Illini women’s golf flashes promise yet continues to endure growing pains, finishing ninth at the Windy City Collegiate Classic

Hailey Koschmann pitches the ball during practice at the Champaign Country Club on Sept. 18. Koschmann tied for 18th at the Windy City Collegiate Classic. Erica Magda

Hailey Koschmann pitches the ball during practice at the Champaign Country Club on Sept. 18. Koschmann tied for 18th at the Windy City Collegiate Classic. Erica Magda

By Rich Mayor

The Illinois women’s golf team has battled consistency issues all season, and this week was no different.

The Illini finished ninth out of 13 teams in the Windy City Collegiate Classic, but flashed signs of future greatness at Evanston Golf Club in Evanston, Ill. The squad finished 56-over par, only three strokes behind sixth-place Texas and East Carolina. Big Ten rival Purdue won the tournament with a 27-over score of 891.

The team fizzled in their first round on Monday morning, firing a 314. But the squad regrouped and sparked a flame of brilliance in the afternoon, shaving 15 shots off their score and breaking the 300-stroke barrier for the first time in competition this season with a 299.

“It was one of the lower scores of the afternoon, only two other teams beat us in the field,” head coach Renee Slone said. “They’ve proven to themselves that they can play with these teams and beat a number of quality teams and ranked teams, so that will certainly give them confidence moving forward. But for a young team, consistency is something that will take some time to acquire. Now that we’ve broken 300 in tournament play, the first time is always the most difficult, so next time it should be easier and occur more frequently.”

Freshman Hailey Koschmann anchored the team once again, finishing at a team-best tie for 18th, despite a first-round 82. Koschmann regrouped and spearheaded the second round surge with an even-par 72, and followed that up with a one-over 73 on Tuesday. Freshman Samantha Sloan came next, tying for 28th with a 15-over 231.

Freshman Nora Lucas was disqualified in Monday’s second round for neglecting to sign her score card, but still managed to register a 77 in the final round.

“We stayed positive,” Lucas said. “The conditions got a little tougher in the afternoon, but we were resilient and played with focus.”

Yet Monday’s second round truly showed what this team is capable of achieving.

“Just looking at them from my point of view, they carried themselves a bit differently in the afternoon than they did in the morning,” Slone said. “They seemed to express a more positive attitude, a little higher sense of confidence. In the morning, you couldn’t tell by looking at them how they were playing – it was a struggle, and many times it’s attitude that determines success. Even though some circumstances may be challenging, it’s how you carry yourself and reacting to that situation that helps you move forward and not let it snowball.”

Despite the ninth-place finish, the Illini were able to pull the positives from a disappointing end result.

“This was a highly competitive field, and they held their own,” Slone said. “(Monday’s) round was a big, big plus for us, and this was also the most challenging course we’ve played all year. They posted our lowest number of the year of the most difficult course they’ve played. That certainly bodes well, and proves we can do this. We just need to eliminate the mental mistakes and be able to finish well. It takes a couple times of being there before you can get the job done.”