A year after former Byron star Chris French was almost the only Rockford area golfer in 40 years to join Brad Benjamin to compete in a major PGA tournament, he will return for one more try.
French, an assistant pro at Aldeen Golf Course in Rockfor, finished fourth in the 99th annual Illinois PGA Professional Championship at the Ivanhoe Club on Wednesday. The top 10 reached the 55th PGA Professional Championship at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas in April.
Former Rockford Lutheran star Jeff Kellen, now an assistant professional with Butler in the Chicago suburbs, finished 20th, missing the advance by three strokes.
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The next step in Austin, the top 20 go to the PGA tournament, which is one of the four majors of the PGA Tour.
French have reached this stage three years in a row. Last year he missed the cut by two strokes and played his last seven holes in 4 over par.
“It was fun to be in the mix trying to reach the PGA championship,” said French. “It was a disappointing conclusion, but I was happy to be there towards the end of the tournament.”
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The Frenchman shot 73-74-71-218 over three days to finish 2 over par, five shots behind winner Andy Mickelson at Ivanhoe.
“It was a super tough golf course,” said the 35-year-old Frenchman. “I knew the scores would be high. I got the ball into play from the tee and hit my irons really, really well. I didn’t putt well at all, otherwise I might have had the chance to challenge the leader, but I kept my head and made a lot of pars. “
The next tournament in Austin is “our national championship for club professionals, our qualifier for the PGA championship,” said French.
Kevin Flack wins PGA assistant tournament
Former Rockford Lutheran star Kevin Flack, who now works at Mauh-Nah-Tee-See and is the junior coach in his first year at his alma mater, was not suitable for the tournament in Ivanhoe as he is still in the process of getting his PGA professional license.
But earlier this month, Flack won the National Car Rental Illinois Assistant PGA Professional Championship at Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club.
Flack, who also won the event in 2019, earned $ 2,000 and is now moving up to a tournament from November 11-14 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. If he wins that, he’ll qualify for the PGA national event that the French just qualified for next year.
“There were a lot of good players in the tournament, including Kellen and French,” said Flack. “Being the winner gave me a lot of confidence. I work a lot at Mauh-Nah-Tee-See and have also started training at Rockford Lutheran, but I still play as much as I can. With my limited time, I’ve found a way to practice most efficiently and that has allowed me to play well for most of the summer. “
Matt Trowbridge: email@example.com; @matttrowbridge