The magical and more from Illinois golf in 2012

    Writing from Chicago
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Golf in 2012 – roughly the 555th for the game since the Scottish government thought it wise to prohibit it, lest it interfere with military training for a battle with England – featured upsets on the course and upsetting news about courses Old and newer, bold investments, and new people on top on the game, both globally and locally.
    Rory McIlroy rose to the top of the men’s world ranking, supplanting fellow royal subject Luke Donald, Chicago’s very own Ryder Cup member. Among other triumphs, McIlroy won the PGA Championship and followed it up less then a month later by capturing back-to-back PGA Tour playoff tests, the second of them the BMW Championship – a.k.a. the Western Open of yore – which played to boffo box office at Crooked Stick Golf Club near Indianapolis.
    Then the duo, joined by their European cohorts, staged the greatest rally in the history of the Ryder Cup, dazzling the Europeans and their backers among the throng of 55,000 on the final day at Medinah No. 3, a victory for the ages that was aided and abetted by American players folding like road maps in the final six holes.
    The rousing comeback assured that Medinah, often criticized for having made too many changes and usually having too much rough, was finally considered in a positive way by the national and international critics. With Rees Jones’ changes and Augustaesque rough, the course was set up for drama. And drama there was.
    The Ryder Cup, captured 14 1/2-13 1/3 by the European team – including McIlroy, who dusted ---- after arriving at Medinah with minutes to spare – is easily Illinois Golfer’s choice for tournament of the year. Had the American team cruised to victory on Sunday, as everyone but a handful of Europeans expected with the sun came up, it would have been a Ryder Cup to look up in the record books. Instead, it became one of legend, a tale to be told and retold as long as the game is played.
    Historic and dramatic as it was, it was hardly the only significant happening in state golf this year. Herewith, the highlights:
Person of the Year
    Jim McWethy, owner of Mistwood Golf Club and McQ’s Golf Dome. McWethy, a successful businessman away from the golf course, pushed more chips to the center of the table than anyone since Frank Jemsek signed the check for the 2008 renovation of Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course.
    In fact, McWethy spent $6 million on Mistwood’s renovation to bring out the links aspect of it, $800,000 more than Jemsek’s redo of Dubsdread. And that counts neither the planned clubhouse, which could cost as much or more than what’s been spent on the course and the infrastructure under it that wasn’t put in when the course opened in 1998, nor his purchase of the Bolingbrook Golf Dome, which is now known as McQ’s Golf Dome and features a top-flight restaurant.
    “I do not expect it’s going to be paying handsome rewards,” McWethy told Illinois Golfer when unveiling the plan for the course and clubhouse. “I just want rewards for it. ... We should be on the short list of the best (Chicago-area) courses.”
    On top of that, he continued to bankroll the Illinois Women’s Open. But once that new clubhouse is built, you just know he’ll be looking for something larger to help fill out the calendar.
Player of the Year
    Aside from Illinois coach Mike Small, it had been ages since a player from downstate Illinois – roughly south of Interstate 80 and west of Interstate 39 when golf is concerned – had won a state major open to professionals. That drought is over.
    Country Club of Decatur head pro Steve Orrick won two in 2012, collecting the Illinois PGA championship at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake, and following that with a victory in the 36-hole IPGA Players Championship at Eagle Ridge in October. What will he do for an encore?
Shot of the Year
    Zach Johnson’s 193-yard bunker shot to within a foot of the cup on the second playoff hole in the John Deere Classic. It followed a double-bogey out of the same bunker on the 18th on the first playoff hole. Johnson, from nearby Cedar Rapids and a member of the JDC board, ended Steve Stricker’s run of three straight titles, joining the playoff with Troy Matteson by making birdies on three of the last six holes at TPC Deere Run.
Concept of the Year
    Greg Martin, for Oak Meadows Golf Course. Martin is keeping much of Oak Meadows’ original routing, but taking the old Elmhurst Country Club’s course and making it a real test for the modern low-handicapper while keeping it playable for the duffer.
    And the main reason for the renovation, construction for which is expected to start in the late fall, was to lessen the chance of flooding while improving water retention. Looks like a win-win-win-win.
Executive of the Year
    John Kaczkowski, CEO of the Western Golf Association and Evans Scholars Foundation. First, Kaczkowski spearheaded the effort to broaden the WGA’s fundraising efforts for its caddies-to-college program by starting new programs. The Match Play Challenge, headed by Mike Keiser, raised $4.4 million in additional money for the Evans wing of the operation in 2011 (they’re still counting the 2012 contributions). And the Green Coat Gala, also begun in 2011, earned $350,000 the first time around and was sold out to the tune of $400,000, with Tom Watson the honoree, in 2012.
    Then, Kaczkowski saw the one-year departure from Chicago because of the Ryder Cup pay off with huge galleries at Crooked Stick, the posh club in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis, for the BMW / Western. A glittering leader board – McIlroy, Mickelson, Westwood, Singh and Woods were all on the first page on Sunday afternoon – helped draw about 140,000 over the four tournament days, with more during the run-up. Even a late start on Saturday because of a torrential overnight downpour didn’t stop the crowds from coming. (A similar success was recorded at Bellerive, near St. Louis, in 2008. The circus hadn’t come to town there for years either.)
    There were about 45,000 at Crooked Stick on Sunday, ignoring the Colts’ opener against the Bears in Chicago. In 2011, there were 49,000 at Cog Hill – for seven days.
    Any wonder why the WGA is giving Conway Farms Golf Club, an equally posh and private layout in Lake Forest, a shot at hosting the Western this year and, unless this year is a complete bust, in 2015? And why the WGA will take its big show out of town in even-numbered years for the foreseeable future? It’s at Cherry Hills near Denver in 2014 and will probably encamp at Harding Park, the refurbished municipal course in San Francisco, in 2016.
    Now Kaczkowski and the WGA crew face a big test: Making the BMW a big deal in Chicago in September, the way it was for decades as the Western Open in June and July.

Hail and Farewell
    It was a tough year. We lost the following individuals, all of whom made golf a better game:
    Chuck Chudek, 82, publisher of Chicagoland Golfer in the 1960s, Nov. 7.
    Don Johnson, 77, retired head of the WGA and Evans Scholars, May 24.
    Emil Lauter, 89, five-decade head of Skokie’s Pro Shop World of Golf, April 9.
    Tom O’Connor, 70, longtime teaching pro and coach of St. Francis’ golf team, Dec. 9.
    Nat Rosasco, 83, longtime CEO of clubmaker Northwestern Golf, Nov. 1.
    Of that quintet, the contributions of Rosasco and Johnson were the most wide-reaching. Under Rosasco, Northwestern Golf was for decades the world’s largest golf equipment manufacturer, selling millions of clubs, individually and in sets, in off-course stores. Under Johnson, the WGA went from sometimes borrowing money to fund scholarships and using contributions to pay off the loans to running well in the black, and building an endowment from $1 million to well into right figures.
The Champions of 2012
    BMW Championship / Western Open – Rory McIlroy
    John Deere Classic – Zach Johnson
    Western Amateur – Chris Williams
    Western Junior – Adam Wood
    Women’s Western Amateur – Ariya Jutanugarn
    Women’s Western Junior – Chakansim "Fai" Khamborn
    Illinois Open – Max Scodro
    Illinois Women’s Open – a-Samantha Troyanovich
    Illinois Senior Open – Jerry Vidovic
    Illinois PGA Match Play – Curtis Malm
    Illinois PGA – Steve Orrick
    Illinois Players – Steve Orrick
    Illinois Amateur – Quinn Prchal
    Illinois Women’s Amateur – Elizabeth Szokol
    Illinois Junior Amateur – Raymond Knoll
    Illinois Junior Women’s Amateur – Connie Ellett
    Illinois Senior Amateur – Tom Miler
    Illinois Senior Women’s Amateur – Laura Carson
    Illinois Public Links – Tom Miler
    CDGA Championship – Michael Davan
    CWDGA Championship – Samantha Postillion
    U.S. Mid-Amateur – Nathan Smith
    Symetra Tour Players Championship – Kristie Smith
Closed and for sale
    Graystone Golf Course, Tinley Park. Opened in 1995, the widow of designer/owner Jim Gray plans to open a sod farm after years of declining golf revenue. The nine-hole course closed in October.
    Anytime Jim Furyk is ready to putt on the 17th hole, fine by me.
    Birdies and eagles for 2013!
    – Tim Cronin


The indispensable golf course guide

    Writing from Chicago
    Monday, December 24, 2012

    The big day, or, as Hammond’s very own Jean Shepherd, whose “A Christmas Story” tale was only about the 324th-best thing he authored, would have written – THE BIG DAY – is almost upon us.
    Those adults fortunate enough to be gifted with a childlike wonder likely no longer yearn for an air rifle. You can put someone’s eye out with a poorly-struck golf ball as well. But those who play more proficiently – and we trust in our audience there are only those who do so – need not only the equipment that ladies and gentlemen of a certain class deserve, but somewhere to play.
    That brings us to an uncommon publication, a guidebook that covers the six golfing continents and any island large and warm enough for someone to strike a ball in anger. The title tells all in its brashness – “The Rolex World’s Top 1000 Golf Courses,” by Gaetan Mourgue d’Algue, aided by his daughter Kristel and Bruce Critchley, a former Walker Cupper now covering the game for Sky Sport in the United Kingdom.
    It should be wrapped and waiting for you under the tree on the morrow. If it is not, then count up your Christmas money, hie yourself to, or the publisher’s website (, or your favorite bookseller after you ready this, and glom onto a copy.
    D’Algue is a longtime publisher and golfer who couldn’t resist the temptation to organize 200 what are called “inspectors,” a term lifted from Michelin’s famed gastronomic guides, to pick the best courses, then rate them, then tell everyone.
    Often, such tomes disappoint. This one does the opposite. It delights, it informs, it nudges one to find a way to get to a course long rumored to be a worthy test. It presents facts and opinions, but doesn’t mix them. What’s more, it goes into great detail.
    You will find, for instance, the best hotels and restaurants within a short distance of El Rincon de Cajica, a members-only club in Columbia designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1957, and one earning an 80 score on a 75-to-100 scale from an unnamed panel of experts. Each of the thousand courses in the guide, a 1,344-page hardcover nearly two inches thick, contains such information, as well as key statistics on the course, details about the club – to play Rincon you’ll need to know a member – and a small map where the location is indicated by the simple word “golf.”
    What it does not have is lavish color photos of each course in the honey light that golf course photographers lust for. This is a thinking golfe’rs guide to the game across the world, not a book masquerading as a real estate brochure. Instead, the descriptions conjure pictures in the mind as surely as Vin Scully does describing a pickle for a pitcher in the late innings at Dodger Stadium.
    Precisely one-third of the book, 333 courses, are located in the U.S. The same was true of the first edition, issued in 2010, an expansion of a European course guide d’Algue published. We marveled at the audacity when the inaugural came off the press, and still do. Are these the 333 courses we – or you – would pick? Certainly the top courses would be on anyone list of courses to conquer, or at least attempt to conquer. Therein is some of the fun, going along and checking off courses that should, or should not, be included.
    Only 15 of the thousand courses rate 100 points – the numbers fall off in increments of five, which nothing less than a “75” listed. Most of the usual suspects are there: Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, the Old Course. One is not: Pebble Beach, a mere “95.”
    None of those 15 at the pinnacle are from the Chicago area, but Chicago Golf Club, that sublime Macdonald-Raynor creation of the 19th century, last revamped a large fashion in advance of a 1920s Walker Cup, is at the 95 ranking, along with Medinah Country Club’s often-changed No. 3 course, the Joan Rivers of layouts.
    Phil Mickelson won’t be happy to discover that Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course, the Rees Jones renovation of which he so heavily criticized during the 2011 Western Open/BMW Championship, was given a lofty 90 ranking, the same as Butler National, Shoreacres, and Lost Dunes, a summer hangout of many golfing Chicagoans in Bridgman, Mich. And that 90 for Dubs, a Dick Wilson-Joe Lee layout, was five points higher than the 85 registered for Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, Fla., generally acknowledged to be Wilson’s best layout.
    The three other Chicago-area courses listed are all private and all rated at 80: Beverly, Conway Farms and Rich Harvest Links. Gather a group of Chicago golf architecture buffs in the same room – get an extra bartender if you do so – and you’ll find that Beverly and Conway Farms will rank well ahead of Rich Harvest, if Rich Harvest is ranked at all. As the horseplayer says when his nag in the fourth race finishes after the start of the fifth race, go figure.
    Each course gets a description of some 200 to 225 words, giving the reader the flavor of the course and a bit about its history. Curiously, the guide’s essay on Conway Farms has Tom Watson graduating from Lake Forest College, which will come as news to Watson and the registrar at Stanford, where he was an All-America player. (Perhaps everyone was thinking of Conway Farms member Luke Donald, the Northwestern alum who has had a fair amount of success in recent years.) That may call into question a fact-checkers fancy, but of the other courses with which we’re familiar, that’s the only howler.
    Consider the D’Algue guide the golf equivalent of Michelin’s unmatched hotel-restaurant efforts. At $35, the price is a trifle compared to the value received. (And you may eventually be able to finance a golf trip with it; Amazon has a seller trying to peddle a copy of the first edition for $1,600!) There is nothing else like it in the game.
– Tim Cronin


Remembering Tom O'Connor

    Writing from Chicago
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    There were two shocks upon hearing of the death of Tom O’Connor, the longtime teaching pro who doubled as the women’s golf coach at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
    First, that he had died. O’Connor was always full of life, a twinkle in the eye, a story to tell, a player to help, a prospect to recruit for a future Saints team.
    Second, that he was 70. O’Connor, 70? The sun-kissed Irish face of his was a bit weather-beaten, as can he expected of someone who lived the majority of his waking hours outside. But 70? Go figure. He never acted his age.
    O’Connor died on Sunday, victim of an apparent heart attack. It was just over a year ago that his wife Virginia died.
    Always supportive, O’Connor was one of the first advertisers in Illinois Golfer’s print edition. Eager to see it succeed, he was looking forward to the return of the publication in 2013.
    A golf professional since 1969, soon after his tour of duty for the Marine Corps in Vietnam, the Chicago native began to focus on teaching in 1987, taking a position as director of instruction for the Joliet Park District. Three years later, he was on the teaching staff at Cog Hill, added a radio show on Joliet’s WJOL to his portfolio, and became one of the better-known teachers in the Chicago area.
    He went out on his own in 1997, opening his golf academy at Broken Arrow in Lockport, relocating it to Inwood, the Joliet Park District course on the west side of Joliet, in 2010.
    O’Connor became coach of the Saints’ golf team in 2003, a position he cherished. The team captured the CCAC Fall Classic title last year after five straight runner-up finishes. Krystal Garritson, a freshman on the team, called O’Connor’s passion for the game and the team “an unselfish journey” on
    "I will never forget when Tom first applied for the position here," athletic director Dave Laketa said on the Saints’ website. "He wanted it so bad that I think he had everyone who ever received a lesson from him contact me.  That was a lot of phone calls – I think from everyone that had ever picked up a golf club in Joliet.  I knew we couldn't go wrong in hiring Tom with that backing."
    O’Connor was the recipient of the Bill Heald Career Achievement Award from the Illinois PGA in 2009 for his success as a teacher. Five of his students have gone on to become pros themselves.
    O’Connor is survived by three adult daughters, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
    Visitation is Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, 3200 Black Rd., Joliet, from 2-8 p.m., with the funeral service thereafter.
    – Tim Cronin


Jemsek rolls a 7 (and 7 more) with Pine Meadow

    Writing from Chicago, Illinois
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Welcome to the Morning Nine as the a warmer weekend – maybe the last decent weekend of the year to play golf – sneaks up on the Chicago area in particular and the state in general:
    1. Congratulations to the Jemsek organization for winning renewal of the lease for Pine Meadow Golf Course from the Archdiocese of Chicago after a year where it first appeared their tenure at the Mundelein gem, which commenced in 1985, would be up at the end of the season. (Billy Casper Golf had been the reported favorite.)
    Instead, the new deal – seven years with an option for as many more, according to Big Three member Rory Spears – will keep the Jemsek family in control of the course at least through 2019, and potentially through 2026.
    That’s important for two reasons. First, it allows an improvement program to continue. Jemsek has brought in Golf Maintenance Solutions to advise on clearing trees and bushes out from areas where they affect air flow, and thus course conditioning.
    Like too many American parkland courses, Pine Meadow is overgrown. Trees, bushes and other flora not only get in the way of shots from wayward golfers, they stop breezes from crossing the grounds. Shadows aside, that raises soil temperature, and on bentgrass, hot, stagnant air in the summer can lead to poor turf. The clearance program will help lead to better turf.
    Second, it keeps a course with some history in the hands of a family with a sense of history, rather than merely another bauble in an out-of-state corporate portfolio.
    Pine Meadow was brought out of decades of dormancy when Joe and Frank Jemsek won the lease for what had been St. Mary of the Lake Golf Course, the private course on the grounds of the Mundelein Seminary that Cardinal Mundelein brought in architect William Flynn to design in the 1920s. For the longest time, only six original holes were barely maintained. The Jemseks had Joe Lee and Rocky Roquemore use the many of the old corridors in bringing the old course back to life.
    For more on the renewal and the improvement plan, see Spears’ website:
    2. Speaking of old courses, The Old Course itself is getting a makeover, not that one was needed. The R&A, the tournament wing of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, somehow convinced the St. Andrews Links Trust – it runs the municipal layout on behalf of the citizens of the Auld Gray Toon – that changes on nine holes were needed to protect the course, or the British Open, from low scores when the tournament returns there in 2015.
    Huh? Two years ago, they had several tees so far back, a couple were on the New and Eden courses that run parallel to it, and the one on the 17th was across the road that swings back to run by the 17th green – a.k.a., the Road Hole, the hardest hole on the course. Winner Louis Oosthuizen finished at 16-under-par 272, seven strokes ahead of runner-up Lee Westwood. Rory McIlroy shot a 9-under-par 63 in the opening round, then ran into a squall line on Friday and posted an 80.
    The defense at St. Andrews has been the wind since the course evolved back in the 1400s. Now R&A boss Peter Dawson thinks it needs major changes – everything from an enlarged Road Hole greenside bunker to changing the contour of the 11th green, the famed “Eden” putting surface? Piffle.
    Here, posted Tuesday on Geoff Shackelford’s splendid website, is what Alister Mackenzie thought of tinkering with The Old Course: “St. Andrews differs from others in that it has always been deemed a sacrilege to interfere with its natural beauties, and it has been left almost untouched for centuries.”
    There have been changes over the centuries, of course. A change from 22 holes to 18 holes. The addition of alternate fairways and extra tees when golf became more popular – but the double greens remained. And the course used to be played backwards, which is to say, first tee to 17th green, 18th tee to 16th green, and so on. (It still is for a few days each spring.)
    But anything else? Well, a bunker was added in the 1940s.
    Here is Brad Klein, one of the foremost architecture experts, writing about architect Martin Hawtree’s plan and the process in general on
    “So instead, Hawtree has been commissioned to reduce the slope of that section of (the 14th green). That’s not a complicated project. But it is an arrogant approach to design, and one that deserves far more public consideration and debate.
    “Instead, the R&A Championship Committee, working quietly with the Links Trust, has announced its intent to do surgery. This is no way to run a golf course, and certainly no way to preserve the ‘trust’ inherent in a sustodial relationship. The town effectively has ceded control of a treasured asset to a private group running its own golf championship.
    “I don’t know if these changes are all needed. What I do know is the reasons given for making them are unconvincing and not enough basis for tinkering with sacred ground.”
    Next thing you know, Donald Trump, who recently opened his own course on the coast of Scotland to mile acclaim, will be poking his nose around trying to gain an R&A membership.
    Here’s Tiger Woods, twice winner of the Open Championship (old school!) at St. Andrews, on the changes to the Road Hole.
    “I think 17 is hard enough as it is,” Woods said at his tournament in Thousand Oaks, Calif., recalling cosmetic changes to the Road Bunker. “I don’t think we need to make that bunker any deeper or bigger. They seem to keep changing 17 a lot. It’s a pretty hard hole. I think it’s the hardest one on that whole property.”
    Woods said he thought changes on the second and third holes made sense because bunkers are no longer in play. For him, perhaps, but what of the rest of the thousands who play The Old Course or yearn to play it at least once?
    Martin Dempster, golf writer for The Scotsman, wrote that The Old Course “is the one place that should be left untouched by any golf course architect’s knife.”
    But under attack it is. The work has already started. The ghost of Old Tom Morris will not be pleased. For photos, check out
    3. The Old Course construction controversy commenced with the R&A announcement on Friday. Another controversy, simmering in the game for years, reaches its peak this morning with the joint USGA/R&A announcement on anchoring the putter.
    Long putter devotees are ready to holler that they’ve been using the long putter for years. Those who think it an abomination will be counting the ways until the stroke, or the long putter, or both, go the way of the stymie.
    Bet on the long putter itself being ruled legal, but anchoring of any kind determined to be verboten, as of a couple of years from now. That way, no equipment manufacturer sues.
    The news conference – from that golf capital, Orlando, Fla., headquarters of Golf Channel – begins at 7:30 a.m. CT. Analysis runs until 11 a.m. CT.
    4. Meanwhile, the USGA has been studying the effect of distance – longer balls, hotter clubs, and so forth – for what, close to 20 years? No decision has been reached, but USGA equipment guru Dick Rugge is retiring after over 12 years at the helm. Hope he leaves his notes on the topic behind for the next fellow.
    So when will the big equipment study and potential rules to inhibit, shall we say,  unnatural length, be announced? Don’t wait up for it. It’s only going on two decades. Look how long it took the Roman Catholic Church to admit Galileo was right.
    5. Congratulations to the Western Golf Association for caddie scholarships on raising $400,000 in one night at its Green Coat Gala earlier this month. Three-time Western Open winner Tom Watson was the guest speaker, and was inducted into the WGA’s Caddie Hall of Fame. That puts Danny Noonan’s induction back at least one more year.
    Now comes the heavy lifting for the WGA, which is making the BMW Championship – i.e., the Western Open – a big deal again in the Chicago area. Perhaps moving to Conway Farms Golf Club will help, even if the tournament will be a tight squeeze on that footprint.
    When you draw 45,000 (10,000 more than this corner’s original estimate) on the final day at Crooked Stick after pulling in only 49,000 for the seven-day week at Cog Hill in 2011, some kind of change is needed.
    6. In a perfect world, the Western would be back at Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, but the all-male club recently voted to remain all-male by more than 60 percent. A 75-percent vote for changing the by-laws was needed to go co-ed.
    That not only keeps women from walking on the golf course, it keeps tournaments away from the front gate under the post-Shoal Creek rules of the PGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America and, yes, the LPGA. So much for a BMW, or the U.S. Open coming to Butler in the next generation or so – and the USGA has whispered that it would be at Butler yesterday if the club invited the USGA for an Open.
    That may find it harder to attract members in a world where family comes before getting away with the buddies for stag golf, but it’s curious to read that one member, speaking anonymously to the Chicago Tribune, said of Butler’s future, “We’re in a death spiral.”
    Really? That member should look at his club’s tax returns. As a non-profit operation, they’re public information, and the 2009 return, the most recent available, shows the club with assets of about $19.2 million, and having paid down a pair of loans down to $1.65 million from $2.075 million the year before. By any financial measure, Butler National is in good shape and can weather a brief storm.
    7. Sympathies to the families and friends of Chuck Chudek, publisher of Chicagoland Golfer in the 1960s, and former Northwestern Golf boss Nat Rosasco. Chudek, 82, and Rosasco, 83, died on Nov. 7 and Nov. 1, respectively. Each made a major contribution to furthering the game in the area, and, in Rosasco’s case, worldwide. No company sold more golf clubs than Northwestern when it was going full steam, and it did so for decades. Now, where’s that old Hubert Green-endorsed 1-iron we used to hit straight down the middle?
    8. Big Three sage and world traveler Len Ziehm has just come back from the Ozarks with fond memories of a round on Old Kinderhook, a course in Camdenton, Mo. Fun reading at
    9. Finally, Luke Donald, Chicago’s very own (adopted) superstar, made 90.2 percent of his putts inside 10 feet this year on the PGA Tour. That’s nothin’. We know some people that made 100 percent of their gimmes, many from about that far out.
    – Tim Cronin


Players to Orrick, Player of Year to Malm

    Writing from Galena, Illinois
    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    The winds were capricious at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa on Tuesday, but Steve Orrick had been there and done that.
    “It was about the same wind today as yesterday,” Orrick said after his 3-under-par 69 brought him a total of 4-under 140 and a two-stroke victory in the Illinois PGA Players Championship. “It was a good club to club-and-a-half wind, and it shifted from with you to against you. You had to time your shot.”
    Orrick’s timing was perfect, with three birdies on the inward nine of Eagle Ridge’s North Course to overhaul runner-ups Garrett Chaussard and Travis Johns, from Cog Hill and Twin Lakes, respectively. That finished a 2-under 142, Chaussard via a second-round of 4-under 68, Johns with a 69.
    It was Orrick’s third Players Championship title in five seasons, and his second Illinois major of the year. He won the Illinois PGA at Stonewall Orchard in August.
    “A good year,” said Orrick, head professional at the Country Club of Decatur.
    Better than that. There are only four majors open to state pros each season. Orrick didn’t play in the IPGA’s Match Play, which comes in May, and missed the cut in the Illinois Open.
    Orrick, 35, did everything but win the Player of the Year title by winning on Tuesday. That ended up in the steady hands of Curtis Malm, an assistant pro at St. Charles Country Club who had already locked up the Assistant Player of the Year crown. He’s the third to win both in a season.
    “Curtis was just a little better than me,” Orrick said.
    Malm was also better that Johns, who needed to win the Players and an 18-hole stroke play tournament at Schaumburg Golf Club to capture the title, given Malm’s tie for sixth. Malm first burst on the scene by winning the 2000 Illinois Open as an amateur at Royal Fox Country Club, but much has changed since then.
    “Now I’m more consistent,” Malm said.
    That showed in his finishes in this year’s majors. He opened the season by winning the Match Play, was fifth in the Illinois Open, and second in the Illinois PGA before his aggregate of 3-over 147 knotted him with Mike Haase of northwest suburban Boone Creek Golf Course for sixth. (Glen Oak’s Matt Slowinski was fifth, at 2-over 146.)
    “To win the Player of the Year, you have to win one major,” Malm figured.
    It worked for him.
    Around Eagle Ridge

    Katie Dick’s day was made when she aced the 13th hole, a 144-yard venture from her tee. Alas, because of the elevation change, the Bryn Mawr assistant didn’t see it roll up to the edge of the hole, and then tumble in. The group ahead, Chris Gumbach, Jim Marinelli and Alex Praeger, gave her the play-by-play when she arrived at the green. ... Orrick cashed a check for $1,600, much of the purse put up by Harris Golf Cars.
    – Tim Cronin