Team heads to South Carolina; Nowlin off to Augusta

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Team heads to South Carolina; Nowlin off to Augusta

Tristyn Nowlin looks out after hitting the ball. Nowlin has been invited to compete at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event in Augusta, Georgia, from April 3-6.

Tristyn Nowlin looks out after hitting the ball. Nowlin has been invited to compete at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event in Augusta, Georgia, from April 3-6.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Tristyn Nowlin looks out after hitting the ball. Nowlin has been invited to compete at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event in Augusta, Georgia, from April 3-6.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Tristyn Nowlin looks out after hitting the ball. Nowlin has been invited to compete at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event in Augusta, Georgia, from April 3-6.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff writer

On Feb. 24 and 25, No. 18 Illinois women’s golf competed at the Westbrook Invitational in Peoria, Arizona. The Illini took third at the tournament, hosted by Wisconsin. Fellow Big Ten team Nebraska took first and Illinois collectively shot minus nine for the weekend.

Heading into Monday in eighth place at 1-under-par, the Illini finished the tournament strong to climb the leader boards.

Sophomore Ali Morallos finished tied for 19th overall, 1-under-par. Freshman Kornkamol Sukaree finished tied for fifth with minus six for the weekend and senior Bing Singhsumalee finished par for the course, tied for 22nd.

Last season, Morallos competed individually at the tournament and found the experience different this time around and thought increased precipitation, as opposed to last year, was the biggest difference.

“You don’t have to hit it long to be able to score on this course,” Morallos said. “It’s very scorable.”

Head coach Renee Slone thought the conditions were ideal for the tournament Monday, contributing to the Illini’s success on the links, but the team also had a stronger performance.

“It was great to see a lot of made putts,” Slone said. “They were able to capitalize on a number of opportunities,  and they gave themselves a lot of really good opportunities.”

Up next, Illinois will compete in South Carolina for the team’s next two tournaments. The group will compete in John’s Island, South Carolina, on March 18-19 in a meet hosted by nearby College of Charleston. Illinois then return to the Palmetto State April 7-9 for a tournament hosted by Clemson.

Slone is anticipating the team will see new, strong competition and play courses they might not have otherwise.

“We’re going to John’s Island, South Carolina, and the team’s gonna play the ocean course while we’re down there,” Slone said. “That’s a PGA Championship venue. We’ve played other PGA, Ryder Cup, U.S. Open venues, courses that host LPGA and PGA events.”

How the Illini do it

Looking ahead this spring, Illinois will be traveling all over America for its tournaments. The team will be competing in South Carolina over spring break, and then will compete in Sunset, South Carolina from April 8-9. The team then hits the road to compete at Ohio State from April 13-14 with Big Ten championships in Maineville, Ohio, later in April.

Junior Tristyn Nowlin said she is used to traveling far for meets but has seen many weather changes during her travels with the team she normally would not have seen.

“We flew out to California,  and we pretty much experienced all seasons in one day,” Nowlin said. “It was hailing. It was really, really cold in the morning, and in the afternoon, it was sunny and nice.”

Slone said competing so far from campus helps the team see a plethora of different courses and strong competition which will help them prepare for the NCAA tournament.

Nowlin off to Georgia

Nowlin will be competing at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur event.

Nowlin said she had been receiving emails about being considered for the tournament and got a pre-invitation in December, so she had known the possibility of playing at Augusta had been there. When she was home for winter break but out at the golf course a few days before classes resumed at Illinois, her father let her know there was a package from Augusta National for her.

“I went back to my home course and opened it up in front of my swing coach, so we all got to look at it together,” Nowlin said. “It was really surreal. It didn’t really set in until recently when I started registration and started filling out the information.”

Nowlin had wrist surgery on Feb. 5, so she has not been able to swing a golf club much as of late. She said she has been focusing more on putting and chipping, which she would have focused on since the greens at Augusta National can be “tricky.”

The tournament will be held April 3-6 and Nowlin plans to meet her teammates at Clemson after the tournament in Augusta.

Slone was very happy Augusta National is hosting a women’s amateur golf event and was happy Nowlin is competing.

“(I’m) very grateful for Augusta National to showcase women’s amateur golf,” Slone said. “This truly is a big deal. So this is extremely exciting for the game and for the women’s game, and so we’re very proud to have Tristyn represent our program in this elite field.”

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