Illinois PGA Profile: Jim Sobb, Ivanhoe Club

Aug 10, 2018

Jim Sobb’s playing record speaks for itself.

The 30-year director of golf at Ivanhoe Club won eight of the Illinois PGA’s four major tournaments, including the Illinois PGA Championship three times. He also won nine of the section’s Senior majors, and this month he’ll go after his sixth title in the Illinois PGA Senior Championship.

He has played in three national PGA Championships, five Western Opens, three U.S. Senior Opens and two Senior PGA Championships. In 2011 Sobb pulled off what may be his most outstanding accomplishment as a player when he swept the IPGA Match Play and IPGA Senior Match Play titles in back-to-back weeks. No other player has done that.

Now 62, Sobb has made more Radix Cup appearances (22) than any other IPGA member and – in the first year he was eligible – added the Illinois PGA Super Senior Open title to his resume.

Enough already?

Well, the remainder of the 2018 season presents a playing challenge that Sobb relishes – even though the first part of the campaign hasn’t produced a victory yet. There’s still enough big events left on the schedule for Sobb to make this year like most of the others, however.

Most notably, the IPGA Senior Championship is Aug. 13-14 at Merit Club, in Libertyville, and the IPGA Senior Match Play will be played Oct. 2-4 at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff. Spring weather problems forced its postponement earlier.

Also, you can never count Sobb out of his favorite tournament, the Illinois PGA Championship. Though it’s been 18 years since he won the last of his three titles, he’ll be at Stonewall Orchard from Aug. 27-29 to give it another try.

Time usually takes a toll on a player’s abilities, but Sobb might be getting better with age.

“Maybe I am – just a bit,” he said. “I continue to learn and manage my game better. There’s a lot to be said for experience.”

What’s more surprising about this Sobb story is the fact that – despite all his playing success within the Illinois section — he never entertained thoughts of being a touring pro.

“I’ve always wanted to be a club professional. I’ve never looked beyond that,” he said. “I like being competitive, but (to be a tour player) you’ve got to devote yourself 365 days a year. I’m happy where I am.”
Clearly there’s more to Jim Sobb than being a tournament golfer. He’s a lifetime Chicago guy with a unique family. His wife Tina has battled Multiple Sclerosis for many years, yet the Sobbs worked to put their two children through college. Son Ryan graduated from Birmingham Southern and daughter Abbey from the University of Mississippi.

Sobb started playing golf at age 10 while growing up in Palatine. He played at Palatine Hills and Pebble Creek, a nine-hole course that is long gone, and caddied at Inverness before starting in tournament golf in the Northern Illinois Men’s Amateur Golf Association events organized by Mike Spinello. Now both Spinello and Sobb are members of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.

Even back then Sobb’s focus wasn’t just on golf. He was the quarterback at Palatine High School, where he also played basketball and golf, and entertained football scholarship offers but decided not to take them. So, he headed to Western Illinois for college.

Sobb encountered one of the very best college golf coaches when he arrived at Western. Harry Mussatto welcomed him to the team as a walk-on, and Sobb performed well enough as a freshman to earn a scholarship the next year.

After his days at Western, Sobb held assistant professional jobs at Hillcrest, in Long Grove, and the now defunct Thorngate, in Deerfield, and landed his first head job at Chapel Hill, in McHenry, in 1983. He also was the head man at Highland Park Country Club before beginning his long run at Ivanhoe.

The Ivanhoe job has offered Sobb some other growth opportunities. He created a high school tournament, the Ivanhoe Invitational, and was – for the last three years – the host professional for a Tour event, the Rust-Oleum Championship. He’s also mentored several former assistants who now hold head professional jobs.

Such projects helped earn Sobb the IPGA Professional of the Year honor in 1995 and 2000, the IPGA Private Club Merchandiser of the Year Award in 1997 and the Bill Strausbaugh Award, for service to his fellow pros, in 2012. And in 2015, he was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game and outstanding playing career. He also spent 10 years on the IPGA board of directors.

“I’m very comfortable here at Ivanhoe,” said Sobb. “I haven’t given retiring a thought. I feel great. I love what I’m doing as a club professional and still love to compete.”