Adam Schumacher had a goal driving into Medinah Country Club on Wednesday morning.
Make the top 10 in the Illinois PGA Championship and advance to next year’s National Professional Championship, the PGA’s club pro fiesta.
Schumacher did much better than that. He won the title, firing a 2-under-par 69 on Medinah’s windblown No. 1 Course to come from six strokes back and pass three players, including overnight leader Jim Billiter, to capture the Jim Kemper Cup, pocketing $11,700.
“People were saying that everyone was struggling, so I just kept grinding, getting up and down for pars when I missed the green,” Schumacher said. “And it kept paying off.”
The 26-year-old assistant at Indian Hill Club totaled 4-under 209 across the three rounds, and had a little more game than just saving par. He birdied the first and third holes to climb back into the fight while Billiter was stumbling to bogeys on the second and third, the beginning of a treacherous 6-over 42 outward nine.
Billiter would end up with an 9-over 80 for 1-over 214, tying for fifth and finishing five strokes in arrears of Schumacher, and yet was still in contention after birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, the first a self-described “miracle.”
Schumacher cooled off a bit, bogeying the seventh and 10th holes, but a binge of three birdies in five holes on the 11th, 12th and 15th helped break a tie with Dakun Chang and carried him to the title.
““I hit one on the water on 10 and knew I had to get a couple back,” Schumacher said. “On 11, I hit driver off the tee and had 86 yards to the back pin, and hit it to 10 feet. The next hole, I hit driver to 120 yards and I hit it to five feet. That got me feeling a little better.”
While he was dropping those putts, Billiter was reeling, and so was Chang, who started the day at 6-under and two strokes behind Billiter. Chang birdied the par-4 third but doubled the par-3 fifth and added a bogey on the par-3 seventh. He turned in 4-under, but Schumacher soon made up the stroke difference, and when Chang triple-bogeyed the devilish 13th, a 295-yard lure for those trying to make eagle, he was out of the chase.
Walker was still in it despite a double-bogey 7 on the ninth, and birdied the 13th to move to 1-under, where he stayed to finish second with a 73 for 1-under 212.
Billiter, quite a bit faster than Walker, tried to stay out of his way as the holes ran out.
“Brett was playing great, so you don’t want to rush him,” Billiter said. “You’re always slower when you walk. I’m an inpatient guy, so I was rushing a little bit. I didn’t want to get ahead of him, so out of respect for him I just played when it was my turn.”
Chang and Doug Bauman, the 60-year-old veteran from Biltmore, tied for third at even par 213. Bauman scored 2-over 73, including a birdie on the 13th and a tremendous par featuring a second shot through a tree on the par-4 16th.
“I knew after about seven holes that we were close, and Adam was playing real well so I knew I had to catch him,” Bauman said. “Hooray for the old guys. I’ve still got a couple years.”
Schumacher‘s final birdie, on the par-3 15th, ended its 20-foot run tumbled in on the last turn. He hit his tee shot into the water on the par-5 17th, but surrendered only one stroke, so when he parred the 18th, he had a three-stroke lead. Even if Walker had aced the par-3 18th, Schumacher would have won by a stroke. Walker parred.
“I had no idea until I signed the card that I was on top,” Schumacher said.
It’s tough to beat the view from there.
On a windy day and with difficult pin placements, the final round scoring average of 77.13 for the 62 players making the cut was higher than the first round average of 76.77, when all 133 players were on the course. Only three players broke 70, with Glen View Club’s Chris Green scoring 3-under 68 and Schumacher and Flossmoor’s Simon Allen carding 69s. … Matt Slowinski (70) was the only other player under the par of 71. … The purse totaled $73,975. … Defending champion Mike Small shot 3-over 74 tied for sixth at 2-over 215. He and 10 others advance to the PNC. Along with Schumacher, Walker, Bauman, Chang and Billiter, Rich Dukelow, Kyle Bauer, Matt Slowinski, Brian Carroll, and Simon Allen advanced to the national tourney.