Woodstock, Ill. – May 11, 2022 – Prior to heading to Oak Hill for the PGA Championship next week, Chris French of Aldeen Golf Club had a Major of his own to win. French won the 2023 Illinois PGA Match Play Championship presented by Harris Golf Cars at Bull Valley Golf Club on Thursday. He defeated Andy Mickelson (Mistwood Golf Club) in the Championship Match to win his second career Illinois PGA Major (the 2019 Illinois PGA Players Championship).
French found himself in an unusual spot on Thursday afternoon, falling behind early on in the Championship Match. After he made birdie on the first hole to take a 1up lead, French lost the fourth hole and the seventh hole to fall one behind Mickelson at the turn.
The back nine was a different story as French won four straight holes to open the back nine. He did a good job of capitalizing on a few errant shots from Mickelson and made par on the 10th hole to draw the match back to even. On the 11th hole, French found himself just off the green in the fringe however, his ball ended up in a pitch mark. With a tough lie to deal with, French’s putt jumped up in the air after impact but still started on the right line and dropped in the cup for birdie, and French took a 1up lead.
French’s consistency proved to be too much to handle as he won holes 12 and 13 with pars to go 3up with five holes to play. He dropped a shot on the par-3 16th as he failed to get up and down from the front of the green to save par, but closed the match out on 17 with a routine par to win the match 2 and 1 and secure his second Illinois PGA Major Championship.
French began the week as the fourth seed after finishing T4 in the Stroke Play Qualifying round on Monday. French nearly had an early exit in the 2023 Harris Golf Cars Illinois PGA Match Play Championship. He found himself down two with two holes to play against the 61st-seeded Bobby Schmelter (Mistwood Golf Club). French went on to win the 17th, and 18th holes to extend the match and closed out the match on the 21st hole to advance to the Round of 32.
Following the first round, French found his rhythm as he cruised to the Championship Match. He faced 36th-seeded Sean McLeod (Medinah Country Club) in the Round of 32 and defeated him 5 and 3. On Wednesday, French drew 13th-seeded Chris Green (Glen View Club) in the Round of 16 and defeated him 4 and 3 to advance to the Quarterfinals. A 7 and 6 win over Jamie Nieto (The Preserve at Oak Meadows) sent French to the Semifinals where he faced Matthew Rion (Briarwood Country Club).
French grabbed the lead on the third hole of his Semifinal Match and never looked back. He only lost one hole during this match and defeated Rion 3 and 2 to advance to the Championship Match. From the Round of 32 on, French only lost a total of seven holes.
“I played pretty well this week,” said French. “I had a tough first match, and just barely squeezed it out. Fortunately, I made enough birdies to win some matches early on. The Championship Match against Andy (Mickelson) was a good one. We made a lot of birdies on the front nine, and I was able to play well enough to squeak it out and get the victory.”
The Harris Golf Cars Illinois PGA Match Play Championship marked the first of four Major Championships on the 2023 schedule. The Illinois PGA would like to thank the presenting sponsor and long-time Section Partner, Harris Golf Cars as well as Bettinardi Golf and Precise Yardage Books for sponsoring this event. The Illinois PGA circuit will return on Monday, May 15 at Schaumburg Golf Club for the Illinois PGA Stroke Play #2. However, the 2023 Illinois PGA Match Play Champion will not be in attendance as he will be in Rochester preparing for the PGA Championship, which he qualified into via the PGA Professional National Championship last week in New Mexico.
“I haven’t really had time to think about playing in the PGA Championship next week,” said French. “With this week behind me, I can sit down and come up with a game plan, but I’m just happy to be going. I don’t have too many expectations. I’m just going to try and have fun and maybe make the cut.”
About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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Illinois PGA Communications