Four-way tie in Illinois Women's Open

IG 2018/ 7/16 Illinois Women’s Open R1 Gamer


Writing from Romeoville, Illinois

Monday, July 16, 2018

There’s not much elbow room at the top in the Illinois Women’s Open. Not with a four-way tie for the lead at 4-under-par 68, with three newly-minted pros and a veteran campaigner the protagonists.

Meet the leaders after one round of the 24th edition at Mistwood Golf Club:

• Lexi Harkins of Crystal Lake, just graduated from Wisconsin after spending three years at North Carolina, and the winner of the 2014 Illinois Amateur;

• Hannah Kim, just graduated from Northwestern after four distinguished years with the Wildcats;

• Sarah Burnham, just graduated from Michigan State, where she was the Big Ten player of the year;

• and Nicole Jeray, a two-time IWO winner who is doing more teaching than playing these days, but put together a bogey-free round and held the lead along until Burnham, Kim and Harkins joined her at the top.

They have a three-stroke advantage of a trio at 1-under 71: Grace Kil, Jenna Peters and amateur Tristyn Nowlin, the runner-up in the recent Women’s Western Amateur at Mistwood. Five players, including defending champion Alexandra Farnsworth of Nashville and Vanderbilt University, are at even-par 72. The others are amateurs Angela Aung, Roshannah Gaur, Jessica Reinecke and pro Samantha Postillion.

“I’m comfortable out here,” Jeray said. “When you’re comfortable you’re more confident, and that’s very helpful. And I putted better.”

Long practice sessions with the short stick paid off in a four-birdie outburst, including a 30-footer from the collar on the par-5 18th that tumbled into the cup on the last turn. Jeray considered her birdie on the par-4 13th, a 35-footer set up by a 6-iron punch shot under the wind, as the key to the round.

“It’s fun to finally play good golf,” Jeray said. “I haven’t been playing much. So it’s been very hard to compete.”

Burnham would have been the sole leader but for a double-bogey 7 at the last. She opened with a birdie, ran three birdies together to start the back nine and tapped-in for birdie on the par-5 15th. That and more made her 6-under through 17 holes and aiming for the tournament record of 7-under 65, set by Aimee Neff in 2008. A tee shot into the trees nixed that idea.

“I hit it well today and made a couple putts,” Burnham said of her initial excursion – she played nary a practice round – around Mistwood. “I had a lot of wedges today. You have play smart and play aggressive when you can. Say, when the pins are in the middle of the greens.”

Kim said patience, along with birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, all from within 20 feet, were the keys to her 68.

“The course got windier towards the end, so it was one shot at a time,” Kim said.

Harkins called her round “stress-free,” which is unusual at Mistwood, where fescue and water lurk at every corner, making five birdies, including the par-3s on the back, offset by one bogey.

“I like it a lot,” Harkins said of Mistwood, where she has a pair of top-10 finishes. “I was aggressive when I was within 100 yards. Same strategy tomorrow.”

Around Mistwood

Amateur Brianne Bolden of Mokena opened with a 1-over 73 which included a 9 on the par-5 15th thanks to a pair of tee balls in the water. ... Bobbi Stricker, daughter of Steve Stricker, scored 4-over 76 with dad on her bag. ... There were three withdrawals from the field of 74. ... It's the first four-way tie in the IWO through one round.

Tim Cronin

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