Course mixture highlighted in Illinois Open

Writing from Chicago, Illinois

Monday, August 5, 2019

The brawny layout of The Glen Club and the tight fairways of Ridgemoor Country Club are the two puzzles a field of 264 will have to solve in the 70th Illinois Open, which opens a three-day run this morning.

Seven past champions, including four-timer winner Mike Small, are in the field. Vince India, last year’s winner at The Glen Club and Rolling Green, is absent due to commitments on the Korn Ferry Tour, but those on hand will have their hands full with the treacherous greens of Ridgemoor, which is rarely in the spotlight, and The Glen Club, where the state championship has been anchored in recent years.

The spotlight was brightest on Ridgemoor in 1942, when the U.S. Open was canceled because of World War II and the Chicago Open, a tour stop, was morphed into the Hale America National Open with the cooperation of the USGA and PGA of America. Ben Hogan, the Chicago Open’s defending champion, won the title and fired a 62 in the process, a score matched since only by Bob Zender. Given the heavy USGA influence – the group ran the tournament inside the ropes, and Hogan was awarded the medal that would have gone to the U.S. Open champion – Hogan considered it his fifth U.S. Open, winning the other four subsequently. The USGA did not.

Head pro Nick Pease notes the most challenging part of the course are the fifth through ninth holes, as well as the three par-3s of the four that feature water fronting the greens, but Pease must be an arrow-straight hitter. An excursion last week discovered several holes with single-file fairways, and one, the par-4 12th, a severe dogleg right, that brought to mind the long-gone 18th hole on Medinah’s No. 3 course. It’s tree-lined with almost no way to cut the corner.

The field will play one of their first two rounds on each course, with the survivors meeting at The Glen Club on Wednesday to settle the issue. At that point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the leaders include 2017 champion Patrick Flavin, 2016 winner Carlos Sainz Jr., and 2015 winner David Cooke, the three past winners on hand since the two-course was instituted in 2015.

Flavin, Nick Hardy and Tim “Tee-K” Kelly are among the younger set who are on or chasing tour berths, but have this week open and thus can give the Illinois Open a whirl.

Since 1999, the winner has always been either an aspiring tour pro, an amateur, or Small, the longtime head coach of Illinois’ men’s team. The last pure club professional to win was Todd Tremaglio, a Chicago Golf Club assistant who beat then-amateur D.A. Points in a playoff in 1999.

The total purse should be in the vicinity of $90,000 to $100,000, based on the last few years. India received $19,004 for his triumph last year.

Tim Cronin


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