Illini earn 1st win in shortened Memphis Invite

The Illini women’s golf team overcame another slow start in the first round of the Memphis Women’s Invitational on Monday, shooting the best round of the day to take the lead. That second-round performance was all they needed.

The third round was canceled due to the threat of inclement weather. With a two-round total of 615 on the par-71 course, the team grabbed its first win of the fall season.

“It feels good,” Illini head coach Renee Slone said of the win. “We were a little disappointed we didn’t get to finish but these things happen.”

The Illini started the day shooting a 314, which put them at fourth behind host Memphis, Mississippi State and Missouri State. The Illini came back for the second 18 holes with a 301 in the second round, which moved them into first place; five strokes ahead of Memphis.

The next day the weather made it impossible to continue for a full third round.

“We had some severe weather heading our way, and we didn’t have enough time to get 18 holes in,” Slone said. “There was a tornado watch in our area, wind in the 40-50 miles per hour range.”

Slone said the only play that occurred Tuesday was for players who didn’t get all 36 holes in to finish up the hole or two they had left. No matter what the last few golfers accomplished, the invitational belonged to the Orange and Blue. The win, however, was not easy.

The course offered a couple challenges for the Illini that contributed to the slow start. Coach Slone said the course featured Bermuda grass, a surface the Illini are not used to. The tournament was played at the Ridgewood Country Club in Memphis, which Slone described as “an older, tree-lined course.” That made shot accuracy very important.

The weather also was an issue for the team. While there wasn’t any rain while they were on the course, the wind affected the way the Illini played.

“There was some wind in the 20-25 miles per hour range, which added a two-club difference if you were hitting into the wind,” Slone said.

Freshman Ember Schuldt led the Illini with a two-round score of 153, good for a tie for seventh overall.

Juniors Sammi Sloan and Hailey Koschmann finished tied for 12th, both shooting 154. Junior Katie Dilger made her season debut at the tournament and finished tied for 25th, shooting a 157. Junior Nora Lucas finished with a 161, good for a tie for 37th.

The Illini will be in action again on Monday for the Challenge at Onion Creek in Austin, Texas.