Illinois Women’s Open: A Milestone Win For Pearson

ROMEOVILLE, IL. — Wheaton’s Jenna Pearson became the first golfer to win the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open as both an amateur and a professional when she captured the 17th staging of the event at Mistwood in Romeoville.

Pearson, in her fourth year as a touring pro after a solid collegiate career at South Carolina, posted the low score of the final round, a 68, to finish at 1-under-par 215 for the 54 holes — two strokes better than Sterling amateur Ember Schuldt, a University of Illinois golfer.

Since turning pro Pearson has played on both the Duramed Futures and Canadian tours. She has also finished in the IWO’s top 10 each of the last five years. She won the tournament for the first time as an amateur in 2006 and was low pro the following year, when her title defense was spoiled by a loss to Libertyville amateur Nicole Schachner in a 10-hole playoff.

As was the case in her previous IWO appearances, Pearson had her mother Laura as her caddie. Leaderboards being scarce at the IWO, they were surprised to find Jenna in a tie for the lead after the 15th hole of the final round.

“At the turn I was still three-four shots back,” said Pearson. “I figured a couple girls behind me might make some birdies coming in, and I had better focus.”

Pearson did just that. She hit a 6-iron at the 152-yard 17th hole to four feet from the cup. Then, after a long talk with her mother, she rolled in the birdie putt to take sole possession of the lead.

There was more mother-daughter debate on the par-5 18th after Pearson put her drive in the right rough. She was tempted to go for the green from 190 yards out, but her mother thought better of it. In this case mother knew best.

“I had a really bad angle. I would have had to hit a big cut around the trees,” said Pearson. “She would let me go for it.”

So, Pearson played her second short of a creek fronting the green, then chipped to within a foot of the cup.

“Definitely the kind of birdie putt I wanted,” she said. It dropped, giving Pearson the biggest first-place check in IWO history — $5,000 from a $17,000 purse.