Revised Jackson Park plan now $60 million

Writing from Chicago

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The potential rebuilding of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses and the associated infrastructure for it is now a $60 million project, twice the original projected cost, Chicago Park District superintendent Mike Kelly said Wednesday night.

About half of that will be to construct a pair of underpasses on streets that cut through the golf course in both the present and revised routings, Kelly said.

“Whether we get this golf course or not, the underpasses need to happen,” Kelly said, citing the safety aspect of installing them under Jeffery Blvd. in the middle of the courses, under 67th St. on the east end, and potentially, a third under Hayes Dr. for easier access to the practice range. That would raise the cost another $1.5 million to $2 million, Kelly explained.

Kelly wouldn’t put a timetable on any aspect of the project, except to note that once construction began, it would take at least 18 months, depending on the time of year it began. A year ago, he said groundbreaking would occur in the spring of last year.

Instead, the past year has been one for listing to community members both compliment and complain about the plan. The changes were presented to a group of about 300 people Wednesday night at the South Shore Cultural Center. The largest applause for any feature was for the revised and expanded nature sanctuary, the removal of which in the original plan caused great consternation. The current 5.5 acre area adjacent to Lake Michigan will be retained in part – with a green on the peninsula occupying most of it – and expanded to a total of 11.5 acres under the revised routing by course architect Beau Welling, the lead designer of Tiger Woods’ design company.

Additionally, the closing of Marquette Rd. has been mitigated somewhat by the allowance of a bike and jogging path along the same route.

But the price tag is still huge, and Kelly admits the money isn’t there at the moment, one reason – along with permitting and final adjustments – there’s no timetable for construction.

The concept, originally sold as being an answer to a 2000 survey, has been folded into a larger concept called the South Lakefront Framework Plan, one including more natural habitat areas.

The west side of the golf course has been largely rerouted, with a new golf clubhouse on at 67th and Jeffrey, and the course starting and ending there rather than its current location near 63rd St. on Richards Ave. That clubhouse, named after Cecil Partee, will be used for the short course and the youth golf programs planned in conjunction with the rebuild.

“We have returning nines now,” Welling said. “That makes perfect sense.”

Willing noted his original plan didn’t have that, and that the regulars used to playing nine at South Shore complained. “By shifting the clubhouse, we achieve that, though it’s the 10th hole that returns to the clubhouse.”

The new plan includes a third lake on the course, adding a dramatic approach to the fourth hole and the entirety of the par-5 fifth.

In his original plan, the final four holes played alongside fencing on 67th and then Cornell Dr. Now, the 15th through 17th holes are the picturesque ones along the lakefront, behind the South Shore Cultural Center – the old clubhouse for South Shore Country Club – with the par-5 18th returning along 67th to Jeffrey, and a lake on the right side of the fairway similar to the par-4 16th at Kemper Lakes. If the BMW Championship or another pro tournament is played there, the final four holes are a 3-5-3-5 combination, with the tee shot on the 545-yard par-5 16th over the beach at the South Shore complex. Regular customers would play it as a 365-yard par-4.

The yardages of the par-70 course would range from 2,998 to 7,161 yards, and as a 7,341-yard par-71 layout in tournament play.

Kelly made a curious analogy during both a news conference and the public presentation, noting the current Jackson Park layout had narrower fairways than Oakmont Country Club, and that South Shore had smaller greens than those at Pebble Beach. He neglected to note that Jackson Park is much shorter than Oakmont, and South Shore is effectively a par-3 course with a couple of longer holes, thus mitigating the need for larger greens.

People seemed pleased, with many asking Kelly and Welling questions of their own following the formal presentation, but not everyone liked what they heard.

“I don’t want an amusement park,” one resident told a WBBM-AM reporter. 

Tim Cronin

A thorough analysis of the revised course and the entire concept will appear in the next digital issue of Illinois Golfer.

Course design image courtesy Chicago Park District; TGR Design.


Chicago golf world mourns loss of Carol McCue

By Tim Cronin

Reporting from Chicago

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Carol McCue was the First Lady of Chicago Golf.

She knew everyone in the game on a first-name basis and was a part of the game for over 70 years.

McCue died over the weekend at 94, after a period of declining health.

She walked into the Chicago District Golf Association office early in 1942, soon after the death of Joe Davis, the CDGA’s executive secretary, to fill in and help coordinate the Hale America National Open at Ridgemoor Country Club. Just out of business school at age 19, she stayed 40 years, becoming one of the leading administrators in the world of golf, first as executive secretary and then with the new title of executive director.

“The people involved in golf are very, very nice people,” McCue said in a 1989 interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Reid Hanley. “When you work in golf you meet people on their best terms.”

Nobody ever had a bad word to say about Carol McCue, because there were only good things to say.

She was the last living member of the inaugural class of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, one of the eight gaining entry in 1989. A decade earlier, she was awarded the National Golf Foundation’s Herb Graffis Award, named after a Chicago golf writer, one of the first people she met in the game.

“She was the gold standard for golf administrators, a great boss, mentor and friend,” said Dennis Davenport, who succeeded her as the CDGA’s executive director. “Dick Taylor, who helped found Golf World, often called her the Grand Dame of Golf.”

McCue, crediting the Royal Typewriter Company’s placement service to leading her to the CDGA, led the group into computerized handicapping in 1967 – eliminating the time-consuming need for people to travel to each club, check scores and calculate them individually for hours on end – long before the United States Golf Association did so.

She called on her friendship with Bob Jones in 1958 to create the CDGA’s Masters charter, which allowed several hundred members to take in the beauty of Augusta National for one day each April for decades. Soon, CDGA charters for golf outings were going everywhere in the world.

She helped lead the association, which started as a group of private clubs, into public golf, helping spread the word for the game in general. She wrote a manual on how to run a golf tournament – calling players to the tee before their tee time, long standard procedure, was a McCue innovation – and was a charter member of the Golf Writers’ Association of America.

In 1969, a McCue idea led to the formation of the International Association of Golf Administrators, a think tank that had led to countless improvements in how golf is run. A decade later, she was awarded the National Golf Foundation’s Herb Graffis Award, named after a Chicago golf writer and an NGF founder who was one of the first people she met in the game.

Always crediting the volunteer directors from area courses, McCue would say, “I’m just a hired hand” when someone credited her with an innovation. But someone had to organize it, and McCue was a great organizer and innovator, leading the CDGA to a position of prominence among regional associations.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Carol’s passing,” said CDGA executive director Robert Markionni. “She was a true pioneer and leader in golf administration, not only in Chicago, but throughout the nation. Many of the programs that Carol initiated, such as public golfer memberships and computerized handicapping, revolutionized golf administration and set the stage for the innovative technology we use today. Even though she is no longer with us, Carol’s legacy will live on for many years because of her innovative work.”

The pros of the Illinois PGA thought so highly of her, that group made her an honorary member in 1962, a first for a woman for any PGA section.

Her retirement from the CDGA in 1982 was short-lived. Joe Jemsek hired her as a vice-president of Jemsek Golf to coordinate Cog Hill’s hosting of the 1989 U.S. Public Links Championship. Soon after, Cog Hill landed the Western Open for a run of nearly two decades, and McCue was the ideal person to work with the Western Golf Association and the PGA Tour. She worked for Jemsek Golf for over 20 years.

A believer in getting youth into the game, she started the Cog Hill Sizzler in 1988, which soon took up two of Cog Hill’s four courses for a day in August, the place overflowing with young golfers. Twenty years before, she suggested the shuttered Edgewater Golf Club be reopened as a junior-only course run by a charitable foundation. People cheered the idea, but nobody made it happen.

McCue was a tennis player when she was hired by the CDGA, but took up golf, in part to learn about the game she was working in, and became a 10 handicap at Evanston Golf Club. The par-3 seventh at Evanston was one of her favorite holes, because she scored a hole-in-one on it.

Her contacts were legendary. She became a friend of Herbert Warren Wind, America’s most erudite golf writer, and after Wind’s retirement, they would chat after each major championship. She also advised Wind and his partners on their “Classics of Golf” book reissue series.

She was also generous, especially with her time. She volunteered to help run the Southtown Challenge Junior Championship at Glenwoodie Golf Course – which she convinced this reporter to start in 1989 – until she no longer drove. One year she had to be convinced that it was better for her to be inside the air-conditioned clubhouse rather than at the unshaded scoreboard when the temperature climbed to 100 degrees.

A service will be held on Fri., Dec. 29 at 10 a.m. at Donnellan Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, with interment at Calvary Cemetery, Evanston.


Leishman brings it home

Writing from Lake Forest, Illinois

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Marc Leishman earned that along with the title of BMW Championship winner on Sunday.

Two weeks ago Monday, Leishman blew up on the back nine of TPC Boston, allowing Justin Thomas to pass him and win the second tournament in the PGA Tour’s playoff series.

He’d won tournaments – the Travelers in 2012 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year – but Leishman, for better or worse, was better known for dropping a playoff to Zach Johnson in the British Open at St. Andrews and finishing tied for fourth in the 2013 Masters, where he flirted with trying on a green jacket on the back nine.

It was more like a strait jacket.

This one, he would not lose.

This one, Leishman won going away, scoring a Western Open / BMW record 261 with a final-round 67 at Conway Farms Golf Club, shoving Tiger Woods (2007) and Jason Day (2015) aside. His 23-under-par mark matched the record set by Dustin Johnson at Crooked Stick Golf Club last year, when Johnson shot 265 on the par-72 course.

Leishman beat Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler by five strokes in his wire-to-wire triumph. Rose scored 6-under 65 for his 18-under total of 266, while Fowler posted a 67. Twice, Rose closed the gap to two strokes, but with Leishman playing nearly flawless golf – he had two bogeys on Sunday and six for the week to go with 29 birdies – either Rose or Fowler would have needed to shoot 61 to force extra holes.

“I had a big enough buffer to get it done, and I got it done,” Leishman said.

The big 33-year-old Australian who had grudgingly accepted his underdog status, hoping to discard it, can do that now. Winning at Conway Farms not only gives him unparalleled momentum entering next week’s Tour Championship, it moved him to fourth in the playoff race and thus assures him of the FedEx Cup title and $10 million pot o’gold if he wins at East Lake Golf Club next week. (Leader Jordan Spieth and the others in the top five, Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, also can do so.)

The difference between Labor Day near Boston and Sunday in Lake Forest was simple: This time, Leishman hit the shots where he wanted to and made key birdie putts down the stretch. A snake of a 28-footer on the par-4 15th followed by a 10-footer on the par-4 16th to go to 22-under, extending his lead over Rose to three strokes, elicited fist pumps from the usually placid Australian, especially on No. 16.

“I’d say that was a little bigger than the one on 15 because it gave me a four-shot buffer at the time,” Leishman said. “You’ve got to do something drastically wrong to lose a four-shot lead with two to play.”

Sort of how he threw away Boston, though the lead wasn’t as large. That annoyance is now buried, and Leishman can look ahead to the Tour Championship.

“I had my sights set high for the FedEx Cup and trying to get into the top five,” Leishman said. “It’s nice to have the (J.K. Wadley and BMW) trophies there, and be in that top five, and if I have another good week next week, who knows what might happen?”

Rose rued squandered opportunities.

“I went as far as I could,” Rose said. “I missed the fairway on 14 and didn’t birdie 15. Those two holes didn’t work out for me.”

Fowler frittered away chance after chance following birdies on the first two holes.

“I needed a couple more on the front nine,” Fowler said.

Day, who nipped at Leishman’s heels all week, scored 2-under 69 with a bogey at the last to finish fourth at 16-under 268. Matt Kuchar and Rahm tied for fifth at 15-under 269. Defending champion Dustin Johnson scored 7-under 64 to finish tied for 33rd at 8-under 276.

The Tour Championship battle

Tony Finau’s chip-in birdie for a closing 7-under 64 exemplified the tournament-within-a-tournament that is the scrap to advance to the Tour Championship. He entered the week 39th but jumped to 24th by tying for seventh. Sergio Garcia, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, the latter with an 11-foot birdie on the 18th hole, climbed into the top 30 and get to play East Lake, while Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson, Brendan Steele and Bill Haas fell out of the top 30 and saw their season end abruptly.

Phil Mickelson ended up 34th, but the PGA Tour’s statistical wizards figured out that one saved stroke somewhere along the way this season would have been good enough to make next week’s party. The competition is that close.

Around Conway Farms

Ollie Schniederjans was even par for 17 holes on Sunday and finished with a 77, thanks to a septuple-bogey 11 on the 18th hole. A tee shot into the left hay opened the festivities, and his second shot went further left and was lost. He dropped and plunked his fourth shot into the creek. Another shot into the rough was followed by another shot into the creek. By now, Schneiderjans just wanted to go to the airport. He whacked his ninth shot on the green and two putted. He finished 66th at 2-over 286. ... Sergio Garcia needed 20 minutes to get a ruling when his second shot on the 18th ended up in the creek near the green. He eventually made par, while Mickelson, his fellow competitor, quietly steamed en route to making a birdie. ... Wesley Bryan opened the day with a round of Speedgolf, or something close to it. He whipped around Conway Farms in 88 minutes, scoring 2-under 69 before most of the estimated 26,000 spectators had assembled. ... The 69-player field averaged 69.116 strokes for both the final round and the week. Only 50 over-par rounds were recorded during the week. ... Don’t be surprised if the Tour Championship starts moving about the landscape beginning with the 2018-19 season, even though it’s anchored at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and its two major sponsors, Coca Cola and Southern Company, are headquartered there. ... Next year’s Western Open / BMW will go east to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., near Philadelphia, on Sept. 6-9. It will be the second Western played in Pennsylvania. The 1959 edition at Pittsburgh Field Club, in which Mike Souchak edged Arnold Palmer, was the first. It will be the easternmost Western / BMW, surpassing the 1948 tournament, won by Ben Hogan near Buffalo, N.Y.

Tim Cronin


Moving Day becomes Groundhog Day

Writing from Lake Forest, Illinois

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ken Venturi must be spinning in his grave. But Bill Murray would have loved it.

It was Moving Day at the BMW Championship, and nobody moved.

The third round at Conway Farms Golf Club opened with Marc Leishman leading and Jason Day and Rickie Fowler tied for second.

It ended with Leishman leading and Day and Fowler tied for second.

It was more like Groundhog Day.

Leishman is at 19-under-par 194 after a 3-under-par 68. Day and Fowler each scored 1-under 70 to sit at 14-under 199 entering Sunday’s final round. The five-stroke lead Leishman enjoys matches the lead Day had at Conway Farms going into the final round two years ago. In other words, Leishman has one hand on the J.K. Wadley Trophy, and the engraver is making sure there’s no K in Leishman’s first name.

Behind the three at the top are, to quote Capt. Renault, all the usual suspects. Justin Rose, winner of the BMW the last time it was played at Cog Hill, alone in fourth at 12-under via a bogey-free 5-under 66. Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar and Ryan Moore among a sevensome tied for fifth at 11-under.

Rahm had the best round among those suspects, a 6-under 65 to climb from 29th place, but even that wasn’t low enough to make a significant move. Eight strokes behind going into the final round, he and the others at 202 are playing for second unless Leishman collapses.

Say, like he did at TPC Boston on Labor Day, where he fired a back-nine 40 on Labor Day and watched Justin Thomas run by to grab the trophy.

Leishman, who can match Day’s wire-to-wire victory of two years ago, said, as might be expected, that the key was in putting four solid rounds together, but noted, “After what I did at the Dell, there’s determination to finish this one off, and my game is in a better spot. I always tell my wife, if I have a bad round, give me 10 minutes. That one probably took a day.”

Much of Saturday was a display of inertia on the leader board. Aside from Fowler’s eagle on the par-4 first hole – a 24-foot putt from the fairway after a 332-yard drive – there were more pars than anything else. Day hit nine fairways and eight greens en route to fashioning his 70, Fowler didn’t make a putt longer than eight feet in posting his 70, and Leishman plodded along to his 3-under reading, getting up-and-down from the right rough for a birdie 4 at the last.

“It was a bit of a grind out there today,” Day said. “The greens started to get a little firmer, the fairways started to get a little firmer.”

Which partially explains his 366-yard drive on the 18th hole, which yielded only a par 5 when he bunkered his approach. 

Rahm needs to repeat his jump on Sunday to make it a fight, but it won’t be easy. The last player to blow a five-stroke lead entering the final round was Bob Dickson at Butler National in 1976, though Greg Norman rates special mention for blowing a similar margin with eight holes to play in the first venture to Cog Hill in 1991. The odds on Leishman stubbing his toe in similar fashion are high.

Rahm’s 65 was built on hitting 15 greens in regulation, which begat 27 putts.

“I had to hope to make a couple putts, which I did today,” Rahm said as 20,000 spectators made for their shuttle busses. “I still missed a few.”

Around Conway Farms

Leishman’s 54-hole total of 194 is a stroke off the Western Open / BMW record of 20-under 193, established by Day at Conway Farms two years ago. He went on to win by six strokes over Daniel Berger. ... The scoring average was well under par for the third straight day, at 69.420. Only six holes played over par. ... Louis Oosthuizen went out at 7:30 a.m. as a single and shot 5-under 66, earning himself a fellow competitor in Si Woo Kim on Sunday. Bryan Wesley drops into the go-it-alone spot. ... Sunday’s fun follow is at 11:30 a.m.: Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson. Early risers might chase after the 8:46 a.m. duo: Zach Johnson and Rory McIlroy. ... Former U.S. Open champions Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson each fired 6-under 65s.

Tim Cronin


Leishman leads in BMW's birdieville

Writing from Lake Forest, Illinois

Friday, September 15, 2017

Marc Leishman, with 18 birdies in 36 holes, leading the BMW Championship by three strokes at 16-under 126 at the halfway mark, says of Conway Farms Golf Club, “I don’t think it’s a pushover.”

Perhaps the affable Aussie is just being coy. Or polite.

Conway Farms is a pushover. It was in 2013, when Jim Furyk scored a course-record 59 and red numbers permeated the scoreboard. It was in 2015, when Jason Day opened with a 61, finished on top at 22-under-par 262, and 58 players finished under par.

It is again this time, with Leishman racing ahead of fellow speedsters Day and Rickie Fowler, who share second place at 13-under 129. The field average for two rounds: 68.964, more than two strokes under par.

The PGA Tour’s old slogan, “These Guys Are Good,” certainly applies to this field of elite playoff contenders. But “This Course Is Soft” also works. With tees moved up on several holes, Conway was only 6,916 yards long on Friday.

In the era of Trackman, titanium and multi-piece balls, that might as well be the distance of a par-3 course. The 15th hole, a par-4 with water on the left, was arranged to be a drivable hole on Friday, 275 yards. Everyone in the field went for the green, collecting 39 birdies and an eagle – Fowler bagged it – and the hole averaged 3.478 strokes.

That setup was the exception, but long irons into greens are the exception, except on par 5s. Then, as in the dogleg-left eighth hole, 583 yards for the second round, players are tempted more often than not. Forty of the 69 players went for it in two, and seven hit the green. Only one of the 79 players three-putter, and the hole played a half-stroke (4.507) under par.

Entertaining, it is. The gallery of approximately 22,000 was whooping it up much of the time, no more so than at 1:55 p.m., when Day aced the 188-yard 17th with an into-the-wind 7-iron. BMW donated $100,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation, and Day – sponsored by Lexus – donated back the car he won for additional scholarship money.

A challenging test of golf worthy of the old Western Open – this is No. 114 dating back to 1899 – or the penultimate playoff battle of the season? Maybe not.

Count Leishman in favor, as someone who followed up Thursday’s 62 with a 7-under 64 should be.

“I think it’s a good course in the respect if you’re hitting really good golf shots and making putts you can go really low, but if you’re off a little bit and playing from the rough, spraying it a little bit, there’s numbers to be had,” Leishman said.

“I think it punishes bad shots and if you’re hitting it good there’s a lot of opportunities to make birdies and eagles.”

Leishman added eight birdies to his original 10. Day scored five birdies, but two eagles – one on the par-5 14th to go with the ace – really catapulted him. Leishman led at daybreak, trailed Day by three strokes when the fellow Australian finished his 6-under 65. Leishman, whose tee time was about three hours later, then raced back by to move up by three himself. Saturday at 12:50 p.m., they’ll play together in the final group.

“Hopefully we can both play well and make a lot of birdies and drag each other along,” Leishman said.

Day’s in form after a time of less-than-scintillating golf. He, for one, saw it coming.

“It has been a while since I’ve been in this position,” Day admitted. “I’m actually heading in the right direction.”

Getting back to his form of 2015, when he moved into the No. 1 ranking with wins in the PGA and BMW, is another thing.

“I don’t even know if I’ll ever get back there,” Day said. “It’s just slowly building. If I can feel like the wins come easy like it was back then, that’s the main goal. Make it feel like ... you’re not really thinking about it.”

Little has come easy for Fowler, who will play with Patrick Cantlay (10-under 132 after a  6-under 65) in the next-to-last group. He still chases a major title, but he tied for fourth at Conway two years ago. Now, after a six-birdie run Thursday and a 64 added to an opening 65, and dominating the back nine, where he’s 11-under, he’s positioned himself smartly.

“It could have been a really low one,” Fowler said. “I didn’t make anything on the front nine.”

Around Conway Farms

Defending champion Dustin Johnson stumbled to a 1-over 72 and earned a 7:52 a.m. tee time. ... Louis Oosthuizen goes off as a single at 7:30 a.m. ... Feature pairings: Jason Dufner and Rory McIlroy (8:55 a.m.), Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau (9:40 a.m.), Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey (10:40 a.m.), and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth (11:30 a.m.). ... The sneaky good round of the day was Francesco Molinari’s 6-under 65 for 9-under 133, earning him a 12:30 p.m. pairing with Stewart Cink. ... Charles Howell III had the day’s high round, a 5-over 76. Of the 138 rounds so far, only 25 are over par. Nobody in the last 14 twosomes on Saturday’s tee sheet has recorded a round higher than par 71. ... Jason Day’s ace aside, Mickelson might have authored the shot of the day, a crisp wedge off an asphalt cart path on the ninth hole to set up a par 4 after hooking his tee shot some 30 yards off line and against a tent. Line-of-sight relief was in the middle of the path, and after placing his ball there, he decided to play it in Mickelsonian fashion, hitting the green and two-putting from 22 feet. ... Adding in Thursday’s estimated crowd of about 20,000, some 42,000 have attended the two tournament days, with larger galleries expected on the weekend.

Tim Cronin