Chadd Slutzky isn’t the typical Midwest amateur golfer we’ve come to know over the years.
Maybe it’s the name. The 45-year-old from Deer Park, Illinois, which is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, has an odd-spelling first name to go along with a nickname we can’t publish. It is, however, published on his golf balls. It’s happened, on more than a few occasions, when Slutzky meets playing competitors for the first time and has them so comfortable that they are using the moniker by the eighth hole.
Or maybe it’s his lack of competitive experience. Slutzky grew up in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, where his golf-obsessed father, Jon, got him into the game and his mother, Bonnie, became an enthusiast who can still break 90. Despite being a strong golfer from an early age, Slutzky played virtually no competitive golf outside of local high school events. When he traveled across the country to attend the University of Arizona during the late ’90s, Slutzky harbored what were probably naive aspirations to play for Rick LaRose’s Wildcats, easily one of the best programs in the nation at the time.
“I tried to walk on there, and they didn't take any walk-ons,” Slutzky said. “So I joined a fraternity and didn't play golf in college.”
He didn’t play much competitive golf in his 20s, either. Slutzky moved to Chicago after graduation and became a futures trader, focusing on work and family. Tournament golf came back on his radar only at age 30 when he and his wife, Danielle, moved out to the suburbs. Slutzky, now a regional sales director for a flexible packaging company, had the time, access and space to slowly get back into it, and he would occasionally pop up in a state am or mid-am.
Now he is a constant presence in Chicagoland golf. And this summer – more accurately a wild past month or so – has been the zenith of his great play over the last few years.
It started in January when Slutzky began to hit the gym and take his physical fitness to another level. He is a self-described range rat, getting out to practice at The Grove Country Club several times per week despite still finding time to be fully present for two sports-inclined kids. But working out like this hadn’t been a priority until 2022.
That set the stage for what was to come. Slutzky partnered with close friend John Ramsey to reach the round of 32 in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball earlier this year at the Country Club of Birmingham, a harbinger of their ensuing win at the Chicago District Golf Association Four-Ball. Last month, Slutzky matched with close pal Grant Goltz to win the Peninsula Cup at Kingsley Club in Michigan. Just for fun, he added in a member-member win at his home club, The Royal Fox Country Club in St. Charles, Illinois, and he also won the Mid Pines Invitational with Ramsey in February, too.
Five days after winning the CDGA crown, Slutzky qualified for the U.S. Mid-Am at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, a reasonable two-hour drive from Deer Park. He shot an even-par 71 in the first round of that national championship, which is taking place this week, and sits in a tie for 36th heading into the second round of stroke play. Monday is now the finish of stroke play after no golf was contested on Sunday because of biblical rains drenching the property.
But to this point, his defining accomplishment of the summer came just a few weeks ago in the Illinois Mid-Amateur at Evanston Golf Club. Slutzky nursed a three-stroke lead on the final day and labored through a rare poor ballstriking day, making an untimely double bogey late on the 16th hole of the last round. Although his mental game – once a glaring weakness that held him back – has improved greatly, Slutzky felt the pressure as he came up the 18th hole tied for the lead.
Just at the right time, Ramsey and Goltz gave him some encouragement.
“He hit his drive into the right trees on 18 and then he hit this really nice punch shot up and around the trees and now he's just behind the green,” Ramsey said in recounting the scene. “He had this horrible look on his face, and he hadn’t seen us until this moment, but he walks up to us and he just looks terrible. And he had this shirt on, I don't know what it meant, but it had a bunch of little crowns all over it. And Grant just looks at him and he goes, ‘kings wear crowns.’
“His expression immediately goes from just utter dejection to a big smile on his face. And he got up and down for the win.”
“I feel like my game keeps getting better somehow, every year. I keep improving. My distance hasn't gone away at all, even though I'm 45, which is nice. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop."
That is emblematic of Slutzky, a social character who feeds off the energy of others. As Ramsey describes it, Slutzky “can sell ice to an eskimo.”
He had won the Illinois Mid-Am before in 2017 and 2019, in addition to a 2020 Wisconsin Match Play Championship that he calls his biggest win to date, but this recent run of stellar form has him believing that this is the best golf of his career.
“I feel like my game keeps getting better somehow, every year,” Slutzky said. “I keep improving. My distance hasn't gone away at all, even though I'm 45, which is nice. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop.
“The summer started off not great. I had a couple of tournaments where I didn’t play well, especially at the CDGA Am where I didn’t make match play. So it was just a really quick three weeks that kind of turned everything around.”
Ramsey and Goltz, who met Slutzky about a decade ago on the mid-am circuit, describe Slutzky’s game as one that has matured over time. “He murders the ball,” Ramsey said of Slutzky’s prodigious length that can keep up with the flat-bellied college kids while being a good 30 yards past a typical mid-am. Because of that, his driver may stay in the bag for long stretches of time on narrower courses. It helps that a sometimes balky putter has been calmed by the arm-lock technique in recent times.
But his growth as a competitive player has less to do with mechanical improvements and more to do with the mental side.
“He doesn’t get sidetracked anymore by a bad shot here or there,” Goltz said. “I think it's just aging and becoming comfortable with winning. A bad hole doesn't just stop him for the whole tournament. He used to be fairly intense where anger came up a little bit, but that's kind of all gone away. And I think that's been one of his keys to him playing so well. Not that he was ever a hothead breaking clubs or throwing clubs or anything, but you could just tell if he made a bad bogey he didn't like, it was a three- or four-hole stretch to get over that.”
Slutzky has reached a place where he is even fist-bumping match-play competitors for great shots.
“He just wouldn't have done that five or six years ago,” Goltz said.
It’s all a part of growing up in tournament golf and getting comfortable in that setting after not growing up with it. Slutzky comes with his quirks just like any golfer does, but he has worked tirelessly to develop into arguably the best mid-am Chicagoland golf has to offer at the moment.
Remember the name – it shouldn’t be too difficult to do that.