Spring season start shows potential

By Rachel Spencer, Contributing writer

The Illini women’s golf team was back at it this past weekend in Peoria, Arizona, at the Westbrook Invitational.
The two-day invite marked the start of the spring season, one for which head coach Renee Slone has high expectations.
“We’re coming off the strongest fall we’ve had in the history of the program, so we’re very much looking forward to this spring portion of the season and continuing to build on those successes,” Slone said.
Overall, the Illini finished ninth of 15 teams at the Westbrook Spring Invitational with a total score of 859, putting them at 5-under-par for the tournament. Senior Dana Gattone and junior Bing Singhsumalee were Illinois’ top performers over the weekend. They both finished tied for 24th and 2-under-par. Freshman Ali Morallos competed in the tournament as an individual and finished tied for 31st. Also contributing to the Illini’s score was sophomore Tristyn Nowlin, who finished the invitational 1-under-par.
Gattone started the invitational with a round at par (72), including two birdies on par-5 holes. She followed that performance by going 2-under in round two before finishing on Monday with at par once again.
“It does give me a little bit of confidence moving forward that I started off this season so well,” Gattone said. “To come out after a long winter and playing inside and to be able to shoot under par, I think it’s a big accomplishment for me, so I think it proves that there’s just more to come this season.”
But Gattone recognized that there’s more work to come before the spring season really heats up.
Elements of her game over the weekend weren’t completely satisfying — like her short game — and Gattone expressed plans to keep working out the little things in her game that hold her back from getting where she wants to go.
While not contributing to the team’s overall score, Morallos showed she could follow up a promising fall season with a successful spring by keeping pace with both Gattone and Singhsumalee. Morallos’ fall was marked by three rounds under par, including a low round of 67 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Collegiate Sept. 26-27.
Coming off a strong start at two under, Morallos recovered after a second round of 1-over-par with a 71 on Monday, bringing her back to 2-under for the tournament.
“I chose to stay in the moment,” Morallos said. “When thinking about how the front nine of round two went, what got me through it was definitely my commitment. Today, I kept that same personal commitment, and it really helped me keep things simple and just trust in my decision making.”
Sophomore standout Nowlin held on to a 1-under finish at Westbrook despite a shaky third round. Nowlin went one under in back-to-back in rounds one and two, only to face difficulty on the front nine during round three. Despite back-to-back holes over par, Nowlin managed to hold on and keep a level head to keep a 1-over-par finish, keeping a competitive edge she credits to her offseason practice.
“Coaches do a really great job in practices designing and kind of implementing things that kind of simulate what we’re going to experience in competition,” Nowlin said. “Coming back, you know, your nerves do get heightened sometimes, but coaches just do a really good job of getting us used to those feelings once we come back, especially with practices.”
As the Illini turn their attention toward Fairfax, California and the Meadow Club Women’s Intercollegiate, Slone feels that her team has the right mindset for success.
“The biggest challenge in this game is really mental,” Sloan said. “It comes down to managing ourselves and managing our expectations and really being focused on the process and that was a thing that we did very well in the fall, staying focused on the things we can control — not getting caught up in the results, not getting caught up in the rankings and just taking care of the things we can take care of.”