Based on recent history, a sudden-death playoff seemed inevitable at the Illinois Women’s Open.
Berwyn LPGA touring pro Nicole Jeray trailed playing companion and second-round leader Samantha Postillion of Burr Ridge by four shots making the last day’s turn. Capping an unpredictable final nine holes in which the leaderboard changed dramatically, Jeray drained a birdie from 12 feet out to force a playoff with Michigan native Elise Swartout.
Jeray recorded her second 2-under 70 of the 54-hole tournament Friday afternoon at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville to deadlock the former Western Michigan standout at 3-under 213.
After Jeray and Swartout had routine two-putt pars on the first playoff hole, Swartout drilled a sand iron from 82 yards to three feet on the par-4 second hole.
“I couldn’t have asked for an easier putt,” Swartout said.
Swartout, who shot the low round of the three-day tournament with a 69 in regulation, drained the straight-in putt for her first professional championship, earning one-fifth of the $25,000 purse.
“I knew she wasn’t going to miss it,” Jeray said, who came up shy on a devilishly fast, downhill 20-footer for par.
“I can’t believe I left it short and left,” Jeray said of her effort. “It was right in the jaws.”
Hinsdale Central grad Postillion was four-under par through 27 holes, only to fight a case of hooks and missed short putts in her front-nine 40. The Illinois senior-to-be rebounded after missing her first six greens in regulation with a birdie at No. 16.
But she missed a golden opportunity on 17, and another hooked drive on 18 left her three shots out of the playoff. A missed par putt led to a disastrous double-bogey on No. 13 that cost her lead for good.
“I could feel that my swing was losing itself,” Postillion said. “I missed the line and speed (on No. 13).”
Jeray was on in regulation on eight of her front-nine holes, capitalizing with birdies at Nos. 10 and 16 that set up the fateful 4 on 18 to force the playoff.
“I knew anything can happen,” Jeray said. “I have more experience than anyone else in the field.”
Chelsea Harris of downstate Normal and Caroline Powers, a Michigan resident, missed the playoff by one stroke each after respective final rounds of 70 and 71.
Erika Malik, like Postillion, a product of golfing-rich Hinsdale Central, started four shots out of the lead.
“I thought I could shoot something under par for the day,” the Elmhurst resident said. “I couldn’t get things going. I would have liked to have been in the top-10.”
Malik had to settle for top-20 status after a final-round 77.