Illinois women’s gold battles quality, rival-filled field at Badger Invitational



By Rich Mayor

A single veteran will compete among a lineup of youngsters this weekend for the women’s golf team.

Senior Nancy Featherstone will be starting for Illinois after not competing last week as the second event begins in its season of maturity.

“Nancy has the ability to keep the mood light, keep everybody relaxed and I think that will be beneficial for everybody,” head coach Renee Slone said. “I know she’s looking forward to the event, obviously with this being her senior year. She won the qualifier for this event also, so she’s playing well now and wants to continue that.”

The Illini women will compete in the Badger Invitational in Verona, Wis., beginning on Saturday. One powerhouse, a bevy of Big Ten rivals and a few nonconference foes will join the Illini in the 12-team field.

Featherstone and four freshmen – Hailey Koschmann, Katelin Dilger, Nora Lucas and Samantha Sloan – will take to the par-72 University Ridge Golf Course. Freshman Kaitlyn Wampler will also participate as an individual. Dilger and Wampler will make their collegiate debuts, while Featherstone will make her season debut.

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    “It feels great,” Featherstone said of being the elder stateswoman and leader of the squad. “It’s a really great team, a good mix of personalities and a lot of talent. It’s really nice being someone they can look up to, and I’ll just try to play well and set a good example for them.”

    The Illini will be joined by No. 2 California and four Big Ten teams – Indiana, Minnesota, Penn State and host Wisconsin.

    In Illinois’ first tournament of the year, the Chip-N-Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., Sloan trotted out the first five-freshman lineup in the history of the program. The team finished 10th of 13.

    “I thought we got off to a solid start at Nebraska, and the final two rounds were very respectable,” Sloan said. “It’s definitely only going to get easier from here for them, and a lot of them have shown improvement in different areas of their games already in this first month since we’ve started practice. I think they all gained valuable experience from the first tournament, so that should prove to be a huge benefit and make things a lot easier for this second event.”

    Sloan and Featherstone believe the squad is capable of great things, and experience is the only thing standing in the way.

    “It’s really important mentally for the freshmen,” Featherstone said of the freshmen completing their first tournament. “They know what to expect, so they can just go out and play. They no longer have the fear of the unknown so now they’ll be able to go out, play golf, and play well.”