Women’s golf concludes fall season with 17th-place finish in Texas

Ask any golfer and he or she will tell you that golf is more of a mental game than a physical one.

That mental game will be the focus of the offseason for the Illinois women’s golf team.

The Illini finished 17th out of 21 teams at the Challenge of Onion Creek that concluded Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

The team had one of its best rounds of the season Monday, opening with a with 7-over-par 287.

Unfortunately for the Illini, they couldn’t keep that momentum going in the third and final round, where they finished with a 302 and an 883 overall. Illinois shot a 14-over 294 in round two.

“We definitely were off to a fabulous start, but we just didn’t finish well at all,” head coach Renee Slone said. “It really proved to ourselves that we can play with the higher ranked teams.”

Texas A&M;, which was only one stroke ahead of Illinois after round one, won the tournament with a final score of 839 and had the top two individual finishers.

Finishing tournaments has been a problem for the Illini all season long.

This was the last tournament of the fall season, allowing the Illini to take a break from competition and focus on their weaknesses.

“We need to sit down as a team and figure out what needs to change to get the same level of focus or motivation,” Slone said. “It’s all mental, not physical.”

Illinois had a top performer in Raquel Hopton,who had her best round of the season with a 3-under 67 in the first round. She finished tied for 32nd with an 8-over 218.

“I was really happy with my first round,” Hopton said. “My first round I hit more greens that put me in place for more birdies than the last two rounds.”

The Onion Creek Club North Course was one of the shortest courses Illinois played this season.

The Illini were prepared for the course, dedicating one practice to hitting wedges 110 to 150 yards from the green.

With the weather not being a problem and the course not giving the Illini too many difficulties, it seemed that the mistakes being made were mental ones.

“We need to learn how to close out tournaments, it’s obvious it’s mental, we need to work on that this winter,” said Sammi Sloan, who finished tied for 52nd with an 11-over 221.

Illinois will now progress to the offseason, putting more time into lifting weights and focusing on conditioning.

With her squad building its physical stamina, Slone hopes that the Illini will become more physically tough.

“By increasing our physical side, that helps the mental side of things as well.

That leads you to be more mentally tough and pushing yourself beyond your limit,” Slone said.