Illinois Women’s Open returns minus Western Junior champ

This year’s golf calendar isn’t as loaded with big events as it normally is.  That’s why next week figures to be the biggest of the local season.  It features the biggest annual women’s event of the year followed immediately by Illinois’ only PGA Tour stop of 2021.

The 26th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open leads things off at Mistwood Golf Club, in Romeoville. It tees off on Tuesday (JULY 6) with a 36-hole session to determine the qualifiers for the final 18 the following day.  As soon as the IWO wraps up the spotlight shifts to downstate Silvis for the 50th playing of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Neither event was played in 2020 because of pandemic concerns.

Mistwood is beginning an extraordinary stretch as a tournament site, with the Illinois State Amateur coming up just two weeks after the IWO, and the women’s event is special this year given the recent selection of its late founder Phil Kosin into the next induction class into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies will be on Oct. 1 at The Glen Club, in Glenview.

Kosin, who succumbed to cancer in 2009, started the event at Odyssey, in Tinley Park.  After four stagings there – and with strong support from then Mistwood owner Jim McWethy – Kosin moved the event to Romeoville, its home ever since.  McWethy passed away last June after battling lung problems.

Two-time champion Nicole Jeray, now on the Mistwood teaching staff, and recently-crowned Illinois Women’s State Amateur champion Grace Curran head the field.

“Having not held the tournament last year, our entry numbers are a little down,’’ said Andy Mickelson, Mistwood’s director of golf. “We probably have a stronger amateur field than professionals.’’

Mickelson said the purse and champion’s payout will be about the same as recent years – a $20,000 prize fund with $5,000 for the champion, assuming she’s a professional.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Rarely have Chicago players won the prestigious Women’s Western Junior title, but Barrington’s Mara Janess pulled off that feat last week at Aurora Country Club.  Soon to enter her senior year at Barrington High School, Janess has already committed to play golf at the University of Michigan.

Before she goes collegiate, however, Janess will take on adults in the Women’s Western Amateur, which begins July 19 at Park Ridge Country Club.

“I played in the Women’s Western Amateur last year, and can’t wait for this year,’’ said Janess, who was the Illinois Class 2A high school champion in 2019.  “It’s such a great field every year, and it’s one of my favorite events.’’

Janess won’t play in the Illinois Women’s Open because it conflicts with her qualifying round for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

The Women’s Western Junior has been played for 94 years and rarely has a local player won.  Before Janess the last to do it was Kate Lillie, of St. Charles, in 2016.  Most notable local winner of the title was legendary Carol Mann, an Olympia Fields golfer who went on to a Hall of Fame career after being crowned the Western Junior champion at Inverness in 1958.

Between Mann and Janess there were only three Chicago area winners of the coveted title – Mari McDougall of Midlothian in 1977, Ashley Armstrong of Flossmoor in 2011 and Lillie.

HERE AND THERE:  Michael Feagles, a fifth-year senior at Illinois, has joined Illinois State’s David Perkins in deciding to begin his professional career at the July 8-11 John Deere Classic.  Feagles and Perkins were among six college stars offered exemptions into the tourney.…Nick Tenuta, a senior-to-be at Louisville playing out of Mount Prospect Golf Club, won the 101st Chicago District Amateur title with a 5 and 4 win over Butterfield member Brett Tomfohrde, of Chicago, in their 36-hole title match at Bull Valley, in Woodstock….Caleb Surrat, of Matthews, N.C., was the only player under par for 72 holes in the 103rd boys’ Western Junior tourney at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest.  Finishing 65-67 in a 36-hole final day, Surrat was at 3-under 277 in capturing the oldest tourney in junior golf. He’ll play collegiately at Tennessee.