ILLINOIS WOMEN’S OPEN: First three-way playoff goes to Tulane’s Troyanovich

The men’s Illinois Open is limited to in-state residents, the women’s version isn’t. The impact of that was clearly evident in Friday’s final round of the Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood in Romeoville.

For the first time in the tourney’s 18 stagings the title was decided in a playoff with Michigan amateur Samantha Troyanovich claiming the title with a birdie on the first hole.. Her victims in sudden death were Lauren Mielbrecht, the low pro from Gulf Stream, FL., and amateur Samantha Postillion, who grew up in Burr Ridge but is now living in Arizona. Only Flossmoor’s Ashley Armstrong cracked the top five among present Chicago players.

Postillion’s mother Kerry is the IWO’s only three-time champion, and Samantha contended for the first time after finished back in the pack for several years.

“I knew I was right there. I was going right at the pins the last five holes,’’ said Postillion, who will transfer from Scottdale Community College in Arizona to Illinois in the fall. “My mom’s name is on the trophy three times; that’s always been in the back of my mind when I’ve played here. I’ve always wanted a chance to win.’’

She had it this time, and joined Troyanovich in posting the low rounds of the 54-hole tournament. Both shot 3-under-par 69s en route to their 1-under 215 totals in regulation play.

Troyanovich and Mielbrecht were playing the IWO for the first time, and Mielbrecht picked up $5,000 for being low pro from a tourney-record purse of $25,000. Mielbrecht, who made four birdies in the first seven holes to take the outright lead, lipped out an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th green that would have given her the title.

In sudden death, played on Mistwood’s re-designed 506-yard par-5 third hole, it was all Troyanovich. She not only hit the longest drive, she wound up with a beneficial lie. Though her ball was in the rough, her stance necessitated her standing on a sprinkler head. She was given a free drop that put her ball on the fairway.

From there she hit a hybrid to 25 yards of the green, chipped to 3 ½ feet and holed the birdie putt for her first-ever tournament victory. Mielbrecht and Postillion made pars.

The victory ended Troyanovich’s season. Though she’s used up her collegiate eligibility at Tulane, she will return to that school to complete work on her Master’s degree before making a decision on whether or not to enter the pro golf ranks.

Troyanovich’s playing partner in the final round, Notre Dame sophomore Armstrong, had five birdies in a front-nine 32. She joined Symetra Tour player Brittany Johnston in finishing one stroke out of the playoff.