After a middle-of-the-pack finish in Arizona last weekend, the Fighting Illini women’s golf team will be heading back out west this week. This time, the Illini will be heading to Fairfax, California, to play in the Meadow Club Intercollegiate, which begins March 5.
Last spring, in its first appearance at Meadow Club, Illinois placed third in the tournament with a combined score of 881 (17-over-par) — the team was outpaced by San Diego State and BYU. Despite the unfamiliar territory, last year’s tournament brought success not only to the team, but to individual players as well, with two Illini finishing in the top five. And in 2018, four out of five players from last year’s tournament will be making a return trip to Meadow Club.
The team has been focusing on preparing for the conditions it will face at Meadow Club this week.
“On this particular golf course, there is a number of the greens (that) are elevated and there’s some undulation within the greens and they’re kind of sectioned off into those based on the undulation of the green,” head coach Renee Slone said. “And so during the practice round that will be a very key time to get a feel for the speed of the greens and determining angles for approach shots and the best spots to be for the different hole locations.”
With the elevated greens in mind, most of the practice back home has revolved around considering club selection and focusing on making shots that carry — the generally flat topography of central Illinois prevents any kind of practice at approaching the greens the Illini will see at Meadow Club. However, the unusually warm weather of the past week allowed the team to get out and play a round outside on Wednesday.
The Illini are coming off a slow spring start at Willowbrook on Feb. 25-26, but are carrying momentum from a breakout fall season. After a ninth place showing out in Arizona, with three top-24 finishes — Gattone, Singhsumalee, and Morallos — there’s only room to grow and improve both as individuals and as a team.
Missing from this year’s Meadow Club lineup is former Illini freshman Swing Liu, who is no longer a member of the team. Liu finished second in the tournament after leading the field during day one, making a major contribution to the team’s success. But Slone is confident in her team’s ability to step up and continue to play their game despite Liu’s absence.
“Honestly this team really is just focused on themselves and being all-in and working hard day-in and day-out to put forth their best effort,” Slone said. “So we really try not to get caught up into what happened necessarily last year, because even though it may be the same golf course, every time you play the golf course it’s different. We try to look at every day as an opportunity and taking our strengths — whether that be a team or for the individual players — and utilizing those to the fullest.”