Charity first at Evans Scholars Invitational  

Writing from Glenview, Illinois

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

It’s a little more laid back on the Tour than the PGA Tour, the circuit those playing in this week’s Evans Scholars Invitational aspire to.

Why else would Steve Marino, a doughty professional who has seen time on both circuits, crank up a boom box and play reggae tunes during the pro-am at The Glen Club?

That just doesn’t happen on the big tour.

The stepping-stone league has a different vibe. Rare are the luxury boxes and corporate suites. Few are the televised tournaments – and the ESI, which commences Thursday morning and runs through Sunday, is not one of them. It’s like the PGA Tour, circa 1973 or so. You half-expect Charlie Coody to be on the leader board.

What abounds are quality players. A few weeks ago, hopeful Tyler Neff scored 27 for nine holes in a qualifier for the Nashville stop and wasn’t among those who made it to the week’s tournament. His round of 65 only advanced him to the playoff, and he didn’t make it out.

The biggest name in this week’s field is Angel Cabrera, whose 52 worldwide wins include the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters. He’s 49 and warming up for the senior tour, but should be a threat on the par 72, 7,225-yard Tom Fazio-designed course, where the fairways are reasonably wide and big hitters don’t have an overwhelming advantage.

Not quite as recognizable, but even more likely to contend for the $99,000 first prize from the $550,000 purse, is Alabaman Robby Shelton IV, who made a run at the Western Amateur in 2015 at Rich Harvest Farms, winning the qualifying medal and advancing to the semifinals. Shelton enters the week first on the tour money list.

Shelton has company, as 20 of the top 25 on the tour’s order of merit will tee it up. That crowd includes No. 3 Scottie Scheffler, No. 9 Tyler McCumber – son of two-time Western Open winner Mark – and No. 21 Maverick McNealy.

Local heroes include a pair of graduated Illini from the class of 2018: Nick Hardy of Northbrook and Dylan Meyer of of Evansville, Ind., the latter of whom is trying to adapt to the less-formidable course setups in professional golf compared to the amateur circuit, where hosting clubs often have a big say in protecting par.

Brad Hopfinger and Vince India, both of whom have won the Illinois Open on this course, are also in the field. India won the state championship last year, but his schedule on the circuit precludes him from defending, so this is his only appearance in the area this year.

The entire purpose of this endeavor isn’t really crowning a champion, but raising money and awareness for the Evans Scholars Foundation, the caddies-to-college program created by Chick Evans, the champion of yore, and his mother. At the moment, the program is funding the education of 985 caddie-scholars from Pennsylvania to the West Coast, with a heavy concentration of them coming from the Chicago area. To that end, Edward Jones has kicked in to allow free admission to the tournament, and CIBC helped finance the pro-am.

Around The Glen Club

Among the amateurs swatting it in the pro-am was Mike Keiser, the Chicago-based course developer who expects to make some news concerning a Chicago-area layout shortly. ... Caddie master extraordinaire Greg Kunkel, WGA boss John Kaczkowski and KemperSports prexy Josh Lesnik were also in the am portion of the field.

Tim Cronin

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