Illinois women’s golf ends Big Ten drought with 1st title triumph in program history

By James Kim, Sports Editor

Illinois women’s golf achieved two historic firsts at the Big Ten Championships in Pittsburgh. After battling against 13 conference teams from April 21-23, the Illini came out on top in first place.

However, as special as it is to win a Big Ten title in any sport, head coach Renee Slone and her talented squad truly etched their names into the record books with this win. For the first time in Illinois women’s golf history, the Big Ten trophy is coming to Champaign.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Slone said, after the victory. “Honestly, I’m still soaking it all in. The team played hard start to finish and it was a total team effort. Everybody contributed and I’m just very proud of their energy, effort and resilience throughout the year.”

With the triumph, Illinois women’s golf now carries the prestige and status of being a championship-winning program, but leading up to this season the Illini have endured trophyless campaigns year after year. Since the 1973-74 season, the program has appeared at the NCAA tournament ten times and earned top-three finishes at the Big Ten Championships seven times.

Despite coming close in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Illinois could only tie for second place for its highest-ever finish at the Big Ten Championships, up until now. After nearly 50 years of waiting, the Illini have reached the top of the mountain to capture their first-ever piece of conference silverware.

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In spite of the mixed season leading into the tournament, the Illini were able to lock in during their title triumph, recording an overall score of 865. This historic score is the sixth-lowest by a winning team in a 54-hole championship, an achievement earned through strong performances across the board.

Graduate student Crystal Wang was a force and led the way for Illinois, with her record-breaking score of 201 earning her individual Big Ten champion honors. Wang is the first Illini to win the Big Ten since Sloan won the crown in 1993.

“When I finished, I was kind of nervous on my last hole,” Wang said after the victory. “Once I made the putt for par, I could just hear my teammates cheering, then I knew we won. Once I heard confirmation that we won, I just felt like everything we’ve worked on this past year, all the ups and downs, it was worth it.”

Wang was named Big Ten Golfer of the Year on April 26 and earned All-Big First Team honors following her dominant performance during the Illini’s historic championship run.

Illinois’ tournament win earned an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals in San Antonio from May 8-10. With 12 teams competing, the Illini will arrive as the No. 9 seed heading into the competition.



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