History strikes for Illinois women’s golf with 1st Big Ten championship in program history

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

Going into the Big Ten championships this weekend, Illinois women’s golf had not placed higher than sixth in any of its 10 regular season competitions. However, it was obvious from the first day of the postseason that the Illini were ready to play.

Illinois’ conquest began on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, standing alongside each of the other 13 Big Ten programs, all of whom had competed against one another the week prior at Ohio State’s Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational. While that weekend ended up with the home team on top, finishing 37 strokes under the Illini, the real competition was in the present and Illinois came out firing.

Three of Illinois’ six competitors ended the first day within the top 10, headlined by junior Isabel Sy’s 69 stroke outing that had her tied for first across all competitors. Just a hair behind Sy were senior Siyan Chen and graduate student Crystal Wang, whose 70 and 71 strokes were good for ties at fourth and seventh place overall. Sitting just two strokes over par and comfortably ahead of the second place Buckeyes (+8), the Illini were in fantastic shape heading into Sunday.

The second round saw a bit of a jump in stroke numbers for the Illini, as Chen dropped out of the top 10 and freshman Mattie Frick moved from 33rd to 62nd. But Sy and Wang were in a duel of their own, as the two found themselves locked at 139 total strokes a piece at the top of the entire competition. However, by the end of the day Ohio State (+9) had covered major ground and taken a one-stroke advantage over the Illini (+10).

Entering the final day in a neck and neck battle with the Buckeyes, Wang put on a clinical showing. Dropping her stroke count all the way down to 62, compared to 71 and 68 on the opening days, Wang was the only competitor to finish under par and was 12 whole strokes clear of second place. This marked Wang as the first individual Big Ten champion from Illinois since head coach Renee Slone earned the honor in 1993. 

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Not only was Wang an individual champion, her legendary performance coupled with a fourth-place showing from Sy was enough to hoist Illinois to its first Big Ten championship in program history. Sitting at +13 when it was all said and done, the next closest competitor was Northwestern who had overlapped Ohio State (+19) to be just 16 strokes over par and secure its spot as runner up. 

After two weeks of rest, Illinois women’s golf will be back in action on May 8 for the first day of NCAA regionals, looking to earn a spot in the NCAA championships two weeks later. 



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