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Malm Leads Crowded Illinois PGA Leaderboard

by Tim Cronin for the Illinois PGA

Some days, one good shot can trigger a series of them.

Steve Orrick hit one of those shots on Monday morning, and it led to a handful of similarly good shots that brought him within a stroke of leader Curtis Malm after one round of the 95th Illinois PGA Championship on Olympia Fields Country Club’s testing South Course.

“I hit a little six,” Orrick said, thinking back to his 6-iron on the 180-yard 12th hole, his third of the day.

That little six hit the flagstick and stopped two feet from the cup, allowing him a kick-in birdie to trigger a opening nine of 3-under 33. That led, after a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys on his inward half, to a 3-under 69 for the head professional from the Country Club of Decatur, matching Travis Johns of Medinah entering the second round.

Doug Bauman (Biltmore), Brian Brodell (Mistwood) and Adam Schumacher (Indian Hill) fired 2-under 70s, while a quintet including 11-time winner Mike Small stood at 1-under 71 at day’s end. In all, 11 players broke the South Course’s par of 72, and another eight matched it.

In his pursuit of Malm, Orrick had one other shot that kept his round going. He hit his second on the 18th into the trees on the right and didn’t have a great lie for his third shot.

“I just punched it out onto the front of the green, and then made it (for birdie) from 40 feet,” Orrick said.

Call it a bonus, and necessary to stay a stroke behind Malm, the professional from White Eagle Golf Club. Out in the day’s second group, Malm posted equal nines of 2-under 34, the feature attraction an eagle 3 on the par-5 18th, a 530-yard adventure. That followed a birdie on the par-4 17th, which followed bogeys on the previous two holes, and so sent him to the front nine for the second half of his round in good humor. He made three more birdies there.

Malm won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2000, but has so far been shut out in the Illinois PGA. He was runner-up to Orrick at Stonewall Orchard in 2012, and shared the runner-up spot with Matt Slowinski behind Mike Small at Olympia in 2013.

Doug Bauman’s 2-under 70 might have been unexpected to outsiders, given that the Biltmore Country Club fixture is 59. But it shouldn’t have been. Three of his last five competitive rounds were 71s, including circuits of Onwentsia and Glen Flora.

“I’ve got a pretty long golf swing, and for years it was too long, but now it’s down to a proper length,” Bauman said with a wink.

He also has a pair of sons, Riley and Greg, who have given him all he can handle on the course, which also keeps him sharp.

“We had a match on Friday, and that helps me move it out there, because they hit it past me,” Bauman said.

He triumphed twice at Kemper Lakes, in 1996 and 1997, and if successful would wipe out Gary Groh’s mark of 13 years between victories. But he acknowledged it’s a long way between one good round and holding a trophy on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m still not entertaining winning,” Bauman said. “I told Craig Bertrand and Katie Pius, who work with me and are playing in this, I’m just trying to make eight pars and one birdie per nine. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

It was six birdies and four bogeys, evenly split between nines, on Monday, but the net result was what Bauman hoped for, 1-under on each side.

As for Small, the 11-time winner opened with a 1-under-par 71, the highlight of the day an eagle on the par-5 10th, one of only two on the day on the hole.

“I played pretty good, just hit it on the wrong side of the hole all day,” Small said. “It was hard to hit the ball close to the hole, because the balls were spinning (back).

“I need to find my form better tomorrow.”

Those who have relished success so many times are never satisfied with an average performance.

Notes from under the clock tower

Defending champion Jim Billiter (Merit Club) fashioned a 3-over 75. ... Oak Park head professional Frank Bruno dunked his approach on the par-4 16th from the fairway for a deuce. ... The field averaged 78.007 strokes. ... It was old-fashioned golf, with no motor carts allowed players because of the heavy rain from the previous week-plus. The soggy conditions prompted tournament director Robert Duke to invoke lift, clean and place for the fairways and closely-mown areas. ... Superintendent Sam MacKenzie and his tireless staff have dealt with 10 inches of rain, which caused the banks of Butterfield Creek to overflow on occasion. The club’s schedule of member championships is now written in pencil, the courses have been closed so often.

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