The Daily Illini

Women’s golf to use Illinois Challenge exhibition to prepare for spring season

In late October, the Illinois women’s golf team ended its fall season by placing fifth of 19 teams at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. This tournament was the only one where the Illini failed to place in the top three. Three months later, they are ready to escape the arctic-like chills of campus at the Illinois Challenge in Venice, Fla., on Sunday. 

In Florida, the Illini will take on the Illinois State Redbirds. The scoring for the tournament will differ from typical collegiate stroke-play. To begin, the first 18 holes will be match-play format. Each golfer pairs with a teammate, and the duo plays the same hole with the better score counting. The remainder of the competition consists of single-match play, where individuals from both teams face off against one another.

The Illinois Challenge is an exhibition tournament, but the Illini will still be taking it seriously. While it may be fun and a nice change from what they’re used to, it mainly serves as good practice.

“It’s a nice warm-up opportunity and a chance for us to gauge where our games are at right now, what areas are strong, what areas need attention, and how we will structure our practices in the coming weeks,” head coach Renee Slone said. 

The time away from the golf course hasn’t necessarily hurt the team’s game. It has been viewed positively, as it gave the golfers a good balance between golf and free time. Senior Ember Schuldt mentioned the majority of the team took some time off from golf completely just to be with family and recover. 

“Playing in the fall season I’m kind of ready to get that rest and break in,” Schuldt said. “I think most of the team is kind of that way.”

“When you look at some of the southern schools — and they can play all year round — they tend to get burnt out faster. It just gives us a chance to really relax, recuperate, refocus, so for the spring, we can have all our energy on the season.”

This isn’t to say the Illini didn’t take time to improve over break though. Slone said that each golfer had specific aspects they worked on, whether it was technical, physical, mental or breaking in new equipment.

“Each and every one of us has put in a lot of work over break,” Schuldt said. “The last tournament didn’t quite leave us with a good taste in our mouth. We all were motivated to work really hard over break, especially on the specific areas that we needed to and prepare for ourselves for the spring.”

Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and @wijangco12.

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