MEDINAH, Ill. – The Olympia Fields Intercollegiate begins Sunday near Chicago. Yes, there’s another big golf event in the area this weekend, as well. That “other” event, the Ryder Cup, will impact the Olympia Fields Intercollegiate, one of the top events of the college season.
Participating teams will attend the Ryder Cup on Saturday afternoon after practice rounds. When play begins at Olympia Fields, players will be facing a new venue because the club is hosting Ryder Cup-week events on its famed North Course, site of Jim Furyk’s 2003 U.S. Open victory. The collegiate event will be moved to the South, which was recently restored by architect Steve Smyers, this year because of the scheduling conflicts.
Moving the collegiate event to the South Course also will help the club as it prepares to host the 2015 U.S. Amateur, and give some of the younger players in this week’s field an opportunity to gain experience on the future Amateur site. The North and South will each host one of the Amateur’s two stroke-play rounds.
“The South is surprisingly strong, strong, strong,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. “Most places have two courses – one really good one and one that’s just the members’ course. This is strong. It’s not as long, but the greens are more severe, and it has some more elevation changes to it.”
The South Course, a 1915 Tom Bendelow design, hosted the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. It also hosted the Junior Ryder Cup on Monday and Tuesday.
The North Course was designed by Willie Park and opened in 1923. It was the site of three previous USGA championships: the 1928 U.S. Open (won by Johnny Farrell), the 1997 U.S. Senior Open (won by Graham Marsh) and the 2003 U.S. Open (won by Furyk). It also hosted the 1925 and 1961 PGA Championships.
The strength of the field at the Olympia Fields Intercollegiate, and the quality of the venue, is illustrated in the list of past individual champions, which includes PGA Tour players Rickie Fowler (2007) and Harris English (2009) and former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein (2010). Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers is the defending champion, winning last year’s event shortly after representing the United States at the Walker Cup.
The Ryder Cup isn’t the only international competition that will impact the Olympia Fields Intercollegiate. The World Amateur Team Championship, which will be held Oct. 4-7 in Antalya, Turkey, has taken some top names out of the field. Illinois will be without its two Belgians, NCAA individual champ Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry. “Two of my three best players aren’t going to be at my own tournament,” Small said.
It’s a busy week here in Chicago, to say the least.