Illini women’s golf getting distracted to prepare for Jim West Invitational

By Ryan Wilson

It’s been a week since the Illinois women’s golf team’s eighth-place finish at the Mercedes-Benz Invitational. Now the Illini head to Boerne, Texas, for the Jim West Invitational, and in preparation, they’re purposely getting distracted.

Junior Stephanie Miller made up fake rules during practice and not only was she calling out teammate Grace Park for breaking them, Miller stood in Park’s line of sight as she was preparing to shoot.

“(Park) had to learn to be more assertive,” Miller said. “She had to be like, ‘Hey, get out of the way. Hey, I don’t like you standing there. Will you please move?’”

The Illini golfed in match-play format during practice. Head Coach Renee Slone paired two golfers together for five to six rounds of match play at practice. During the competitions, one player would pose as a potential distraction.

Miller said Park doesn’t commonly try to tell people to stop being distracting on the golf course, but the match-play helped.

“It was kind of fun to put her in a position where she had to be kind of assertive with me,” Miller said.

Besides Miller’s distractions, Slone allowed for other distractions, including someone talking, moving, standing in the line of the hole and even leaving the flagstick lying too close to the hole.

“Just different situations like that, and knowing how to handle that situation that can help them stay focused,” Slone said.

Miller said she doesn’t get distracted by noises or people in golf, but that she gets more distracted by the mental aspect.

“I get in my own way,” she said.

Slone said it’s more challenging to teach people how to manage their “internal” distractions. She said her golfers need to work on controlling their emotions and not get caught up in shots that don’t go as planned.

Illinois finished eighth of 12 teams in the Jim West Invitational last year. They shot a 58-over 922.

Miller, a junior, went 3-under in round two of the Jim West Invitational last year. It was the ninth-lowest single-round score in Illinois history.

Slone said the Texas course has thin grass and as a result, shot placement at the course is important, especially on the 18th fairway, which is dotted with trees.

“We got into some situations last year where if we thought about it more, we could have limited the damage,” Miller said.

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