Women's Western field ready to tackle Mistwood

Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Monday, June 25, 2018

It’s fitting that Jessica Yuen will be first off the tee Tuesday when the 118th Women’s Western Amateur commences at Mistwood Golf Club. By her estimation, she’s played “hundreds of rounds” on the course.

“I grew up playing this course,” Yuen said. “I’m really familiar with this course. Knowing I’m really comfortable here will really help this week.”

Yuen’s also taken lessons from many members, past and present, of Mistwood’s professional staff. The two-time IHSA champion from Bolingbrook will be a junior at Missouri in the fall, and on quality of play and knowledge of course, has to be considered one of the favorites in the elite 120-player field.

Lemont’s Lauren Beaudreau lives even closer than Yuen but isn’t nearly as familiar with the course. Regardless, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Benet Academy senior, ticketed for Notre Dame and among the higher-ranked juniors in the country, went far this week.

“It’s very challenging,” Beaudreau said of Mistwood. “It makes you pick your way around it. You have to hit every type of shot here. And it’s good for match play, because you can be very aggressive.”

On the other end of the age spectrum is St. Louis star Ellen Port, 57, who has seven USGA championships in her pocket – four Women’s Mid-Amateurs and three Women’s Senior Ams, but hasn’t won this one yet.

“Juniors have something they can play in every day, but someone my age doesn’t have as many events,” Port said. “This is close, and it works with my family’s schedule.”

Port is also using the Women’s Western Am as a warmup for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, set for Chicago Golf Club in a fortnight.

“You need to compete,” Port said. “You play your way into shape, and I’m rusty. This is going to be a great time for me to count all my strokes. Any time I get to play in a meaningful round of golf I really appreciate it, and the Western puts on a great tournament.”

Whoever wins will join an illustrious collection of champions and will have fought through an accomplished field. Players who have made it to match play over the years have accounted for victories in 133 of the 282 women’s professional major championships played since the first one, the 1930 Women’s Western Open. That’s a 47.2 percent success rate.

Mistwood will add luster to the achievement. It’s the first time since 2007, when Urbana’s Stone Creek was the site, that the tournament is being played on a public course.

The Women’s Western Am changed the size of its field this year, dropping to 120 from 156, and will cut to 32 players for match play rather than 64. It’s also dropping consolation flights, a vestige harkening back to the time when country club matrons comprised a large part of the field. This is expected to make for an easier championship to run, and gives the WGA a template to build on when it takes over management of the WWGA championships in 2019. The 36-hole final, which dates to 1924, remains and is slated for Saturday.

– Tim Cronin

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