The Opening Nine for Monday, January 23

Writing from Chicago
Monday, January 23, 2012

1. From Cog to Conway
Look for Conway Farms Golf Club to be announced as the site of the 2013 BMW Championship – the Western Open to diehards – within days. Whispers have the club and WGA agreeing to a deal, with potential logistical nightmares, including where to park spectators during the tournament and how to move them through a golf course situated in a housing development, worked out. That means the Western / BMW returns to the north suburbs for the first time since Sunset Ridge Country Club held it on a chilly, wet weekend in 1972, when Jim Jamieson won. It also means Cog Hill, the public playground in Lemont whose Rees Jones renovation was pilloried by picky pros – it recently placed 46th among the 52 regular tour stops in a Golf World survey of tourists – won’t get a shot at another BMW until 2015 at the earliest.

2. On the mark, Wilson is
With a birdie in the gloaming, Mark Wilson scored a two-stroke victory to win the Bob Hope Trophy at the Humana Challenge in the Palm Springs, Calif, area. For Wilson, based in Chicago in the summer and a regular at the Cog Hill barn, it’s his fifth title on the PGA Tour and third in 53 weeks. Last year, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii, then came back to capture the Phoenix Open, making $2,088,000 of his season earnings of $3,158,477 in two starts. He picked up $1.008 million this time around. As Bob Hope, who made the Desert Classic a success, might have said, “That Mark Wilson is wild. He’s got more victories in the desert than Rommel.”

3. Illinois Open reaction
News of the Illinois Open’s move to allowing non-Illinoisans to play in the tournament hasn’t sat well with some of the old guard among the professional set. The Illinois PGA board, which voted unanimously in December to go forward with the plan beginning this year, is being pressured to backtrack on the concept and return to the Illinois-only plan. If that happens, it’ll be both an error in judgment and a bow to a not-so-silent minority that fails to see the potential for growth. We’ll have more as the situation develops.

4. It’s show time!
PGA Merchandise Show time, that is. The annual gathering in Orlando, Fla., had suffered a few years ago, even before the economy suffered, when some major manufacturers pulled out. Most everyone is back for this week’s unveiling of the new, the notable, and the nonsensical. Chicago’s own Len Ziehm is there and will be reporting on his website, throughout the week.

5. Architects at 20 paces
Not quite, but more than 20 architects faced off in quest of the contract to renovate Oak Meadows Golf Course, the old Elmhurst Country Club adjacent to I-290 in DuPage County. The field has been trimmed to five – the team of Greg Martin and Art Schaupeter, Ray Hearn, David Esler, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Bob Lohmann – but that nearly two dozen chased after the job shows how little golf course work, whether new or re-do, is going on these days. Check out Rory Spears’ report at for a rundown of the qualifications of the finalists and what’s expected of them. FYI: No dirt will be moved until late next year at the earliest.

6. Rename the Eskimo Open?
This year, temperatures were in the 40s, and the annual winter frolic induced not one case of frostbite. Of course, it finally snowed a week later, but for once, those who wanted their golf fix without flying to Florida or other warm climates could play Cog Hill and St. Andrews in relative comfort. Maybe next year it’ll be called the Desert Classic. Congrats to Vic Tyson, whose 3-under-par 69 on Cog Hill No. 1 led all scorers on a day 217 players filled three courses, with only Dubsdread in winter hibernation.

7. Deere middle of the pack
The Golf World player survey on regular tour stops has TPC Deere Run, host of the John Deere Classic, sitting 24th in the field of 52. D.A. Weibring’s other course on tour, Byron Nelson Classic host TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, in which Weibring reworked Jay Moorish’s original layout, ranked 49th. Only TPC San Antonio (Texas Open), Dove Mountain (Tucson World Match Play) and Liberty National (sometime host of The Barclays) were ranked lower.

8. No injuries in Tour windstorm
The one at the old Bob Hope Desert Classic inspired one potential headline: “Oh, the Humana-ty,” after high winds knocked down a scoreboard, trees and parts of at least one tent. Who knew the Humana Challenge would be just to stand up straight? The gusts also toppled one port-a-john with a caddie in it. He emerged with a cut leg, but was otherwise unscathed.

9. Countdown to Augusta: 74 days
See? It’s not that long until spring after all.

– Tim Cronin

Illinois Open now open to the world

Writing from Chicago
Thursday, January 12, 2012

The talk had been there off and on for years. The Illinois Open ought to be open to everyone, not just Illinoisans, the proponents said.

Not so, went those against the move. The Illinois Open should be only for Illinoisans.

Not any more. Beginning this year, anyone from Maine to Maui to Madagascar can enter the Illinois Open, it has been learned.

The move, which the Illinois PGA will announce next month, should jump-start a venerable championship that had stagnated to a degree in the last few years. Philip Arouca, last year's champion, is going to find it that much harder to repeat.

The change was subject to considerable debate by the Illinois PGA board, a source close to the board said. Speaking under condition of anonymity, the source said one former board member provided much of the debate, speaking loud and long about the tournament's tradition, and how one tournament should remain open to only Illinois residents. He was reminded that, for professionals, the Illinois PGA Championship, which offered an $85,000 purse last year, can be that tournament. (Similarly, the Illinois Amateur, conducted by the Chicago District Golf Association, is open only to amateurs living in the state.)

Opening the entry to the Illinois Open should see both a jump in entries (and thus a corresponding jump in prize money, which is partly funded by entries), and a boost in quality. There are many players who can post low numbers who aren't on the major world tours, including those who missed winning a Nationwide Tour card.

There are other changes for the tournament. It's being moved back to The Glen Club, where it was played from 2002 through 2007, from Hawthorn Woods Country Club, like the posh Glenview layout a Kemper Sports-controlled property. The in-town siting on a course that has also hosted the Nationwide Tour should make it that much more attractive. The Illinois Open will remain at The Glen Club through at least 2016, it has been learned.

The dates, which will be announced Friday, are July 16-18, a week earlier than the last few years, and on the three days immediately after the John Deere Classic and before the British Open. That may give it more attention than it has received in recent years. And the big move, toward allowing all comers to play, will definitely generate buzz.

– Tim Cronin

Len Ziehm and the mystery of Oakhurst

Monday, January 9, 2012

Here's a fun story from Len Ziehm, a.k.a. the Sage, on visiting the legendary Oakhurst Links:

Remembering Jim Huber

Writing from Chicago
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

His was the voice of sanity in a world of noise. A soothing one, vaguely Southern, making sense of a tough issue, or putting a human face on something otherwise obtuse.

It was the voice of Jim Huber, and it is forever silent. Huber, the longtime CNN and TNT commentator, died Monday. He was 67. The cause was acute leukemia, a diagnosis that came only days earlier.

Huber began in newspapers and moved to broadcasting – and once, very briefly, was the PR man for the Atlanta Flames – and covered so much more than golf, but it is that sport that was both close to his heart and elicited many of his best essays. It, specifically Tom Watson's near-victory at the 2009 British Open, was also the subject of his last book, "Four Days In July."

Now that voice is silent, and when the PGA Championship rolls around in August, there will be a hole in the coverage that cannot be filled. You may recall that during last year's PGA, the Atlanta Athletic Club's layout was under criticism for being made too difficult by architect Rees Jones. Huber, an AAC member, delivered an essay that essentially said, "We like it that way, so shut up and play." He said it much more eloquently, naturally, but the point was made. A fine professional with his name on his bag should be able to get around a golf course, meeting the challenges as he finds them, rather than complain that the test was too difficult.

We'll miss minutes of brilliance like that. We'll miss Jim Huber.

– Tim Cronin

Ryder Cup highlights 2012 calendar

Writing from Chicago
Monday, January 2, 2012
updated Friday, January 13, 2012

The calendar below shows it will be an interesting year for golf - both the spectator and participant variety – in the Chicago area.

While Crooked Stick near Indianapolis hosts Chicago's very own Western Open – oops, BMW Championship – the U.S. Women's Open is played north of Milwaukee at Blackwolf Run and three-year-old Harbor Shores, the pride and hope of Benton Harbor, Mich., features the Senior PGA Championship, Chicago and its suburbs will have to make do with quality, not quantity when it comes to gawking at pro golfers.

We'll have the 39th Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah Country Club at the end of September. Twenty-four players, three days, plus practice and festivities, and that's it.

It will, of course, be a veritable feast of golf, but, like the urchin in "Oliver," we want more. So plan now to make a trip to Indy or Benton Harbor or bucolic Kohler, where Blackwolf Run is hidden. Or down I-88 to Silvis and the John Deere Classic, the state's remaining annual top-rank professional tournament.

Or, better yet, tee it up yourself. You may not meet the qualifying standards for the CDGA-conducted amateur tournaments on the calendar that follows, but the year is young. After today's Rose Bowl, hie yourself to a golf dome and get to work on that swing. Remember, the forecast for Friday is 45 and partly sunny. If that's not golf weather in January, what is?

– Tim Cronin

2012 Golf Calendar
including international majors, pro tour appearances in area, and local tournaments and exhibitions of interest


26-28 PGA Merchandise Show, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla.


17-19 Inaugural Tinley Park Golf Expo, Tinley Park Convention Center, I-80 and Harlem Avenue, Tinley Park, (708) 990-3379.
24-26 29th Chicago Golf Show, Stephens Convention Center, North River Road, Rosemont, (312) 541-0567.


29-4/1 41st Kraft Nabisco Championship, Mission Hills Country Club (Shore), Rancho Mirage, Calif.


5-8 76th Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
21-22 Will County Amateur, Balmoral Woods Country Club, Crete


7-8 21st Illinois Public Links Championship, Dunne National Golf Course, Oak Forest
10-13 39th Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass (Players), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
14-17 61st Illinois PGA Match Play Championship, Kemper Lakes GC, Hawthorn Woods
15-16 20th Illinois Mid-Amateur, Flossmoor Country Club, Flossmoor
17 12th CDGA Public Links Championship, Plum Tree National Golf Club, Harvard
21-24 11th CDGA Senior Amateur, Rockford Country Club, Rockford
24-27 73rd Senior PGA Championship, Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Mich.
29-31 Illinois PGA Senior Match Play Championship, Shoreacres, Lake Bluff


7-10 58th LPGA Championship, Locust Hill Country Club, Rochester, N.Y.
13 51st Radix Cup Matches, Oak Park Country Club, River Grove
14-17 112th United States Open, Olympic Club (Lake), Daly City, Calif.
18-23 112th Women’s Western Amateur, Monroe G&CC, Monroe, Mich.
19-22 95th Western Junior, Country Club of Florida, Golf, Fla.
26-29 93rd CDGA Championship, Cantigny Golf, Wheaton


5-8 67th U.S. Women’s Open, Blackwolf Run (combination), Kohler, Wis.
9-13 88th Women’s Western Junior, Cincinnati Country Club, Cincinnati
12-15 42nd John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run, Silvis
16-18 63rd Illinois Open, The Glen Club, Glenview
19-22 141st British Open Championship, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, Lancashire, U.K.
30-8/4 110th Western Amateur, Exmoor Country Club, Highland Park


6-7 Illinois PGA Senior Championship, Whisper Creek Golf Club, Huntley
7-9 82nd Illinois Amateur, Kokopelli Golf Course, Marion
9-12 94th PGA Championship, Kiawah Island (Ocean), Kiawah Island, S.C.
27-29 90th Illinois PGA Championship, Stonewall Orchard Golf Club, Grayslake


6-9 BMW Championship (109th Western Open), Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Ind.
8-13 32nd U.S. Mid-Amateur, Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest
10-11 Illinois Senior Open, McHenry Country Club, McHenry
17-19 26th Illinois Senior Amateur, Prestwick Country Club, Frankfort
24-25 Junior Ryder Cup Matches, Olympia Fields Country Club (South), Olympia Fields
25 4th Prairie State Challenge, Bloomington Country Club, Bloomington
28-30 39th Ryder Cup Matches, Medinah Country Club (No. 3), Medinah


8-9 Illinois Players Championship, Eagle Ridge Resort (General), Galena