Playing with a confidence forged by years of hard work and overcoming adversity, Chicago’s own Kevin Streelman finally won on the PGA Tour Sunday with a two-shot victory over Boo Weekley in the Tampa Bay Championship. Streelman did not make a bogey over his final 37 holes on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook, posting a 4-under 67 Sunday to earn the win.
Streelman’s triumph comes in his 153rd start on the PGA Tour and means he’ll be visiting Augusta, Georgia this April to participate in his second Masters. The win in Tampa was fueled by the grit and determination that has been the hallmark of Streelman’s career. After a first round 73 put him in back of the pack on Thursday, Streelman posted rounds of 65 and 67 on the weekend to finish the tournament at ten under par.
A Winfield native and 1997 graduate of Wheaton Warrenville South High School, Streelman worked at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton while learning the game during his early years. After graduating from Duke University in 2001, he spent multiple years on the mini-tours, attempting to kick-start his career as a professional golfer. Streelman twice missed the final stage of Q-school for the PGA Tour by a single shot until he finally earned his PGA Tour card through 2007 Qualifying school.
Since joining the PGA Tour, Streelman has enjoyed consistent, if not major success, earning over $6 million dollars on Tour. Before his victory in Tampa, the highlight of his career was winning the $1 million Kodak Challenge in 2009, which was a season-long contest with PGA Tour players taking their best score on 18 of 30 designated holes for the year.
“He was just kind of different,” said Cantigny’s head golf professional Patrick Lynch of Kevin Streelman. “You can tell he had more of a chance to make it. You could see he had a different look in his eyes. His eyes were always on the horizon.”
Over the years Chicago has been the adopted home town PGA Tour players such as Luke Donald, Jeff Sluman, Mark Wilson and Chip Beck. However, Streelman is the first true home-grown talent to win the PGA Tour in a long time. Other recent local winners include Pekin native D.A. Points’ victory at Pebble Beach in 2011, Mark Hensby’s win at the 2004 John Deere Classic and Todd Hamilton’s wins at the Honda Classic and British Open in 2004. However, the only other true Chicagoland natives to win on the PGA Tour are Gary Groh, who was born in Chicago and won the 1975 Hawaiian Open and Gary Hallberg, who was born in Berwyn and won three times on the PGA Tour including the 1992 Buick Southern Open.