Mj's Min - Wallner

The UI Golf Course's Mike Wallner with The News-Gazette's Marcus Jackson

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SAVOY — David Keenan won the 2019 UI Open, one of the area’s premier summer golf events.

It was the second UI Open win for the Salt Fork product and former Parkland golfer during the tournament’s 66-year history after he won his first championship in 2016.

Will Keenan have a chance to defend his title in 2020?

Good question.

Golf courses in Illinois opened on a restricted basis on May 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic, but UI Golf Course Director Mike Wallner said the 2020 version of the UI Open is still on.

For now at least.

“We’re still planning to have that as scheduled,” Wallner said of the event slated for June 20-21. “That has about 70-72 players, so even if we had to go twosomes, you could easily do that and still get them in during a day.”

Groups of two players are now the norm instead of a typical foursome, with 15-minute wait times in between groups teeing off. Wallner said through nearly the first week of the UI Orange and Blue Courses being open this month, he has not seen those changes adversely affect the game.

“We’re driving around and monitoring the course to make sure there are no rule-breakers, per se, and you could go 2-3 holes and not even see a group,” Wallner said. “It takes a little camaraderie out of the game, but we’re thankful with what we’ve got and we’re thankful to be open.”

Wallner, like nearly every golf course superintendent, has had to adjust his schedule at the two UI Courses during the pandemic. This has caused one of the more popular events at his course, the Two-Man Betterball, to be bumped from its original date of May 16-17 to Sept. 5-6.

“We’ve been able to move a lot of our events later in the year hoping we’re able to get them all in,” Wallner said.

For now, though, the UI Open remains on as scheduled, but Wallner said he will move its date if he has to.

“That’s kind of our signature individual tournament,” Wallner said. “But the two-man tournaments are the ones people really enjoy playing in. I’d hate to lose the UI Open, just like I’d also hate to lose the Betterball and the Players Cup, which are our big events of the tournament season.”

Matt Daniels is sports editor at The News-Gazette. His email is mdaniels@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG).

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