Farnsworth, Tsui open IWO with 67s

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open is a reunion of current and recent college players. And many of them congregate at the top of the leader board.

That includes co-leaders Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville, who will be a senior at Vanderbilt in the fall, and Vivian Tsui of Markham, Ont., a graduate of North Carolina State chasing her third victory as a professional.

They scored 5-under-par 67 at Mistwood Golf Club on Monday, the leaders of a charge into red numbers that, if the calm conditions hold, could see record scores by the conclusion of play on Wednesday.

Farnsworth compared Mistwood’s look and conditioning to golf in Ireland, which should be music to the ears of owner Jim McWethy and architect Ray Hearn.

“My team took a trip to Ireland two years ago, and it feels exactly like that, without the wind,” said Farnsworth, a top-20 finisher in this year’s Southeastern Conference championship.

Farnsworth erased two bogeys from her card with five birdies and an eagle, that on the par-5 15th, a dogleg across the pond in the middle of Kelpie’s Corner. Driver and 6-iron on the hole, playing 430 yards in the first round, set up an 18-foot putt.

“I was hitting it great with my driver and really didn’t make any major mistakes all day,” Farnsworth said. “I’m happy. There’s a lot of strategy holes out here, like the 16th from the forward tee. I hit a 5-wood off the tee.”

That was one of her five birdies.

Tsui, finishing two hours later, scattered six birdies over card.

“The course really fit my eye,” Tsui said. “I feel comfortable here. That’s the main thing, coming to a golf course.”

She felt really comfy after opening with a birdie, and was 3-under after 10 holes. The only bogey of the day came on the 11th, but a binge of three birds in the next four holes moved her to a share of the lead with Farnsworth.

Tsui won a pro-am in Sydney, Australia in 2015, and the Canadian Women’s PGA last year. A victory at Mistwood would be her third in as many years for a player seeking playing status on the Symetra Tour.

“It’s tough, and I knew that going into this journey, but it’s all part of the process,” Tsui said. “There’s a lot of highs and lows, but shooting 67 today, that’s kind of the dream. Seeing those scores come is reinforcement that my hard work is paying off.”

Fledgling pro Jessica Porvasnik of Highland, Ohio recently graduated from Ohio State, and more recently won the Ohio Women’s Open, is one back at 4-under 68. Like Tsui, she’s seeking a path to the LPGA.

“I’ve had a couple of weeks off, just practicing,” Porvasnik said. “And I started off not so smart, hitting the water on No. 3. But I recovered for par. I’m just hoping to keep it in the ball park.”

Jessica Reinecke of Verona, Wis., a junior at Wisconsin, birdied three of her first five holes, and said she “tried real hard to stay patient” en route to a 3-under 69. Her only bogey was on the par-3 17th.

Ten players broke par and another pair were at par 72.

Defending champion Stephanie Miller opened with a 5-over 77.

“I’m not too happy,” Miller said. “It wasn’t all there. Didn’t make a lot of putts, lipped out a lot of putts.”

Tim Cronin

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