Tenth-place finish disappoints team

By Jessica Warchall

After a rough start to head coach Paula Smith’s final Big Ten Championship, the women’s golf team finished 10th on the University of Indiana’s Golf Course this weekend in Bloomington, Ind.

“I didn’t want my retirement to be a focus, I wanted the team to focus on the golf,” Smith said. “The team was trying so hard to do well for my final Big Ten tournament. I was proud of them because they never gave up even under the tough conditions.”

Purdue took first with a team total of 1179 for four rounds. Ohio State finished in second as it posted 1185, and Michigan State rounded out the top three with 1191. Illinois (1258) managed to move up one spot to 10th from its last place position after the previous three rounds leaving Minnesota (1263) to fill the 11th slot.

“Unfortunately, this wasn’t the tournament performance we had hoped for,” sophomore Seul Ki Park said. “This tournament wasn’t for us.”

Illinois began the tournament with five out of its six golfers scoring in the 80s after the first round. Featherstone said it was unfortunate that everybody had their bad round during the first round because usually there are four other lower scores that players can count for the team total.

“We really dug ourselves in a hole during the first round,” Smith said. “The team really played better than their scores, and they came back the next round and shot a 304.”

During round two, the Illini began their comeback as five golfers scored in the 70s. Senior Megan Godfrey shot an Illini tournament low 74.

Frequent rain accompanied the players on the final round of the tournament, causing a shotgun start where every team began and ended at the same time.

Even with the wind and rain, the Illini were able to record two scores in the 70s. Park and junior Meghan Naik shot 77s to close out the Big Tens. Park tied for 34th overall, and Naik placed 42nd.

“The course played a lot differently than it did in the fall when we played here,” Park said. “If you miss one of your shots, you will be punching out from the woods and that’s a stroke right there.”

Smith said fast greens attributed to the higher scores. She said her players occasionally putted off of the greens, forcing them to chip back on.

Park ended her 77-stroke final round with a birdie on the 18th. She said in order to perform her best final round she focused on each shot and told herself she wasn’t done with the tournament until she completed her final putt.

“As a whole we struggled a lot and I know we didn’t play up to our full potential, but we definitely learned a lot,” Naik said. “We learned to play our own game and focus on things that we can control.”

Freshman Nancy Featherstone made her Big Ten debut posting an 82 for the second and final rounds and an 80 for the third round. She also posted her highest score (85) during the first round.

Smith said Featherstone enjoyed “the flavor of the Big Ten,” and will prove to be a valuable golfer for the Illini in future years.

Sophomores Stephanie Mory and Casey Burden contributed to the Illini team tying for 50th and 54th overall, respectively.

Smith said she was proud of her golfers’ performances during her final tournament before her retirement. She said a moment in the tournament that stands out in her mind was a shot by Naik into the wind on a long par three.

“Meghan Naik hit the most beautiful 3-wood shot I have ever seen,” Smith said. “After she hit the shot, she said ‘Paula, that will be my last par three with you.’ I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that was what she was thinking about.”