IT WASN’T TOO many years ago that our publisher Val Russell, my fellow writer Len Ziehm and I were discussing a lack of tournaments in the Chicago area. Then came 2017, when local fans of golf had plenty of options for viewing tournament action. It started with the NCAA Championships at Rich Harvest Farms in May and ends at Conway Farms this month with the BMW Championship. In 2018, we know the NCAAs won’t be back, there will be no U.S. Open Championship hours away at Erin Hills and the BMW Championship will move to the Philadelphia area for one year before it returns to Medinah in 2019. In spite of those losses, however, the Chicago area will have plenty of tournaments in 2018. Heading up the list are two that haven’t previously been in these parts. The only problem is that they are being played the same week. The inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be contested at the historic Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, while the Senior Player’s Championship will be at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park. Tournament rounds are July 12-15 for both events (The John Deere Classic is also on those same days in the Quad Cities). The U.S. Senior Women’s Open will mark the first United States Golf Association (USGA) championship in Chicagoland since the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields. “This is a championship that the USGA has been passionate about, and put a lot of thought into the right venue and the right timing,” said Katherine Thigpen, U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship manager. “As part of the selection process, the Chicago Golf Club is one of the founding members of the USGA. In keeping with true USGA form, we want to go to those golf courses that put out the ultimate test of golf for any player—whether that player is professional, amateur, 13 years old or 60 years old.” Thigpen added, “With its long USGA championship history, the Chicago Golf Club was a natural fit to be at the top of the selection process. It’s a historic venue and an iconic venue. We are glad that the club wanted to host this.” The USGA wants to make it clear that this championship will be conducted at the same level of excellence that define all USGA competitions. “We have received great feedback from some of our former U.S. Women’s Open champions and players like Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster in regards to the championship,” said Thigpen. “When we announced the exemptions earlier this year, there was such excitement and joy that they had a USGA championship to compete for of this statue. They are willing to help us promote the championship with ticket purchasers and the media outlets to get the word out. “Another part of the process that has been exciting and fun to watch is the creation of the new U.S. Senior Women’s Open trophy. The trophy and who it will be named for will come out after the first of year in 2018.” Thigpen says that the USGA will be providing free parking and shuttle rides to the golf course, and that the parking lots will be close to the Chicago Golf Club. “We will be involving the community of Wheaton and surrounding communities,” said Thigpen. “We want the championship to be a community event. Other activities will planned in the area when golf is over for the day.” This fall, the USGA will begin recruitment of the 1,000 volunteers needed for the championship. Tickets will go on sale in 2018, and no decision has yet been made on how many tickets will be sold per day of championship week. The USGA and Fox Sports will broadcast the championship on TV, but it hasn’t been decided how many hours of television the championship will receive. For more details, you can follow announcements here in Chicagoland Golf or online at USGA.org. The Constellation Senior Players Championship will make its debut in Illinois at Exmoor Country Club. Six years after hosting the Western Amateur, the club is ready for another tournament run by the Western Golf Association (WGA), says general chairman Sandy Stevenson. “Exmoor has had a long history of involvement in golf, especially amateur tournaments dating back to our founding in 1896,” said Stevenson. “Exmoor is one of the founding members of the WGA, and over a year ago when a WGA director contacted us about hosting this tournament, my initial thought as club president at the time was no. Our club had turned down the Encompass Championship. But with this championship being a major with past champions like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, I felt it would be interesting to find out more about what would be involved.” Constellation, the championship sponsor, has its parent company, Exelon, based in Chicago and felt it was time to bring its championship to a golf-rich market like this one. Constellation worked with the WGA in identifying clubs where the championship could be held. “Having the Western Golf Association involved made us comfortable in hosting the championship,” said Stevenson. “We share the WGA’s values and support the Evans Scholars Foundation. A Champions Tour event works better for us, with our club having only 156 acres and not the space needed for a tournament like the BMW Championship.” Exmoor was originally scheduled to host its fourth Western Amateur in 2018, but that has been pushed back to 2022. Stevenson says Exmoor opened for golf in the mid- 1890s, and the original nine-hole course was designed by H.J. Whigham, H.J. Tweedie and Charles Blair MacDonald. Donald Ross extended the course to 18 holes in 1914. Stevenson says Exmoor can play just over 7,100 yards for the championship, but the tour will decide the course setup and par. “We will need between 750 and 1,000 volunteers,” said Stevenson. “Exmoor members will serve, and the WGA will provide its database of volunteers, but there will be need from the general public.” Regarding parking and amenities: “The WGA is working on a parking plan with Highland Park and neighboring communities to shuttle in the fans,” said Stevenson. “There will be hospitality opportunities that will include chalets, skyboxes and the 1896 President’s Club seating.” The different ticket options and volunteer signup opportunities will be announced shortly. More good news for golf fans is that the Web.com Rust-Oleum Championship will return in June to Ivanhoe Country Club in Mundelein for its third year. At the end of June, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will head north from Olympia Fields to Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer. Tickets are on sale now at email@example.com. The Illinois PGA has not yet announced the courses that will be used for the Illinois Open, which is expected to remain in August. The Illinois Women’s Open will return to Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville come July. College golf will return in September with the University of Illinois Invitational at Olympia Fields and the Northern Intercollegiate, hosted by Northern Illinois University at Rich Harvest Farms. Many of top-ranked schools are expected to play in these tournaments. In closing, the 2017 golf season is racing past us. I thank everyone for reading Chicagoland Golf, and I hope to see you on the fairways and greens this fall, or maybe down south in the winter season.
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