Dan Plutchak/The Week
(Published May 29, 2007, 12:16 p.m.)
Katie Connelly became a golfer as an afterthought.
When she was a high school freshman in her home town of Beloit, she needed to take a fall sport.
"I missed the tennis sign-up meeting," she said, "so I figured I'd try golf."
It didn't take long before she realized that golf was something she might have a future in.
She's hoping to make the jump to the LPGA Tour.
The DURAMED Futures Tour comes to Geneva National June 1-3 as the next generation of golfing stars tee off at the Aurora Health Care Championship.
The top five money winners on the 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour tournament June 1-3 earn automatic exemptions to play on the LPGA tour next season.
In addition to Connelly, at least three other local women are expected to tee it up in hopes of moving on to the next level. They include Nicole Jeray of Berwyn, Ill.; Noriko Nakazaki of Hanover Park, Ill.; and Meredith Ward of Crystal Lake, Ill.
Connelly says after last year's tournament, Geneva National has become a tour favorite.
"The players can't wait to come back,. They treated us like queens," said Connelly, who began play on the tour in 2004.
Connelly says she's taking it year by year, and decided to make another run at the LPGA this year after an injury plagued season a year ago.
A year ago, she missed the first few tournaments after having her tonsils out.
Then, after getting to the point where she felt comfortable again, she suffered an eye injury that forced her out of her final tournament.
"I didn't want to just walk away and wonder if I could have made it," she said. "I just wanted to give it a healthy shot."
Women from 26 countries are represented on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, which is the second largest women's tour in the world and features 19 tournaments nationwide.
Through the first six Duramed FUTURES Tour events, the top five money winners are Allison Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio; Liz Janangelo of West Hartford, Conn.; Janell Howland of Boise, Idaho; and Mo Martin of Altadena, Calif. All are scheduled to golf in the Aurora Health Care Championship, as are the sixth through 10th place money winners.
The Geneva National Foundation and Aurora Health Care have focused their charitable efforts to assist children with disabilities and to promote women's health care, according to Tournament Director Howard Storck.
The foundation has supported S.M.I.L.E.S., the new Lakeland School and will be supporting Vocational Industries in the future, Storck said.
Aurora Health Care has increased the purse of this year's championship to $90,000, with the winner receiving a prize of $12,600.
Ticket prices for the June 1-3 Aurora Health Care Championship are $7.50 per day or $15 for all four days, which includes the pro-am on Wednesday, May 30. A $40 family ticket package includes four single-day tickets, four hot dogs or hamburgers and four sodas. Children under 12 are admitted free and parking is free. For more information on the event, please visit www.aurorachampionship.org.
Free junior golf clinic
Beloit's Katie Connelly will lead a free junior golf clinic from 4-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30 as part of the Aurora Health Care Championship.
The clinic will feature several other FUTURES Tour pros and will include driving, chipping and putting stations.
Clinic participants will also learn about etiquette and valuable lessons to be learned from golf, such as maintaining a positive attitude, honesty, sound decision-making and how improving their performance on the golf course prepares them for life.
Tournament Chairperson Howard Storck said, "We'd like young people to come out and experience the game of golf as taught by some of the best female golfers in the world. It's our hope that once they learn the fundamentals in the clinic, they'll embrace the game."
Interested golfers are asked to register in advance by contacting the Aurora Health Care Championship clinic hotline at (262) 245-6502.
Practice rounds and pro-am sessions round out the slate of activities prior to the official Friday, June 1 start of the Aurora Health Care Championship.
Top golfers will receive the $90,000 purse at the award ceremony taking place immediately after the conclusion of the final round on Sunday afternoon, June 3.
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