Freshman Isabel Sy adjusts to new teammates, environment


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Freshman Isabel Sy swings her club for a promotional image. Sy faced some challenges in moving from California to Illinois during a pandemic but has been welcomed by the team and quickly found her place.

By Jaden Katz, Contributing Writer

When Illini women’s golfer Isabel Sy first arrived on campus, she was burdened with many challenges that all freshmen face when leaving home for the first time. Coming all the way from San Israel, California, she was alone in the midst of a global pandemic and had to balance golf responsibilities; it could have been even more daunting if not for the support system already in place with the team.

“It was a little difficult to be independent for the first time,” Sy said. “Living on my own was an adjustment, but I felt so welcomed from the start and still am surrounded by great people in an amazing environment.”

Sy credited senior Tristyn Nowlin for being instrumental in helping her feel welcomed due to her “kindness and leadership.”

Sy was able to use support from teammates and coaches to help her settle in right away. This led to some very strong individual performances this winter, especially at the Christmas Cactus Collegiate Challenge, where she took home the trophy after posting a +2 in the three-round event.

The San Israel product feels her fierce mentality during tournaments allows her to stay focused and outlast her competition.

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“Golf is not just about your ability to perform but also your ability to stay present,” Sy said. “It is also how you handle yourself when something goes wrong because it is not a game of perfection.”

This mindset has helped Sy remain level-headed and provides great optimism that she will have a big season once collegiate competition kicks off at the Founder’s Club in Sarasota on Feb. 7.

While it likely won’t be an issue in the Sunshine State next week, Sy recognizes playing in adverse conditions could be challenging for her, as she hasn’t had to deal with it consistently to this point in her career.

“Being from California, there was not too much rain and it was never really cold,” Sy said. “I want to continue working on my mentality during those times where the weather may not be perfect.”

Sy went on to credit her coaches and teammates for helping alleviate this concern, as she can always rely on them to help her through any struggle she faces on the course, as well as, more importantly, off it.

Expectations are high for this group, and the season is set to kick off on Sunday, and, despite her age, it is safe to say those expectations apply to Isabel coming off a very successful, albeit strange first semester in Champaign.

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