End of fall season seen as the beginning

By Jessica Warchall

Three weeks of rest almost paid off for the Illini as they were in third place after 27 holes Monday. But after play on Tuesday, the Illini dropped 10 places to finish 13th in its last tournament of the fall season.

The women’s golf team entered the Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate in Kiawah Island, S.C. confident after their fifth-best finish in school history at the Shootout at the Legends in Indiana three weeks ago.

The team began strong with a first round total of 308. Its second and third rounds provided scores of 317 and 315 respectively giving the team a total score of 940, and awarding it 13th place out of 19 teams.

Head Coach Paula Smith was content finishing ahead of its Big Ten competition at the tournament. Wisconsin placed 14th and Minnesota placed 17th. She said it was good practice for when they meet again in the spring.

Senior Megan Godfrey tied for 13th overall with a score of 229. She jumped three spots from her 16th place finish on Monday with a score of 76. Sophomore Seul Ki Park tied her for 16th place on Monday and finished 39th overall.

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Leading the team at the start of the tournament, junior Meghan Naik scored a season-best, and tied a career best-75 after play Monday. Naik’s low score helped the team to its third place finish after the first day of play. Sophomores Stephanie Mory and Casey Burden also participated in the tournament.

“We had some good scores coming together in the first day,” Godfrey said. “The chance was there, but we didn’t take advantage of it.”

This tournament taught the team to work on coming back after a bad hole. Park said the team learned not to feel as tense during rounds because the individual players only have control over their own games. They do not have control over the outcome, only how they get there.

Park said in order to get better the team needs to concentrate on reflecting more on what it does each round.

“When we tee it up we learn more about the golf games and ourselves,” Smith said.

Smith was not concerned about the outcome of the tournament; she was focused on the “good things” that the players did on the course. She said she didn’t even know what place they were awarded until she returned to Illinois after the tournament.

“I think people focus too much on the outcome and not the good things that happen out there,” Smith said.

Smith believes individually the players had many good holes and good shots. She said Godfrey’s consistent scores helped her in the tournament and said it was exciting for Naik, and the team, to see Naik play in the first spot for the team after her great first round.

Smith said a team goal is to increase these “good things” and not worry about the outcome of the rounds. She hopes this will be an individual and team focus during the offseason.

The offseason will give players a chance to improve on individual performance. After the individual kinks are worked out of the players’ games, Park believes the team will be even stronger next season.

“I am very confident that we’ll be set for the spring season,” Park said.

Godfrey hopes the team will work on consistency during the offseason: consistency in shots, drives and in their short-game.

“We are looking forward to the off season to get in shape,” Godfrey said, “to come out with a title or two in the spring.”

Smith said if the team is able to remain consistent, it will be able to produce lower overall scores.

She believes this final tournament of the season is not the end but the beginning; the team has the offseason to condition and prepare both individually and as a team for the spring. Smith wants the team to come back both mentally and physically prepared to “tee it up again.”

“I don’t think of it as the last tournament,” Smith said, “just a pause in the action.”