Five freshman golfers make collegiate tournament debut

By Rich Mayor

The Illinois women’s golf team made history of a green kind in the Chip-N-Club Invitational at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Neb. For the first time in school history, five freshmen competed in a team tournament for the Illini.

The squad finished 10th out of 13 teams at the 54-hole tournament but is already making strides. Their first round performance wasn’t flawless, as they tallied a 314 as a team. But the squad regrouped and shaved 10 strokes off each of the following two rounds, coming away with twin 304s to finish at 58-over par, only six strokes behind seventh-place Kansas.

“For the first event, I think things went very well,” head coach Renee Slone said. “The first round was a little rough, but that was expected since they’re five freshmen in their first collegiate event. I think they bounced back very well. We definitely didn’t play to our potential, but I’d have to say for our first outing it was a very successful tournament. Everyone contributed to the team’s success and I think it was good preparation for the rest of the season, everyone feels more comfortable. All in all, I feel like it was a good start for us.”

The nationally-unprecedented five freshmen lineup fielded by the Illini included Hailey Koschmann, Samantha Sloan, Abby Cotter, Nora Lucas and Maureen Liddy. Slone had no hesitation to start these five, though her options were limited from the start as Illinois has only two girls on the roster that aren’t freshmen.

“Everybody has to compete and gain experience at some point in time, and sooner is better than later,” Slone said. “Now, they have a great idea as to what it’s all about, and it’ll just make next time that much easier.”

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    Koschmann was the most successful individual Illini, tying for 14th place with a score of 10-over par, highlighted by a one-over par second round. Sloan also placed in the top 20, tying for 20th after going 12-over par during the tournament. Cotter impressed as well, tying for 33rd after three consistent rounds, scoring 77-78-77.

    “They both played very well and hit the ball well,” Slone said of Koschmann and Sloan. “Putting wasn’t very strong for either of them. The greens had been aerated about a week ago, but everyone was playing on the same green so that’s certainly not an excuse. They hit the ball really well though, and I think putting was the only downfall of their tournaments.”

    Koschmann, before her first tournament in her collegiate career, didn’t let the butterflies get to her.

    “I actually wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Koschmann said. “When I got there, all the girls I was playing with were really relaxed, and I thought it would be a lot more intense but everyone was really nice. I was nervous on the first couple holes, but after that, I got into the swing of things and wasn’t as nervous.”

    The University of Nebraska won the tournament with a score of 20-over par, closely followed by Arkansas-Little Rock’s 24-over par.

    The Illini women have concrete goals for improvement heading into next weekend’s Badger Invitational in Madison, Wis.

    “We’re going to work on some course management things as well as short game,” Slone said. “We always like to work on our short game since it’s an area that always needs attention and can be improved, so we’ll continue that. We also have qualifying this weekend to determine our lineup for Wisconsin, so we’ll be working for that.”