Illini women's golf hopes to maintain momentum

By Ryan Wilson

An old course will present new challenges for the Illinois women’s golf team this week.

Large, undulating greens will present the biggest challenge to the Illinois women’s golf team when it plays in this week’s Mercedes-Benz Collegiate in Knoxville, Tennessee. The first round starts Monday and round three wraps up Tuesday.

“The green complexes are very demanding, and they will require smart placement on and around the green to give ourselves the best opportunity to score,” head coach Renee Slone said.

Par on the 107-year-old Cherokee Country Club is a 70. It will be the first time the Illini have competed on the course. It features large greens and short par-5s. Fourteen teams will play in the tournament, hosted by the University of Tennessee, which boasts the No. 9 team in the country. Junior Stephanie Miller said Slone and Slone’s husband, Rick, know the course, so they’ve been advising the team on how to approach it.

“This golf course is really going to come down to playing par golf and positioning yourself well in relation to the hole to give yourself the best possible opportunity to score,” Slone said.

Illinois practiced at the Champaign Country Club and its outdoor facility on campus in preparation. Slone said the Illini focused on their short game — including putting and wedge shots — at practice. Miller added that the team practiced with various types of green contours.

“That’s what really makes a golf course difficult,” she said.

Miller and freshman Bing Singhsumalee struggled with their putting in the later rounds at Minnesota. In Singhsumalee’s first round with the team, she tied the program record with six-under 66. She then had a combined 12 bogies in her next two rounds, finishing six-over 222.

Slone said the team struggled maintaining its emotions during the tournament. She said she wants her team to take “mental breaks” during competitions.

“From a mental standpoint, it’s just taking those mental breaks and remaining mentally strong throughout the duration of the round,” Slone said. “Just not letting frustrations get to you as the round progresses, and just staying patient and staying focused on the process and not getting wrapped up in the results.”

The Illini opened their season last week with a third-place team finish. They shot 23-over 887 at the Minnesota Invitational, just three strokes shy of first-place Purdue. Illinois went seven-over in the final round of the tournament, the lowest of any team in the tournament.

“It (round three at Minnesota) showed us what were kind of capable of this year, even right out of the gate,” sophomore Dana Gattone said. “I think we’re just going to build off our last round.”

Illinois shot 1-over 289 and 15-over 303 in the first and second rounds at Minnesota, respectively.

“It an opportunity to play in a very competitive tournament,” head coach Renee Slone said. “So that’s always a positive. If we want to continue to improve our program, we need to continue to raise the bar.”

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