Nicole Jeray has been toiling on the LPGA Tour since turning pro in 1993, and this week's Wegmans Classic could be critical to her bid to remain on the women's premier circuit.
"I need to play good in Rochester (N.Y.) so I can get up on the money list," she said. "I started the year really well. I made the cut in my first three tournaments. Then I missed a whole bunch in a row by one or two shots."
The Berwyn native and Northern Illinois University graduate also struggled two weeks in the Illinois Women's Open, a tourney she won twice. As the only LPGA player in the field, she finished 10th.
Last week, though, may have put Jeray back on a positive career path. After five straight missed cuts, she qualified for all 72 holes in the Meijer Classic, a new LPGA event in Grand Rapids, Mich. Jeray finished in a tie for eighth and her $3,907 check was her best on the circuit since April.
Still, Jeray needs more good showings to retain her card for another season and she's not sure how many more tournaments she'll be able to play after the Wegmans.
Heading into the Rochester tourney Jeray is No. 141 on the season money list with $14,777. You have to admire her determination, though. Narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder, slowed her career for a while but she remains Chicago's only LPGA player. No other local player has come close to making it in the last three decades.
"That totally surprises me," she said. "I thought there'd be a million players from Chicago. There are a lot of good teachers around, and we have the Illinois Junior Golf Association, too. You'd think something's missing, but I don't know what it is."
Jeray has made regular returns to the LPGA qualifying school and played on the satellite Symetra Tour, compiling career earnings of $253,819. She has no intention of retiring any time soon.
"I still totally enjoy it," she said. "I try on every single shot. I just need one good tournament. You just never know in this game."
Sainz makes a splash:
Elgin's Carlos Sainz Jr. had been struggling as a rookie on the Web.com Tour until last week's Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo. Sainz broke through in a big way there, finishing in a tie for second and winning $44,550.
That payday boosted Sainz winnings on the PGA Tour's satellite circuit to $63,471 and placed him 68th on the money list. He had missed the cut in four straight events and six of seven before a 20-under-par performance left him joint runner-up and one stroke behind champion Cameron Percy. Sainz shot 66-65-67 in the last three rounds.
Sainz had a strong finish in the 2013 season. He won an event on the Canadian PGA Tour, lost the Illinois Open title in a playoff at The Glen Club in Glenview, and then won the Chicago Open at Cantigny in Wheaton in his final events before a successful showing in the PGA qualifying school.
If he can finish in the Top 25 on the Web.com money circuit, he'll join the PGA Tour in 2015. This week's Web.com event is the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn.
From the bunkers:
Teams consisting of the top seniors in the Illinois PGA and Chicago District Golf Assn. will battle for the Thompson Cup on Wednesday at Chicago's Ridge Country Club. The CDGA will also conduct its second Super Seniors Championship at Kankakee that day.
• The LPGA Legends Championship, at French Lick Resort in Indiana, follows last week's PGA Championship into the Louisville area this week. The 54-hole event, which begins Friday, is the biggest event on the LPGA's senior circuit. It'll be preceded by the induction of Nancy Lopez and Legends co-founder Jane Blalock into the tour's Hall of Fame. Ribbon-cutting for the Hall, at the West Baden Springs Hotel, will follow the induction ceremonies on Thursday night.
• Qualifying for the U.S. Senior Amateur will be held on Monday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.