Streelman Wheaton isn’t a fan, but Mickelson says he’s here to stay

The first time a PGA Tour pro and Kevin Streelman, a native of Wheaton, walked into Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, he was in absolute awe.

There to play at the Illinois Junior golf event, Streelman soaked the atmosphere at one of the Chicago area’s most popular private clubs.

The course was great. The on-site automobile museum was – and still is – amazing. And Jerry Rich, owner, president and designer of Rich Harvest, couldn’t be nicer.

“It was a special day,” Strelman said.

However, this week is particularly frustrating for Streelman as Rich Harvest hosts the controversial fifth-ever LIV Tour event.

“Honestly, I was very disappointed to see her come to Chicago – the city I belong to and I am very proud of,” Strelman, 43, said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I was a little surprised that Jerry wanted that on his golf course.”

Rich Harvest’s 7,425-yard design held up fairly well during the first round on Friday, although Dustin Johnson tore it to shreds by firing him in the first round 63 to take a three-stroke lead over Cameron Smith.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Mickelson, one of the faces of the LIV and in the center of the controversy, beat a triple bogey on the fifth hole of the third and bounced back to shoot the 2-under 70.

Streelman faces many problems with a tour funded by Saudi Arabia, which has a bad reputation when it comes to women’s rights, terrorist financing, and torture of detainees.

“People have issues with the political side of things, which is understandable — especially people who have connections to 9/11 and the loss of their family members and friends,” Strelman said. “People have issues with what is being done in professional golf in general. It is an attack on the PGA Tour and world competition in general. It is (also) a social issue of what our world is going to come to in terms of greed and where the money is coming from… all that What matters is making the most money.

“I think I personally have a little problem in all respects.”

Forty-eight players are part of the LIV Tour, with many being recruited due to massive signing bonuses (Mickelson reportedly earned $200 million, Johnson $125 million, Smith $100 million) and others coming for mega purses pushing $4 million into Winner and $120,000 to last place.

Some of the big names include Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Louis Oustoizen. Nine members of the LIV Tour (including Smith in second place) are ranked in the top 50 of the world golf rankings.

Streelman hates that “there is a wedge drawn in professional golf” and is also disappointed by the LIV Tour’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour. The lawsuit says LIV Tour members must be able to play in either circuit.

Michelson’s solution is that all parties must unite.

“The PGA Tour for the last 20 or 30 years (has seen) the best players in the world,” Mickelson said. “That will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay, and that kind of divisive talk does no good to anyone. The best solution is for us to meet.

“The professional golf world needs… the history of the game (and) the product that the PGA Tour delivers. LIV provides a cool, up-to-date feel that appeals to a younger audience – and it’s proven… age of the people watching.

“Both are required…and the inclusion of LIV golf in the world of golf’s ecosystem is essential. Once that happens and we all start working together, it will be a really positive thing for everyone.”

Engagement on the first day was strong, with estimates ranging between 6,000 and 9,000 fans. In some ways what they saw mirrored the PGA Tour event as:

• Excited children received requests for signatures from Johnson, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and others.

• Mickelson, on his way to the third tee box, handed a ball to a mother who was holding her infant daughter as she waved.

• The idiot had to shout, “Go in the hole!” While Johnson tore up his campaign to start the championship on the first 402-yard hole.

The oddities include the aforementioned gun start, loud rock music playing through the stands, and guards holding signs that read “Zip it” instead of “Quiet, please.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the four former Navy SEALs who parachuted onto the 18th green to get things started.

“I enjoy the opportunity to compete against these guys and do so in a more fun and fan-friendly environment,” Mickelson said. Energy is different.

So what will happen in the coming years? Streelman says it will ultimately be up to the fans.

“The tour has been an integral part of my life for the past 16 years as a member, but really the previous 20 years it was a dream to get there as well,” Strelman said. “So it is something very near and dear to my heart, and I am very proud of what I have been able to achieve. …

“I really think that in the end it will end with the product. Some fans will enjoy LIV, and some fans will want to commit to the PGA Tour.

“I know where my loyalty is and always will be.”

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