The third Annual United Way 5K Run/Walk benefits the United Way, a charity dedicated to education, familial financial stability, and healthy lifestyle choices. The paved pathways through the I&M Canal provide a comfy landing pad for trotting sneakers, as a fall canopy of shade-shifting greenery shelters runners from sunlight, wind, and low-hanging water balloons. The flat course caters to runners of all ages and fitness levels, and its safe, secluded location is off-limits to traffic. Once racers toddle across the finish line, t-shirts are draped over all participants, prizes await top finishers from each age group, and the overall fastest man, woman, and mini fridge take home a piece of championship treasure.
At most driving ranges, players can smash golf balls off of tees to their heart's content, but are unable to prove the results of their hard work on an actual hole. Then again, most driving ranges don't have a staff as seasoned as the one found at Chicago Players Club in Grayslake. The 20-acre property has all the features of a typical driving range—20 grass hitting stations, 5 target greens, and 20 separate mats. The difference lies in the men overseeing the operation. PGA teaching professional Mike Mandakas is available daily by appointment, ready to dole out advice on everything from how to correct a problematic backswing to which clubs make the best back-scratchers. He's joined by a team of instructors, who lend their expertise to players willing to journey to the course, which is conveniently located at the corner of Route 120 and US-45.
The 26-acre facility just 20 minutes from downtown encompasses a sprawling driving range with 60 total hitting stations including 30 mats, 17 covered and heated hitting bays, a 3,500 square foot putting green, two short game areas, and seven target greens. Adjacent to the range, golfers can hone their game around the green at the short game range, which will soon include a bunker to build sandcastle memorials to all of the golf balls lost in battle to course hazards. The entire complex is open year-round and lighted for after-hours practice.
Though golfers can find ample opportunities to improve their skills at the facility through solo practice, the Chicago Players Club can make practice sessions even more effective with advice from a staff of veteran PGA Teaching Professionals. The staff includes decorated PGA pros Mike Mandakas, the owner who has been a golf professional at the elite Olympia Fields, Desert Mountain, and Medinah Country Clubs, Mike Harrigan, who played in eight Western Open PGA Tournaments and was the Illinois PGA Pro and Teacher of the Year in 1995, Jim "Doc" Suttie, the number one ranked teaching professional in Illinois, and Brian Vaisnoras, who has worked a variety of Professional instructor positions on the east coast. The staff offers lessons for players of all ages and abilities, as well as club-fitting services to ensure golfers and their equipment are emotionally compatible.
Restaurateur Ted first fed the Willow Springs community with his intimate establishment, My Way Café, whose popularity inspired him to expand his reach into fine Italian cuisine paired with delicately balanced wines at My Way Ristorante. Through the evolution of his businesses, though, Ted has never lost sight of doing things, as he puts it, his way. He focuses first on cultivating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in his restaurants, striving to make guests feel free to sit, eat, chat, and return.
Of course, delicious food comes in at a close second. He crafts an extensive menu of Italian dishes, calling out signature favorites with the addition of My Way to the dish’s name. My Way polenta pairs sautéed italian sausage with a white wine sauce, and My Way ravioli douses tomato crab-stuffed ravioli in a garlic cream sauce. Some recipes, however, Ted leaves just the way they are, relying on the time-tested ability of a simple grill to draw flavors from his 12-ounce rib eyes, 8-ounce filet mignons, and 2-ounce charcoal briskets.
Sandy's Sandwiches prides itself on feeding customers high quality bread, but not too much of it. Instead, they focus on serving up more meat, more cheese, and whatever other toppings make up the customer's sandwich of choice. With the Big Bet BLT, it's bacon, sliced avocados, and ancho-chipotle sauce; in the Chicken Melt Sub, it's swiss cheese and honey mustard; while the Chicken Salad Sandwich is topped with baby spinach and creamy pesto. Other sandwiches include massive eats such as the Colossal Corned Beef with horseradish dijon on marbled rye, or the Big Hammer, made with enough smoked ham and swiss cheese to put Thor to sleep. The menu also includes hot dogs—the Chicago Dog, the Striped Dog, and the Bacon Chili Dog—and wraps such as the Straight Veggie Wrap with roasted red pepper and artichoke hearts.