Illinois women’s golf head into the offseason with 4 top-10 finishes this season

By Ryan Wilson

The Illinois women’s golf team ate some Chick-fil-A sandwiches and snacks before ending its fall season at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. The Illini were chowing down during a weather delay during their final tournament of the season and the break appeared to help. The team finished fifth at the tournament — its second-best finish of the season.

Even then, head coach Renee Slone was not satisfied.

“I got to be honest, no, not really,” Slone said when asked if she felt the team ended this season on a strong note.

Illinois sat in third place after shooting a 14-over for the first two rounds. But there was a rain delay in the middle of the third round. The team had 13 bogies and four double bogies to end the tournament in fifth.

The tournament had a total of two rain delays, and Slone said the weather affected the Illini’s play.

“The first round: That was a good round, a very good start to the tournament,” Slone said. “Then, conditions were obviously a bit more challenging the second day.”

It was Illinois’ first rain delay of the season, but it wasn’t its first time falling in the leaderboard.

Landing all over the leaderboard

Illinois opened the season with respective finishes of third and sixth at its first two tournaments. The team shot its eighth-lowest 54-hole score (23-over) in a tournament in its season opener: The Minnesota Invitational. With a 6-under, freshman Bing Singhsumalee shot the lowest singe round score in Illinois history in her college debut round.

The Illini shot a 24-over 876 in the following tournament, tying the 10th-lowest 54-hole tournament score in program history.

“Those first two tournaments were a good solid start to the fall season,” Slone said. “It really laid a solid foundation for the year, and unfortunately, we just did not build off of that.”

Illinois ended its top-10 streak after finishing 12 in a field of 13 teams in the Jim West Challenge on Oct. 4-6. The Illini shot a 37-over 901 and carded the second-fewest birdies in the field (26). They ranked 10th after the second round.

At their second-to-last tournament of the season, the Illini were fourth after the first two rounds of the Cardinal Cup on Oct. 19. They then shot the third-highest score in round three at a 39-over 312, dropping them to ninth.

“I think some of that (positive) energy waned as the season progressed,” Slone said. “At the start of the season, everyone’s kind of in that rah-rah mode (like), ‘Hey, let’s go out there and do this. We got this.’”

Shooting for the stars

Slone and Singhsumalee said they want to reach the NCAA tournament in the spring.

Players will meet with coaches for one two-hour session each week throughout the offseason. Slone said the team will practice shots from at most 125 yards and focus on short putts.

Off the course, the team will do kickboxing, cardio, weight training and yoga. Slone said the Illini will work on their verbal and non-verbal communication.

“If you’re walking with your head up, shoulders back, walking like you have a purpose and you know what you’re doing and you’re going throughout your business, people feed off of that,” Slone said. “If you give fist pumps or waves while you’re out there on the golf course or what have you, just to let somebody else know, ‘Hey, I’m here for you. I’m supporting you. You go get after it, and let’s do this.’”

[email protected]