Illini battling tough competition, heat at Jim West Challenge

By Ryan Wilson

The Illinois women’s golf team had a week to prepare
for the 2015 Jim West Challenge, but it still won’t be easy for the Illini to
finish atop the leaderboard at the tournament.RB

For the
second-straight week, the Illini are competing in Bermuda grass, which
is thicker than the grass on which they normally practice. It causes
the ball to stick in the rough.

The team has some Bermuda grass
in its outdoor facility on campus. Illinois also practiced on the Urbana
Country Club for the Jim West Challenge, as head coach Renee Slone said its layout is
most similar to the course in Texas.

Slone said several of the course’s greens at the Tapatio Springs Resort are uneven.

on a couple of the holes is very important as far as putting yourself
in the best possible position to keep the ball below the green,” Slone

She said the green on hole No. 13 has a large uphill slope.

that distance dialed in for that second shot (of the hole) is a little
bit of a challenge,” Slone said. “Because factoring in the amount of slope, and the
green tends to release (the ball) a bit.”

Six of the 13 teams at
the Jim West Challenge rank in Golfweek’s top-30, including Kent
State, 9;RB Texas A&M, 18;RB Illinois, 21; RBHouston, 22;RB Miami, 26;RB and
Missouri, 27.RB 

Kent State shot 5-under as a team and won the
Mercedes-Benz Championship two weeks ago.RB The Illini finished 24-over in the tournament, their most recent competitionRB.

finished 58-over at last year’s Jim West Challenge, taking eighth placeRB. Kent State went 36-over, while Texas A&M won the tournament at  22-over par.RB

Weather change could affect Illini’s prospects

Illinois may be competing with temperatures in the upper 80s during the Jim West Challenge, but that’s been a common theme for the Illini this year.

The Illini competed in 80-degree weather for all but one day this season. It reached 77 degrees at the Jim West Challenge in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Sept. 21.

The team flew nearly five hours south this week to Boerne, Texas — 45 minutes west of San Antonio.

“It should be warmer there,” Stephanie Miller said. “My gosh.”

Miller was referring to the drop in temperature in Champaign, Illinois. It reached 68 and 67 degrees on the team’s last two days on campus, as compared to 80 degrees the week before.

“Obviously, a little brisk compared to what we’ve had in the past few weeks,” Slone said.

Temperatures are forecasted to climb to 85, 83 and 88 degrees for each of the tournament’s three days, respectively.

Slone did not seem worried about the heat. She said the wind last year in Bourne made play challenging.

When Illinois competed in the Jim West Challenge last year on Nov. 2 and 3, temperatures were in the mid-60s to lower-70s. Slone said there were 20-mile-per-hour wind gusts for the whole tournament.

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