Golf Insider: Kevin Streelman soars with string of birdies to win second PGA Tour event

Kevin Streelman waits on the 18th tee during the final round of the Travelers Championship on Sunday. |  Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Kevin Streelman waits on the 18th tee during the final round of the Travelers Championship on Sunday. | Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It may be time for Kevin Streelman to readjust his thinking.

“I just was a journeyman,” the 35-year-old Winfield native told reporters Sunday when asked how he viewed his professional golf career.

“I was a Zach Johnson-slash-journeyman, I kind of say to myself. We were never All-Americans in college, never the guys that were, for sure, (destined) to make it. We had to work for everything we got. I never got a sponsor exemption into a tournament.”

That’s no longer a concern.

The seventh-year PGA Tour veteran made a record-setting seven straight birdies Sunday to close out his second straight round of 64 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. It gave him a total of 15-under 265 in the Travelers Championship, one stroke better than Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi, for his second win on the PGA Tour. He won in Tampa in 2013.

“I am a little shocked,” Streelman said. “… to do it in that fashion is something I’ll never forget. … birdie the last seven, to even say it is crazy.”

Friends back home were delighted.

“I saw him on the 18th hole (on television),” Jeff Luetkehans said. “I hadn’t been watching and all of a sudden I get about 10 tweets and three phone calls when Kevin had just made five birdies in a row.”

Luetkehans is the general manager at Black Sheep Golf Club in Sugar Grove and a former high school teammate of Streelman at Wheaton Warrenville South.

“I was two years older,” Luetkehans said. “Our high school home course was at Old Wayne. Kevin was in the car with me when I got in my first car accident. It was a day after I got my license and we were on our way to tryouts. No one was hurt and it didn’t involve another vehicle, just a picnic table.”

Early in his pro career, the membership at Black Sheep extended playing/practicing privileges to Streelman, a Duke University graduate, as he was trying to make it on tour.

He now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is a member at prestigious Whisper Rock Country Club, where he once caddied when he was struggling to make it.

Members there include PGA Tour players like Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair and Aaron Baddeley, among others.

“He plays here about once a year now,” said Luetkehans, who traded texts with Streelman after the win. “He always comes back. He likes the low-key atmosphere our club offers.”

The seven straight birdies included a 37-foot putt on the 16th.

“It’s pretty sick, especially in tournament play,” Luetkehans said.

What had been “a lackadaisical year,” according to Streelman, is no more. The $1.12 million first-place prize money boosts his season earnings to $1.9 million-plus.

Luetkehans said Streelman may return for a visit when he comes back to Illinois for the John Deere Classic July 7-13, the week before the British Open.

“Originally, he was not planning to play in the Deere,” said Luetkehans.

“I don’t know what changed his mind but he texted and said he’d be in town. Maybe missing the four previous cuts before the win this weekend, I don’t know.”

Maybe the next step for Streelman will be to live his dream of being in contention on a Sunday in a major.

As Luetkehans said, “Winning once on Tour can be a fluke. To win a second time shows it isn’t.”

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