LPGA veteran Jeray returns, hopes to win third IWO title

The men’s Illinois Open concludes its 64th staging on Wednesday. Now it’s the women’s turn.

Mistwood, in Romeoville, will again host the 19th Illinois Women’s Open next week. There’ll be a pro-am on Tuesday and the first of three tournament rounds is Wednesday. That’ll put the spotlight on Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray, who will bid to become the second player to win the tournament three times.

Amateur Kerry Postillion took the titles in 1996, 1997 and 1999. She didn’t enter this year’s IWO, but her daughter Samantha – a member of the University of Illinois’ team – heads the amateur contingent.

Jeray, who triumphed in 1998 and 2003, hasn’t always competed in the premier state championship for women because of her commitments on the Ladies PGA Tour. The IWO is opposite the Women’s British Open this year. Not qualified for that event, Jeray opted to return to the IWO.

Three other players have won the IWO twice – amateurs Emily Gilley in 2000-01 and Aimee Neff in 2008-09. Jenna Pearson, who will be in next week’s field, won as an amateur in 2006, lost the title in a 10-hole playoff in 2007 and won another title as a professional in 2011.

Jeray and Pearson, who plays on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour, are among 40 pros among the 104 starters. So is the tourney’s first champion, former Southern Illinois University coach Diane Daugherty.

Among the other pros in the field are defending champion and Michigan resident Samantha Troyanovich and Chelsea Harris, a former University of Iowa golfer from Normal who qualified for this year’s U.S.Women’s Open. Harris’ swing instructor is John Platt, who is based at Mistwood’s new Performance Center and caddied for her at the Open.

Last year’s IWO was played on a course in the late stages of a renovation being directed by Michigan architect Ray Hearn. Now the renovation, which featured 20 sod-wall bunkers, is complete.

“We’re very proud of the reputation we’ve developed for the IWO,’’ said Dan Phillips, Mistwood’s director of golf. “This year’s event will be very exciting, as the women will experience several new challenges on the course. The new bunkers will be more in play and closer to the greens than they were in the past.’’

A big week for NU

In incoming freshman at Northwestern were big winners.

Matt Fitzpatrick of Sheffield, England, was low amateur at the British Open, shooting 10-over-par 294 at Muirfield in Scotland. Fitzgerald took home the Silver Medal, an award first presented in 1949. Previous winners were Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Hal Sutton and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Kacie Komoto, who will join the NU women’s team, captured the Hawaiian State Women’s Match Play title. Both Fitzpatrick and Komoto will compete in their respective U.S. Amateurs next month.

Did you know?

Barrington’s Heather Ciskowski won last week’s Women’s Western Golf Assn. Junior title in Dubuque, Iowa. She defeated Naperville’s Bing Singhsumalee, the Illinois Women’s Amateur champion, 2 and 1 in the semifinals and then defeated Kelsey Murphy of Plymouth, Mich., in a title match that went 20 holes.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct qualifiers for the U.S. Amateur at both Ivanhoe and LaGrange on Monday.

The Western Amateur will take a break from its Chicago rotation next week with a week-long staging at The Alotian Club in Arkansas beginning on Monday. It’ll return to Chicago in 2014, at Beverly Country Club.