Illinois women’s golf takes fifth-place at Big Ten Championships

The Illinois women’s golf team was tied for ninth place following the first round of competition at Big Ten Championships, but the golfers’ progress throughout the weekend resulted in a fifth place finish with a total score of 913.

Illinois sent a team consisting of freshmen Stephanie Miller and Emily Joers, juniors Erin Ahern, Jackie Calamaro and Sam Postillion and senior Ember Schuldt to the conference championship. The golfers played three rounds at French Lick Resort’s par-72, 6,017-yard Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. For each round, the top four scores counted toward the Illini’s round total.

Friday, the Illini scored their highest numbers of the competition with a round one total of 316 led by Schuldt’s 77, 5-over-par. The six golfers combined for five birdies, 40 bogeys and 10 shots scored a double bogey or higher.

Aside from the course itself, the weather conditions also played a factor, particularly on the first day of the competition.

“The golf course, itself, is a demanding golf course — even in benign conditions,” head coach Renee Slone said. “It really tests the players both physically and mentally. And then you add on, on top of that, 30 mile per hour winds — and it rained — it makes things a bit challenging, and it showed. It showed in the scores for every single team and every single player in the entire tournament.”

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    In the second round Saturday, the wind was still present, but the rain was gone. The Illini took advantage of that, and posted their lowest scores of the tournament. The team combined for a 296 round total, the second lowest of the day, led by Ahern’s comeback. The junior scored a 90 in the first round, but had an even 72 in the second round. With such a strong round, the Illini managed to jump five spots in the standings to fourth place.

    The Illini’s aggression also played a factor in the low round, as it was something they had to improve upon from the first round.

    “One thing we really, really emphasized, was to be aggressive,” Slone said. “There’s nothing to lose, so play aggressively, especially on the green. We were giving up a little bit too much respect to the greens and were a bit tentative, and so kind of open things up a bit, and we got the putters going there. We rolled in a lot of birdies and a couple of chip-ins too.”

    On the final day of competition, all six of the golfers scored below 80, but the team total of 301 was still higher than its second round score. They weren’t able to achieve as many birdies as they had in the second round, but the golfers combined for 26 bogeys and only four shots labeled a double bogey or higher.

    As an individual, Schuldt took sixth overall with a 225, 9-over-par in her final conference championship.

    “I’m just so, so happy for her,” Slone said of Schuldt. “She has been an incredible person to have on the team. She has just represented us so well, and has been a wonderful teammate and a fine representative of not only our golf program, but of the University of Illinois.”

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