Illini welcome back old and new faces

By Jon Gluskin

Instead of worrying about the fact that the Illinois women’s golf roster will be relatively inexperienced, as it includes five freshmen, the upperclassmen are excited for the upcoming season, and have a positive attitude about the team.

“I’m looking forward to us coming together as a team, and seeing how good we can get,” said senior Megan O’Neal.

O’Neal and fellow senior Lyndsey Milligan will be the co-captains for the upcoming season.

Head coach Paula Smith is excited about her team; she believes each of the nine girls on the roster will play a role in making the season a success for the Illini.

“I see the nine people working together as a unit,” Smith said. “I see everybody on the team being a key member. The only drawback is I can only take five (to the tournaments). They could all do the job.”

Smith anticipates using different lineups throughout the season, due to the competitiveness of her team.

Megan Godfrey will no doubt be a vital asset for the Illini. The junior is coming off of a solid sophomore year and should be even better this season. In the first tournament, which will be played at Notre Dame this weekend, Godfrey will be playing in the one position.

“We are very excited about having all these new players,” Godfrey said. “It’s going to be a lot different because we have so much more competition within ourselves, which is really good to build our team at this point. I’m really looking forward to improving our place in the Big Tens. And I’m really looking to hopefully make it to regionals this year.”

The team lost two of its most consistent players, Michelle Carroll and Marla Cox, to graduation last spring, but Cox is returning as a student coach for the Illini. Milligan said while it will be a challenge to replace these girls, the incoming class will step up to the challenge.

“I think some of these (freshmen) are going to surprise a lot of people,” Milligan said. “They fill Michelle and Marla’s shoes pretty well.”

Although only a junior, Godfrey is looking forward to getting to augment her role and responsibility on the team, without feeling added pressure.

“I feel excited to fill the void that they (Michelle and Marla) left,” Godfrey said. “It’s really good that there was so much more to build on from the rest of them, because then I think we can all step up whenever we need to.”

For the upcoming tournament, the competitors will be Godfrey and Milligan, along with freshmen Kristine Cook, Stephanie Mory and Seul Ki Park.

Milligan is pleased with the freshmen’s progress already, and hopes to help the younger golfers improve their games.

“The freshmen keep pushing each other,” Milligan said. “They’re pushing us to get better and better.”

As far as actual golf is concerned, Smith is continually stressing her philosophy of focusing on the process of the game, instead of being concerned with the outcome.

The team is full of confidence, and both the new and returning members are ready to start the season.

“The new freshmen have a lot of passion and desire to do well,” O’Neal said. “With their energy and our experience, the two will combine to be very successful.”