By Josh Karp
Galena, Ill. ' In the collective American mind, a principal characteristic of the Midwest is flatness. Regions of Michigan and Minnesota to the north or the Ozarks to the south form exceptions, but most of the Midwest is strictly on the level.
For golfers, this conjures up Midwestern resort courses dependent on water hazards for definition and bulldozers for their elevation changes. In historic Galena, Illinois, however, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa stands as an anomaly. The landscape here is one of very few in the region where Ice Age glaciers failed to steamroll everything flat. Caverns, hills, bluffs and valleys remain intact, creating scenery reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest, New England or the Mid-Atlantic.
A three-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago, Galena is tucked in the Prairie States northwest corner. Founded in the 1820s by lead miners and steamboaters who plied the Mississippi, Galenas era of greatest prosperity came in the 1860s. Thats also the period when it served as home base for Union general Ulysses S. Grant, who moved to the town in 1860 to help run his familys leather goods store.
More than 100 years later, Galena entered a period of rebirth as a vacation spot for Chicagoans, with an old-fashioned Main Street full of restored Italianate and Greek Revival buildings (85 percent of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places), small shops and cozy restaurants. A walk through town takes visitors past the Desoto House, a 150-year-old hotel where Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech from the balcony overlooking Main Street. The Desotos famous guests included Abes rival Stephen Douglas and William Jennings Bryan.
Eagle Ridge, founded on a preserve known as the Galena Territory, opened its first course in 1977. Over the next 20 years, the resort expanded to 63 holes, all designed by Roger Packard. At Eagle Ridge, Packard took whatever the terrain had to offer, incorporating limestone cliffs, natural bodies of water and tree-studded valleys into his layouts.
The 18-hole North course is the resorts most forgiving and picturesque, with large undulating greens and fairways that run through dense forest and along Lake Galena. The South is a rolling parkland layout that plays through a wooded valley. But when skilled players head off to Eagle Ridge, its the General they come to salute.
Opened in 1997, the General is a collaboration between Packard and two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North. With several tees at 100-foot-plus elevations and uphill approach shots from fairways that undulate in width and depth throughout, the 6,820-yard General awards no particular advantage either to the power hitter or the finesse player. Its a course that tests your mental and physical skills alike.
An added benefit of the exercise is an array of views that seem out of place in topographically deprived Illinois. Eagle Ridges accommodations range from a central inn to rental villas and homes, where the look and feel is adequate and homey in a middle-class, Midwestern way. More of a place for corporate outings and golf weekends, these lodgings arent quite overflowing with charm or elegance. Then again, its not the kind of resort where most golfers would be prone to hang out in their guest room when they could be playing golf, strolling the lakeshore or sauntering through downtown Galena.
The restaurants at each course and in the resorts main lodge range from ultra-casual pizza and salads to the requisite low-key eatery offering a steak/seafood/pasta menu. The staff at Eagle Ridge is exceedingly friendly, and the resorts Stonedrift Spa provides at least a half-days distraction for non-golfing companions'as well as a place to oil up your neck and shoulders after an afternoons duel with the General.
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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole
There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.
Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship
Ernie Els is one proud uncle.
His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.
Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.
"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."
Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.
"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."
Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start
CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.
McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.
Squirrel who interrupts swings > Guy who yells "Baba Booey"— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 23, 2018
Every time. pic.twitter.com/IvJGTVtHTC
McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.
McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.
Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead
PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.
Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.
Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.
Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.
Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.
Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.
Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.