Illinois women’s golf begins spring competition at Westbrook Spring Invitational

The Illinois women’s golf team last competed three weeks ago at the Illinois Challenge, but it was merely an exhibition. The real competition for the spring season begins Feb. 23 when the Illini compete at the Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz.

This isn’t to say the Illinois Challenge wasn’t of use for Illinois, though. It particularly came in handy with the team’s inability to practice outside and actually get into the mind set of competing.

“Having that first tournament, the Illinois Challenge, was a good starting point as to how it feels to get back on grass after taking such a long break,” freshman Stephanie Miller said. “And now that we’re going to go back into Arizona, we’ve already had the feel of, ‘Oh yeah. That’s how it feels to play again.’ It’s so great. I’m so excited to get back out there.”

Although the lack of outdoor practice could still be a factor, senior Ember Schuldt feels it will be a fair playing field since most of the 14 participating teams haven’t had a chance to be outside either.

Something Illinois will be able to use to its advantage is its past experience at the golf course. The competition will take place at Westbrook Village Golf Club Vistas Course, a course the Illini have played at the past two years.

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    “The course has played firm and fast in the past,” head coach Renee Slone said. “The par-fives have played a little bit shorter, so they have been reachable. So we’ve been focusing a little bit more on clubs that we would be using to hit into those greens.”

    Schuldt added that the par-fives set up good birdie opportunities as well, but “overall the course is just kind of straightforward. There’s not a lot of tricks to it,” she said. “It’s a very good course to start the season with because you can go out there and shoot some really low scores.”

    Schuldt also mentioned how Miller and fellow freshman Emily Joers won’t necessarily need to know much about the course since it’s not very complex. Despite that, they’ve shared notes and tips with the freshmen, since they’re available.

    With the spring season finally beginning, the golfers are eager to get back on some grass and build on a successful fall season that featured four top-three finishes.

    “Fall season was a very good starting point and a good showing of what we can do and the potential that we do have,” Miller said. “So feeding off of that, we’re all really excited and really pumped up and motivated to go out there and shoot low scores and go for more wins and break more school records.”

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