In the morning, he needed 20 holes to beat Kyle Bauer, advancing him to the 67th Illinois PGA Match Play Championship title match.

Then he had to beat Chris Green, a frequent golf companion. They had practiced together for Monday’s U.S. Open local qualifier. Their jobs – Chaussard at Skokie Country Club, Green at Glen View Club – are only a few miles apart, so they play occasionally.

But when the time came, Chaussard put the hammer down. His 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 13th gave him a 2-up lead on Green, and he parlayed that into a 3 and 2 victory for the title, his first in a state major.

“It feels good,” Chaussard said. “It’s kind of an unexpected one. I don’t think you ever go in thinking you’ll win a match play event because there’s so much luck involved. I happened to be on the right side of a few very close matches and it was enough to win.”

Green said his play in the title match was his worst of the week. He had scored a 2 and 1 victory over Brian Carroll of Royal Hawk in the semifinal.

“Four or five or six over isn’t going to get it done in the final,” Green said. “And Garrett’s a steady competitor. He’s not going to give it back. I’m happy to get to today.”

Green had chipped in for birdie on the second hole, but Chaussard birdied on top of him to keep the match square. Green won the fourth hole with a par, lost the fifth, won the sixth to lead again, but lost the eighth and ninth with a bogey and double-bogey, handing Chaussard a 1-up lead. He never surrendered it.

Chaussard earned $5,000, while Green received $2,750 as balm.

Tim Cronin

A full report on the 67th Illinois PGA Championship is slated for the June issue of Illinois Golfer.


Sportsman’s renovation to Greg Martin

Golf course architect Greg Martin and clubhouse architect Dan Wohlfeil won a six-way competition on Thursday night for a comprehensive renovation of Sportsman’s Country Club in Northbrook.

Martin’s winning proposal comes on the heels of his award-winning renovation of the Preserve at Oak Meadows in Wood Dale, which opened last year and has won raves from customers aside from plaques from those who judge such things with a technical eye. Wohlfeil designed Mistwood’s clubhouse, among other unique properties.

Details on the five candidates Martin was up against can be found in May’s digital issue of Illinois Golfer.

Tim Cronin


Naperville's Andrew Lim is Augusta-bound

Writing from Chicago

Friday, March 30, 2018

Andrew Lim is your basic 13-year-old golf whiz.

He must be. He’ll be at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday. With his clubs.

Lim, who lives in Naperville, qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt championship round in the Boys 12-13 bracket. He’s the lone Chicago-area qualifier.

“It’s really exciting,” Lim said Friday while waiting at O’Hare with his parents to board a flight to Augusta. “It’s a new experience. I’ve never been to any tournament except a practice round (for the U.S. Open) at Chambers Bay.”

The Lim family – he has an older sister, Emma, and younger brother, Matthew – lived in Washington then, but relocated to Naperville about 18 months ago. He was already playing golf, and playing it well. He’d tried to make the DCP finals before but could only get to the second of the three qualifying stages.

This year, he took second in the local stage at Cantigny, where he took up the game at age 7, then won the sub-regional at Cog Hill to advance to the regional at The Honors Course near Chattanooga, Tennessee, a setting as exclusive and nearly as picturesque as Augusta itself.

Then came the drama. Usually, the order of play matches the title – driving, chipping and putting – but at Honors, chipping came last, and Lim knew exactly what he had to do to succeed.

“I was really nervous,” he said. “My hands were shaking when I hit my last shot. I had to be within eight feet or so.”

He chipped to about eight feet, and that sent him to Augusta.

Since then, he’s adopted a practice routine that cycles through driving, chipping and putting. At the moment, he said his driving is the best part of his game.

The plan at Augusta: “Hit the first drive for accuracy, and the second for distance,” Lim said. He needs to get one within the confines of a 40-yard wide fairway on Augusta’s mammoth driving range to get at least one point, but the longer the drive, the better his chance to move up in the standings among his nine challengers.

Then it’s on to chipping, where the competition is likely to be fierce, and after that, to the 18th green, where he’ll have two putts on the same stage where everyone from Horton Smith to Sergio Garcia has triumphed.

Lim, who said his goal is to finish in the top four, is seeking to become the third Chicago-area champion in the five years the DCP has been conducted. Effie Perakis won the Girls 7-9 bracket in 2015, and Christian Kim scored a victory in Boys 10-11 in 2016.

Unlike Scott Foster, the 36-year-old accountant who lived out a Walter Mitty dream by playing for the Blackhawks as an emergency goalie on Thursday night, Andrew Lim isn’t quite a folk hero to his classmates yet.

“There aren’t a lot of golfers in school,” Lim said.

In a couple of days, they might all want to join him on the first tee.

Tim Cronin


Revised Jackson Park plan now $60 million

Writing from Chicago

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The potential rebuilding of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses and the associated infrastructure for it is now a $60 million project, twice the original projected cost, Chicago Park District superintendent Mike Kelly said Wednesday night.

About half of that will be to construct a pair of underpasses on streets that cut through the golf course in both the present and revised routings, Kelly said.

“Whether we get this golf course or not, the underpasses need to happen,” Kelly said, citing the safety aspect of installing them under Jeffery Blvd. in the middle of the courses, under 67th St. on the east end, and potentially, a third under Hayes Dr. for easier access to the practice range. That would raise the cost another $1.5 million to $2 million, Kelly explained.

Kelly wouldn’t put a timetable on any aspect of the project, except to note that once construction began, it would take at least 18 months, depending on the time of year it began. A year ago, he said groundbreaking would occur in the spring of last year.

Instead, the past year has been one for listing to community members both compliment and complain about the plan. The changes were presented to a group of about 300 people Wednesday night at the South Shore Cultural Center. The largest applause for any feature was for the revised and expanded nature sanctuary, the removal of which in the original plan caused great consternation. The current 5.5 acre area adjacent to Lake Michigan will be retained in part – with a green on the peninsula occupying most of it – and expanded to a total of 11.5 acres under the revised routing by course architect Beau Welling, the lead designer of Tiger Woods’ design company.

Additionally, the closing of Marquette Rd. has been mitigated somewhat by the allowance of a bike and jogging path along the same route.

But the price tag is still huge, and Kelly admits the money isn’t there at the moment, one reason – along with permitting and final adjustments – there’s no timetable for construction.

The concept, originally sold as being an answer to a 2000 survey, has been folded into a larger concept called the South Lakefront Framework Plan, one including more natural habitat areas.

The west side of the golf course has been largely rerouted, with a new golf clubhouse on at 67th and Jeffrey, and the course starting and ending there rather than its current location near 63rd St. on Richards Ave. That clubhouse, named after Cecil Partee, will be used for the short course and the youth golf programs planned in conjunction with the rebuild.

“We have returning nines now,” Welling said. “That makes perfect sense.”

Willing noted his original plan didn’t have that, and that the regulars used to playing nine at South Shore complained. “By shifting the clubhouse, we achieve that, though it’s the 10th hole that returns to the clubhouse.”

The new plan includes a third lake on the course, adding a dramatic approach to the fourth hole and the entirety of the par-5 fifth.

In his original plan, the final four holes played alongside fencing on 67th and then Cornell Dr. Now, the 15th through 17th holes are the picturesque ones along the lakefront, behind the South Shore Cultural Center – the old clubhouse for South Shore Country Club – with the par-5 18th returning along 67th to Jeffrey, and a lake on the right side of the fairway similar to the par-4 16th at Kemper Lakes. If the BMW Championship or another pro tournament is played there, the final four holes are a 3-5-3-5 combination, with the tee shot on the 545-yard par-5 16th over the beach at the South Shore complex. Regular customers would play it as a 365-yard par-4.

The yardages of the par-70 course would range from 2,998 to 7,161 yards, and as a 7,341-yard par-71 layout in tournament play.

Kelly made a curious analogy during both a news conference and the public presentation, noting the current Jackson Park layout had narrower fairways than Oakmont Country Club, and that South Shore had smaller greens than those at Pebble Beach. He neglected to note that Jackson Park is much shorter than Oakmont, and South Shore is effectively a par-3 course with a couple of longer holes, thus mitigating the need for larger greens.

People seemed pleased, with many asking Kelly and Welling questions of their own following the formal presentation, but not everyone liked what they heard.

“I don’t want an amusement park,” one resident told a WBBM-AM reporter. 

Tim Cronin

A thorough analysis of the revised course and the entire concept will appear in the next digital issue of Illinois Golfer.

Course design image courtesy Chicago Park District; TGR Design.