Illini golfers take 15th at Ann Arbor tourney

By Jon Gluskin

Paula Smith could be mad at her team. She could be discouraged with them after coming in last place out of 15 teams at the Lady Northern Intercollegiate over the weekend. But she’s not. Instead, the Illinois women’s golf head coach is focusing on the positives.

“I think as a team we accomplished quite a few things,” Smith said. “Our goal is to keep learning every tournament, and I feel that we learned a lot.”

Host Michigan won the 54-hole tournament held in Ann Arbor on Saturday and Sunday. Their final score of 881 was four strokes better than that of Ohio State. Missouri followed with an 886. The Illini had a tournament score of 976. The tournament featured all 11 Big Ten teams.

One of the bright spots Smith was happy about was the play of senior Lyndsey Milligan. Milligan finished tied for 40th with an 18-over 234, which was her best tournament score as an Illini golfer. This was also the first time Milligan had the Illini’s best score.

“It means a lot just because it’s something I’ve worked on for four years,” Milligan said. “It’s good helping my team out and making my score count. It’s just really rewarding seeing the scores where I know they can be.”

Milligan attributes her success this weekend to her attitude towards the tournament.

“This tournament, my outlook was more positive and I wasn’t focusing on the bad shots,” Milligan said. “In the end, that helped my round not blow up and finish strong.”

The next best golfer for the Illini was freshman Kristine Cook, who tied for 68th with a 244, while junior Megan Godfrey finished in a tie for 75th (247). Freshman Stephanie Mory tied for 84th (254) while Seul Ki Park shot a 255, putting the freshman in a tie for 86th place. Senior Megan O’Neal made her season debut and finished in 88th place with a 256.

There was only one player who broke par in the field of 95 golfers, and that was Missouri’s Maria Ohlsson.

Smith is satisfied with how her freshmen have adapted to college golf thus far.

“The ones who are traveling are learning a lot about collegiate competition and themselves,” Smith said. “Every time they tee it up, it’s going to help them in the future.”

The Illini will benefit from having the next two weeks off. The team has played in consecutive 54-hole tournaments and won’t be in competition until the Shootout at The Legends, which will be held in Franklin, Ind., Oct. 4-5.

“Right now, my goal for them is to make sure their academics are up to date, and then we’ll be focusing on the short game again – putting, chipping and pitching,” Smith said.

Milligan said the next few weeks off will be helpful for her team so they can re-evaluate their goals and practice on the areas most in need. She’s glad her team got to play the course now, because later in the season they will be making a trip back to Ann Arbor.

“This is where the Big Ten Championship will be at the end of April,” Milligan said. “(We’ll) use it to our advantage in the spring when it really matters and get our revenge back then.”