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

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