Opening up the field did wonders for Illinois Women’s Open

The 19th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, which tees off Wednesday at Mistwood in Romeoville, has taken a different approach from the men’s 64th Illinois Open, which had one of its most exciting stagings last week at The Glen Club in Glenview.

The men’s version, won by Antioch’s Joe Kinney in a three-hole playoff, is much bigger entry-wise with seven state-wide qualifying rounds conducted to determine the finalists. The Illinois PGA limits Illinois Open entries to state residents.

On the women’s side, the field is smaller but much more diverse. In its early years IWO founder Phil Kosin limited the field to state residents, then later expanded it to players from eight neighboring states. Mistwood owner Jim McWethy and his staff took over the IWO after Kosin’s death in 2009 and quietly accepted all players. The move paid off, as tourney entries topped 100 for the first time this year and included 43 professionals.

“That’s almost double the number of professionals we have had in the past,’’ said Dan Phillips, Mistwood’s director of golf. “Even the amateurs are basically scratch players. We’ve got the cream of the crop of amateurs, too. Word is out that this is a quality tournament.’’

Thanks to BMO’s sponsorship first prize last year went up to $5,000, and this year’s purse will be announced during the 54-hole competition that concludes on Friday. Last year’s winner, though, was Michigan amateur Samantha Troyanovich, who will defend her crown.

The new influx of pros include two-time winner Nicole Jeray and Chelsea Harris, both U.S. Women’s Open qualifiers; McKenzie Jackson, who was part of Big Break Mexico, the popular series on The Golf Channel; plus Mari Chun from Hawaii and Sarah Bradley from New Zealand.

“We have players from all across the country and beyond,’’ said Phillips. “Most every (professional) player has some kind of status on either the LPGA or Symetra tours. Opening up the entries has really made our field strong.’’

Suttie moves from Cog Hill to Mistwood

The IWO usually represents the biggest week of the season at Mistwood, but this time there was more going on that that. McWethy announced that Dr. Jim Suttie, one of the country’s best-known instructors, has joined the Mistwood teaching staff.

Suttie was the PGA of America’s national teacher-of-the-year in 2000 and Illinois PGA teacher-of-the-year three times. He ended a longstanding relationship with Cog Hill, in Lemont, to work at the new state-of-the-art Performance Center in Romeoville.

“That was the big overriding factor,’’ said Suttie. “Cog Hill has been really good for me, but I always wanted to have a place like this. I couldn’t pass it up.’’

Suttie, who had previous stints at Medinah and Green Garden, in Franfort, worked at Cog Hill from 1996-2002 and again from 2005 until moving to Mistwood. He’ll continue to work in Naples, FL., in the winter but is planning periodic teaching visits to both Mistwood and McQ’s – the McWethy-owned indoor facility in Bolingbrook.

Did you know?

Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, reached the semifinals of last week’s 66th U.S. Junior Championship in Truckee, Calif. He was eliminated by Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas, 6 and 4. Scheffler went on to capture the prestigious title.

Jason Mathus, a Chicago resident who attends high school at Lindbloom, will get a chance to compete at Pebble Beach with Champions Tour players thanks to his efforts with the First Tee of Greater Chicago. He was one of 80 junior players selected by a national panel of judges to participate in September’s Nature Valley First Tee Open.

There’ll be two big local championships on Monday. The Illinois PGA Assistants will determine their champion at River Forest and the Chicago District Super Senior Amateur event will be played at Royal Hawk in St. Charles.