Cardinal Cup will pose new challenges for team


Junior Trystin Nowlin watches her drive at the Illinois Women’s Invite in Medinah, Illinois, on Oct. 8. Nowlin helped pace the Illini to a record-breaking performance in their last meet.

By Contributing Writer, Gabby Hajduk

Coming off a record-breaking performance at the Illini Women’s Invitational, the No. 20 Illinois women’s golf team is set to compete at the Cardinal Cup this weekend. The University of Louisville hosts the annual tournament in Simpsonville, Kentucky.

Last year at the Cardinal Cup, the team finished second in a field of 15 teams, falling eight points behind Louisville. 

The Illini are having a strong fall season, finishing no lower than third in all three of the tournaments played. Including the Cardinal Cup, there are only two tournaments left to be played in the fall, and the team believes there is still room for improvement.

“Obviously, Medinah was a record-breaking tournament for us, so we are very excited about that,” said Coach Renee Slone. “But the golf course was set up in a way that lended itself to birdies, and we left a lot of birdie opportunities. So we have been focusing on putting quite a bit and scoring opportunities and then also just the keys to playing the golf course at Louisville well.”

Strategizing for the course in Louisville has been the main focus in the team’s recent practices. While still practicing the fundamentals, the Illini have been concentrating on the difficulties this course can bring.

“I think specifically for this course, (the focus) is course management,” said Tristyn Nowlin. “We have been discussing playing the percentage shot because there are some holes out there that maybe the aggressive shot isn’t the right play. There is some thick rough and the greens are pretty sectioned-off, so we are focusing on accuracy off the tee and distance control with the irons.”

Having competed in the Cardinal Cup twice before, Nowlin is familiar with the course, but the Richmond, Kentucky native is also accustomed to the area. While Nowlin is always excited to compete, this tournament holds a special meaning for her as her family and friends will be in attendance.

Freshman Crystal Wang is also very excited for this tournament as she feels the team has been putting in a lot of hard work to succeed in the next couple of tournaments. Individually, Wang has been Illinois’ top scorer in every tournament this fall. Wang has acknowledged her success but stays humble as she works to get better.

“(I have been focusing on) my short game even more this week,” Wang said. “Coming from the summer, I knew I needed to work on my short game, and I feel like it has improved a lot since I got here, and I am really happy with that. In practices, I have spent more time on my short game and the specific drills we do based on the tournament and the golf course; whether the course is hilly or has big greens has helped it a lot.”

Following Wang’s fourth-place tie at Medinah, Slone wants the freshman to keep doing her own thing and sticking to her simple game plan.

The Illini travel to Simpsonville on Thursday and will begin the 54-hole tournament on Saturday morning.

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