Local golfers compete close to home

Junior tournaments return to Hinsdale area to the delight of competitors and fans

Elyssa Abdullah plays golf every day. But despite living just a couple of miles from Hinsdale Golf Club, the Hinsdale Central golfer never set foot on the links that serve as the home course for the Hinsdale Central boys team.

"We've never had the opportunity to play on it," Abdullah said.

That all changed this week as Abdullah prepared for the 97th Women's Western Junior Championship, taking place June 10-14 at Hinsdale Golf Club. Hinsdale last played host to the tournament in 1937.

The competition is one of two major junior championships being played in the area Hinsdale this month. The Western Junior Championship will be played June 17-20 at Ruth Lake Country Club. That course, coincidentally, serves as the home course for Hinsdale Central's female golfers.

Along with Abdullah, who enters the competition ranked among the top 5 junior golfers in the state, Hinsdale is represented in the tournament by Hinsdale Central golfers Caroline Owens and Lilly Riegger. All three were members of Central's 2022 state champion team, as well as the 2023 runner-up team.

To qualify, golfers must be 18 or younger with an up-to-date 18-hole index of 9.4. The tournament's 78 competitors have an average index of 1.9. Abdullah, Owens and Riegger are among 78 competitors selected from 26 states and six countries.

Abdullah said she's motivated by the competitive field, which includes golfers she has met before, as well as future teammates. Abdullah will play for the University of Wisconsin after completing her senior year at Central.

Among the 78 competitors is defending Western Junior Women's champion Suzie Tran of Washington. Tran finished Tuesday's first round tied for 11th place with a 2-over-par score of 74.

Hinsdale's Owens finished the first day of competition on par in a five-way tie for 2nd places. Abdullah finished the first day's play tied for 57th place, while Riegger tied for 67th.

Play was set to continue on Wednesday before cutting the field to 16 players for three rounds of match play on Thursday and Friday.

"There will be one champion at the end," said Melissa Banas, tournament director. Past winners of the Western Junior Women's tournament include Cristie Kerr, who has 24 professional wins, and Nancy Lopez, whose career includes 4 LPGA tournament titles.

Along with the title, this year's champion will earn American Junior Golf Association status and the opportunity to play in the Women's Western Amateur set for July in Lake Forest.

Hinsdale Central golfers Jack Mulligan and Dru Devata are set to represent the home team when the Western Junior begins later this month.

Hinsdale last hosted the Western Junior Tournament in 1934, when it was held at the Hinsdale Golf Club. This is the first time the tournament has been played at Ruth Lake.

Competition among the 156 participating golfers will begin with 36 holes on Tuesday, June 18, after which the field will be cut to the low 44 and ties. Those who make the cut will play 36 more holes of stroke play in hopes of winning the coveted Western Junior title.

Past winners of the tournament include 2013 champion Collin Morikawa, currently ranked 8th in the PGA's world rankings, and Rickie Fowler, who won the tournament in 2005 and has since won six PGA Tournaments.

The tournament's top three finishers and ties receive exemptions into the Western Amateur, to be played in Dayton, Ohio, later this summer.

Banas and men's Tournament Director Steve Prioletti said the public is welcome at both tournaments. For more information, visit http://www.womenswesternjunior.com or http://www.thewesternjunior.com.

"It's going to be a great week in Hinsdale," Banas said.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean