Women’s golf tie for third-place in first tournament of the season

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Women’s golf tie for third-place in first tournament of the season

By Gabby Hajduk, Contributing Writer

The Illinois women’s golf team began their fall season in Knoxville, Tennessee at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate, which marks the program’s fourth-consecutive year appearing in the tournament.

The Illini tied Charlotte for a third-place finish out of 17 teams. Finishing at 24-over-par, Illinois was only outpaced by Middle Tennessee and Kent State.

While the Illini went into Knoxville with knowledge on the tournament and the course itself, they weren’t able to prepare for Monday’s weather. The constant rain put more pressure on the players, but junior Tristyn Nowlin believed the team handled the situation well.

It was pretty much raining the whole day, and it was an extremely long day,” said Nowlin. “We didn’t finish until around 7:30, so it was pretty dark by that point. You could tell it was mentally tiring for everybody, but we were able to keep our energy up, and we stayed pretty positive because we know it’s something we cannot control.”

Top-15 finishes by freshmen Crystal Wang and Kornkamol Sukaree pushed the Illini to the leaderboard. While both freshmen finished their first rounds at the bottom of the board, Wang being 8-over-par and Sukaree being 7-over-par, they quickly adjusted in the second round.

“In the first round the rain was pouring down on me which made it hard to focus,” Wang said. “The second day was easier because I had already played two rounds so I felt comfortable.”

Wang scored an even-par round in the second round and hit 1-under-par in the third. She led the team in birdies with ten, four of them in the third round. Sukaree’s best round was the second as she scored 1-under-par with four birdies.

“I was excited with Crystal (Wang) and Stang (Sukaree)’s performance,” said head coach Renee Slone. “Both were able to bounce back and had strong rounds (Tuesday). They did an excellent job of making the adjustments needed throughout the competition.”

In addition to the freshmen’s impressive debuts, the upperclassmen performances kept the Illini on top. Senior Bing Singhsumalee tied for 23rd and Nowlin tied for 18th. Both players had their best round on Tuesday where they had an even-par round.

Nowlin’s first round didn’t deliver her lowest score, but it was an important round individually. On the 11th hole of the first round, Nowlin got an eagle, which gave her confidence moving forward.

“Up until that point I hadn’t made a birdie or anything so it was a good little excitement in my round,” said Nowlin.

In between days Nowlin was able to take a look at her gameplay and figure out what adjustments needed to be made to lower her score for the final round.

“For me it was just controlling my tempo and being really intentional with the shots I was choosing to hit and my targets,” said Nowlin. “I think just going into every hole taking it one shot at a time was the big difference for me, and it saved me a few shots here and there which added up.”

Rounding out the Illini’s lineup was sophomore Ali Morallos who tied for 41st. Morallos finished with a 226 (+13) and recorded five birdies.

Moving forward, the Illini will be hosted by Gonzaga at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Collegiate in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho starting Sept. 24. Singhsumalee believes the team’s practices this week will get them ready for Idaho.

“We are going to dial in on the challenges we faced at Knoxville regarding par-5 play and par-3 play. So we will be dialing those areas down, and putting too,” Singhsumalee said.

Gabby Hajduk Contributing Writer

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