Women’s golf starts season off with record-breaking performance

The start of the 2011 Illini women’s golf season was similar to 2010. For the second consecutive year, the Illini traveled to Colorado to start their season with the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic. And for the second straight year, the Illini came away with record-breaking performances.

Last year, Illinois finished with its then-second lowest score in school history, an 891. On Tuesday, the Illini posted a “team total of 875”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/09/womens_golf_ptarmigan_ram_classic_results, destroying the lowest record in school history of 890 by 15 strokes. The Illini finished the tournament tied for second overall, just two shots behind champion UC Davis.

The strong start boded well for the Illini last year as they went on to have one of the best seasons in program history, receiving just their third bid to the “NCAA Regional Championships”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/05/4dc21acb02878. This season, the Illini have bigger plans.

“I really think the sky is the limit for us this year,” head coach Renee Slone said. “We have a large group of seniors motivated to end their career on a high note and usher this program into a new era. Our season-long goal is to qualify for the NCAA championship.”

Five seniors fill out the Illini’s roster, including Hailey Koschmann, who had the best individual performance in the tournament with a fourth-place finish. Slone said Koschmann was able to grind it out down the stretch to turn around her day after a slow start. Koschmann rebounded from her slow start to play 3-under par in her final six holes Tuesday.

“I hit the ball better than I had been and I putted pretty well,” Koschmann said. “I just made some early mistakes.”

Slone said the Illini are doing a solid job driving and striking the ball to start off the year, but admits they must be more consistent in their short game. Senior Samantha Sloan agreed that a solid short game is the key to consistency for the Illini this year.

“The thing that separates the OK players from really good ones is their short game,” Sloan said.

Koschmann said if Illinois can improve its consistency, then it will be able to take the next step it is looking for.

“When we’re having a bad day we want to be able to keep the round under control and not turn it into something worse,” Koschmann said.

Sloan said she thinks the Illini are talented enough to achieve all of their goals, including breaking into the top 50 of the NCAA rankings. Over the summer, the team added a new assistant coach, Jackie Szymoniak, who Sloan said really helped during the tournament.

“She was very motivating and knowledgeable to us, and both her and coach (Slone) were able to keep us calm during the final rounds,” Sloan said.

Sloan and Koschmann both said they are looking forward to some of the new tournaments on the rest of the schedule, including trips to Arizona and Lexington, Kentucky. Slone said she also expects an exciting season for this year’s squad.

“We’ve got great team chemistry and some great attitudes,” Slone said. “This first event only serves to provide motivation even more motivation of what we can do.”