This 17th staging of the Phil Kosin Illinois Women's Open will be something special. Even Diane Daugherty, the event's first champion, will be in the field.
Thanks to outside sponsorship, the tourney held its first pro-am event and a champions' dinner on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the firing begins for real in the 54-hole event that concludes on Friday at Mistwood in Romeoville.
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The inclusion of the pro-am and champions' dinner wasn't the only consideration for Daugherty to come. She had played in the tourney only once since it moved from Odyssey in Tinley Park to Mistwood in 1999. Now, though, she has more time to compete.
Last week Daugherty announced her retirement after 25 seasons in charge of the women's team at Southern Illinois University.
"I haven't played too much in awhile," she said. "You never know what you'll get with me. I could shoot 68, 78 or 88.''
That wasn't the case in the early years of the IWO. Daugherty not only won the first staging. She lost two other titles in playoffs, to Nicole Jeray and Kerry Postillion.
"When I came in the past I expected to win," said Daugherty, who will likely be the oldest player in the field at age 55. "Now it's to shoot three rounds in the 70s and be respectable."
Daugherty will be in the featured first-round pairing, going off with three-time champion Postillion and Glenview's Nora Lucas, a University of Illinois senior-to-be who won this summer's Illinois Women's Amateur at Kishwaukee in DeKalb.
No Illinois Amateur titlist has won the IWO in the same year, but Lucas might be a contender. She finished in the IWO's top-17 in each of the last three years.
Postillion's daughter Samantha is also among the 55 amateurs in the 72-player field. So is Flossmoor's Ashley Armstrong, who won this year's Western Junior at Flossmoor and will begin studies at Notre Dame in the fall.
Allison Fouch, who beat two-time IWO champion Jeray in a playoff for last year's championship, won't defend her title because of LPGA Tour commitments, and Jeray can't make it, either. One other past champion, Wheaton's Jenna Pearson, will be in the field, however. Pearson, who has spent time on the LPGA's Futures Tour, won the IWO in 2006 and lost the title to Libertyville amateur Nicole Schachner in a record 10-hole playoff in 2007.
Tee times range from 7-11:10 a.m. Wednesday. Daugherty, Kerry Postillion and Lucas go off at 9:10. The field will be cut to the low 40 and ties after Thursday's round.
Streelman at Cantigny
Kevin Streelman, a PGA Tour regular, will be featured at the Illinois Junior Golf Association Wilson Staff Slam finals on Friday at Cantigny in Wheaton.
Streelman, who played regularly at Cantigny as a youth, will give a four-hole playing lesson and present the awards after the season-long skills competition for youngsters 6-13 concludes.
Affrunti on the mend
Crystal Lake's Joe Affrunti is enduring a frustrating first season on the PGA Tour. In fact, it's over -- for awhile at least.
Affrunti made two cuts in six tournaments before encountering left shoulder problems. Rotator cuff surgery eventually was required, and Affrunti won't be able to play for six months. He expects to resuming hitting balls at the end of January.
Three years ago he saw five doctors before getting wrist surgery. Affrunti saw four more before consenting to shoulder surgery, which led to him being granted a major medical exemption from the PGA Tour.
"I didn't realize it'd be such a major thing," said Affrunti, who is getting around with his arm in a sling. "I hasn't been fun."
Small has a dilemma
Illinois coach Mike Small hasn't been as successful in tournament play as he was in recent years. He gave up one of his six PGA Tour exemptions at the Viking Classic last month, finished in (for him) a subpar tie for 13th at the Illinois Open, and now he isn't sure if he'll play in the PGA Cup matches -- a prestigious Ryder Cup-style competition for club professions from the U.S. and Europe.
"It's an honor to play for your country, and everybody wants me to play but me," said Small, who will have to leave his college team to do it.
He'll decide after his next two tournaments -- the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open, which starts Thursday, and next week's PGA Championship in Atlanta.
Did you know?
The 109th Western Amateur makes it first cut after Wednesday's second round at North Shore in Glenview. The low 16 after Thursday's 36 holes will decide the title in match play on Friday and Saturday. … Terry Russell, of Bryn Mawr in Lincolnwood, and Tony Makarek, of Idlewild in Flossmoor, will be the honorees at the annual Illinois PGA Senior Masters Championship on Monday at Onwentsia in Lake Forest. … The 81st Illinois Amateur begins its three-day run on Aug. 9 at Glen Oak in Glen Ellyn. The 138 qualifiers will begin play at 7:30 a.m.
• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenziehmongolf.com.