IWO: Hot second round gives Oklahoma golfer a 5-shot cushion

Mistwood’s recently renovated course has proven a tough challenge for the players in the 20th Illinois Women’s Open – with the exception of Emily Collins, that is.

Collins, a recent University of Oklahoma graduate preparing for the LPGA qualifying school, posted a 4-under-par 68 in Tuesday’s second round to open a five-stroke lead entering Wednesday’s final 18 holes. She’s at 3-under-par 141 for the first 36 holes after a seven-birdie performance in the second round.

Alyssia Ferrell, is in the same position career-wise as Collins, is Collins’ closest pursuer. Ferrell, who just finished her collegiate career at Michigan State, is also headed to LPGA Q-school. The IWO is her third pro tournament, and she’s made the cut in all three starts.

Ferrell also has one thing going on Collins. Michigan golfers have won five of the last six IWO titles and two of her former Michigan State teammates, Allison Fouch and Aimee Neff, are past IWO champions. Neff, who won the tournament twice, is now the Spartans’ assistant coach.

Windy conditions hampered the 81 starters on Monday and Tuesday but they didn’t faze Collins, who is from Colleywood, Tex.

“Wind doesn’t bother me a lot,’’ she said. “I think I’ll be OK if I stay in the same mindset.’’

Her college team finished fourth in the NCAA tournament and she finished second in her first pro tournament, the Texas Women’s Open. The IWO is her second as a pro and she’ll try to qualify for next week’s LPGA tournament in Michigan on Monday before focusing on Q-School, which comes at the end of August.

“Emily played wonderful,’’ said Berwyn veteran Nicole Jeray, one of Collins’ playing partners in the first two rounds and the only LPGA player in the field. “She hardly made any mistakes and putted well.’’

Starting her second round at No. 10, Collins took charge of the tournament by making all birdies on Mistwood’s treacherous Kelpie’s Corner – the three-hole stretch from Nos. 14-16.

Best of the Illinois players are Sterling’s Ember Schuldt and Flossmoor’s Ashley Armstrong. They’re tied for fourth. Schuldt is a University of Illinois golfer as is Burr Ridge’s Samantha Postillion, who is tied for ninth. Postillion lost last year’s title to Michigan-based Elise Swartout in a playoff. Armstrong, also an amateur, plays collegiately at Notre Dame.

Jeray, a two-time IWO winner, goes into the final round in a tie for 19th