Tim Streng did Monday at Stonewall Orchard Golf Club what he teaches youth golfers to do the other six days of the week. Hit it close and make the putts.
Streng, an instructor at the Wildcat Golf Academy at The Glen Club, fired a 3-under-par 69 and leads the 2018 Illinois PGA Championship by a stroke over a sevensome of notables, including 12-time champion Mike Small.
“It was a tough day with the wind,” Streng said of the 20-mph southwesterly breeze, “but I had my wedges dialed in. Hit a lot of them to 10-12 feet and capitalized on a few. All my numbers were in a good spot.”
Streng seemed impervious to the wind. He birdied the third, eighth, 13th and 14th holes, but was vexed by the wind on the par-3 fifth, where he said it was swirling, and scrambled for par. On most of Stonewall’s holes, there was a crosswind, and on most of the others, it was either with the player or in his teeth. His only bogey was on the downwind seventh.
Streng, who won the Illinois PGA Assistant’s title in 2015, leads Small, Dakun Chung, Curtis Malm, Brian Carroll, Rich Dukelow, Roy Biancalana and Kurt Rogers by a stroke entering Tuesday’s second round.
“I thought the wind was a factor,” said Small, who authored three top-10 finishes in as many weeks during a mid-summer swing on a Champions Tour, finishing with a tie for 10th in the Senior Players Championship. “I made some good par putts, made a couple two-footers for birdie and a couple of others, but otherwise made nothing.”
Small, winner of five of the six Illinois PGAs played on this Arthur Hills-designed course, was 3-under until a bogey on the par-4 16th.
Malm played with Small, hitting 15 greens in regulation and paying the price with bogey on his other three holes, the fifth, seventh and 16th. But he made five birdies, including on the last two holes, to more than make up for it.
“You just try to survive the early rounds,” Malm said. “Try to play well on Monday and Tuesday and get into contention.”
Malm, who won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2000, has a solo second, two joint seconds and a tie for third in the section championship. His tie for second two years ago at Olympia Fields was painful, as he led in the late going before a triple-bogey on the penultimate hole.
“Obviously, I’d like to win it once,” Malm said. “The ultimate goal is to qualify for the PPC (the PGA Professional Championship, colloquially known as the Club Pro).”
Dukelow, a teaching pro at Medinah Country Club, eagled the par-5 eighth hole and scattered four birdies on his card en route to his 70, and did so playing hurt.
“I’ve been fighting a rib injury,” Dukelow said. “It’s 2 1/2 week now, but it still hurts. I don’t make a big deal about injuries, but this one hurts every time I swing. Maybe it makes my tempo better.”
Carroll, who tied for 10th last year, birdied two of his first three holes and didn’t make another until the par-4 15th, when he sank an 18-footer to make up for a bogey on No. 6.
“It’s a handful,” Carroll said of Stonewall. “I had a couple of chances early to take advantage of the course.”
Chang, off in the day’s second group, was 1-over through 10 holes, then clicked off birdies on the 11th, 14th and 15th holes, three of his five 3s on the back nine. That brought him in at 2-under 70, which held up as the lead until the early afternoon, when Streng asserted himself.
Biancalana, 58, returned to Illinois this year after a decade in Florida as a relationships coach, was bogey-free with birdies on the 16th and 18th to sneak into contention. He was a runner-up twice in the early 2000s.
Rogers, from Red Tail Run in Decatur, was the last of the field to join the crowd at 70, and did so with birdies on the ninth, 10th and 15th holes to offset a bogey on the sixth.
Defending champion Adam Schumacher scored 3-over-par 75 in uneven fashion, with a bogey-bogey-double bogey-double bogey stretch to score 43 on the front side, but raced home in 4-under 32. He’s tied for 28th. The cut will be to the low 60 and ties.
A downpour on Sunday prompted the declaration of lift, clean and place in the fairway, but it didn’t help scoring much. The field of 120 averaged 78.44 on the 6,935-yard par-72 layout. Of the top 20 players, the only one to play the most difficult stretch, holes 4-5-6, under par was Sean Gervais of Chicago Golf Club, who was 1-under thanks to a birdie on No. 4, which helped him to a 1-under 71.