The Illinois PGA Championship dates back to 1922, but rarely has a tournament like the one Andy Mickelson won on Wednesday at the Ivanhoe Club.
Mickelson, the golf director of Mistwood in Romeoville, was the only player to complete the 54 holes under par. He was at 3 under 213. That was the highest score he had ever had since Mike Smalls 2-over was good enough at the 2003 Royal Melbourne performance at Long Grove.
A 36-hole score of 16-over-par was good enough to qualify for the final round, and 7-over was all it took to hit the top 10 and get a spot in the PGA National Secure Professionals Championship in Texas next year.
With the title at stake in the final round, only seven of the 62 players were able to reach par, with Jim Billiter, Ivanhoe’s new chief pro, and Steve Gillie of Randall Oaks with 2 under 70.
“It’s a tour quality golf course,” said Jim Sobb, Ivanhoe Golf Director and three-time IPGA Champion. “You can’t rest on this course. There is no breather.”
The finalists would not deny that. Ivanhoe, designed by the late Chicago architect Dick Nugent, has hosted the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour events three times but never hosted the Illinois PGA Championship.
Ivanhoe opened in 1991.
Mickelson is not a conventional champion. He turned pro briefly after successfully competing in amateur events in Chicago, then regained his amateur status after entering the business world with a packaging company.
The late Mistwood owner Jim McWethy convinced Mickelson to return to golf on his course, which has become one of Chicago’s most popular public establishments.
Chaussard, instructor at Skokie Country Club, had a 1-shot lead over Mickelson, who made it to the finals.
Chaussard got off to a bad start, shooting 76, while Mickelson had his third 71 in a row. Second place went to Chaussard’s 60-year-old Kurt Rogers from Forsyth, USA. He is a former trainer at Millikin University in Decatur.
The final lap, however, belonged to Mickelson. He was in charge from the third hole and won first prize of $ 8,160 by a 4-stroke lead.
“I might have hit every green but two,” he said. “That was as good as I’ve played for the past two days, from tee to green, for a long time. I was in control of my golf ball and when I have that I can hit anyone.”
The tournament was not without controversy. A two-hour rain delay late Tuesday halted the game and IPGA officials decided to bring the players back to the field after the rain had subsided. Contrary to the protocol, they were not allowed to warm up on the practice area.
Back on the pitch, they played just 30 minutes before the match day was announced. Round 2 had to be completed before the final round could begin on Wednesday.
There were a number of players who didn’t like this and it certainly didn’t help Small as they were heading for their 14th title in the event.
The 55-year-old head coach of the University of Illinois men’s team made it to 15th place just before Tuesday’s game was suspended to take the lead. As it went on, he finished his round double bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey, and that shaky game carried over to Wednesday when he did a triple-bogey on his first hole.
Small, three-time champion of the PGA National Professionals Championship, regrouped afterwards and finished in seventh place.