Eighth-best round caps regular season

By Jessica Warchall

Even with water hazards on 17 of 18 holes and two days of gusty winds, the women’s golf team finished the weekend with its eighth-best round in school history at the Lady Buckeyes Invitational in Dublin, Ohio on Sunday.

The Illini shot a 298 Sunday, and finished with a score of 912 to take 11th place out of 15 teams in the tournament. Illinois placed above Big Ten rivals Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota, and it also scored the fifth lowest team score for Sunday’s play. The weekend tournament was the last regular season invitational for the Illini as they prepare to begin postseason play.

“We had our lowest score for the whole year today; the team was really focusing on each shot,” head coach Paula Smith said. “I saw some really good shots from my golfers, but I didn’t know how it all added up until I saw the scoreboard.”

Sophomore Stephanie Mory said the team came together in its final tournament to achieve low individual scores. She said the players were able to “click” as a team to achieve the low team score.

“I feel like we played to our potential this weekend,” sophomore Casey Burden said. “We had four solid scores.”

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Sophomore Seul Ki Park led the Illini, scoring an even-par 72 on the final round, tying for 17th place. Park earned a 76 and a 74 in her first and second round rounds, respectively. She finished with a score of 222.

Burden finished behind Park with a 227 tournament total, tying for 35th place. The three other Illini players adding to the record finish were Mory (231), senior Megan Godfrey (236) and junior Meghan Naik (238).

“With Meghan Naik, her 75 on the first 18 holes really helped the team,” Smith said. “Everyone contributed throughout all three rounds.”

Smith said she is proud of her team’s performance on a golf course it had not seen before. She said she does not see this final tournament as an end to the regular season, but a beginning to what her team is capable of doing at the Big Ten Tournament on April 28-30. The best is yet to come, she said.

In addition to the five players from this tournament, freshman Nancy Featherstone will join the team at Big Ten Championships, Smith said. Burden said the team is confident going into the conference championships because it played the tournament course in Bloomington, Ind., during the fall season through tough conditions.

“This tournament was really good preparation for Big Tens because we got to see some of the Big Ten teams we haven’t seen yet this spring,” Mory said.