Illinois women’s golf thrives in fall, faces difficulties in spring

The Illinois women’s golf team had a strong fall season in which it finished in the top-five in all its events, but in the spring, the Illini’s struggles ended their season at Big Ten Championships.

“Our fall season was a big success, but we had difficulty in the spring putting together four solid scores each round,” head coach Renee Slone said. “Our team really came together as a cohesive group in the fall, which made for a supportive, encouraging and competitive environment.”

Illinois began the fall season on Sept. 9 at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Illini shot 22-over-par to take third in a field of 17 teams.

A week later, the Illini competed in the Minnesota Invitational. Their 39-over performance gave them second place in a 12-team field. They were just one shot behind winner Kent State.

The golfers had about a month off before they played their next tournament, the Diane Thomason Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois was one of 12 teams competing, but this time, they were able to achieve a victory. The Illini finished the tournament 35-over, five strokes ahead of second-place Kansas.

Along with the team’s win, freshman Stephanie Miller took home the individual title, the only Illini to do so this season. Her three-under finish made her the lone golfer to complete the tournament under par. The win also made Miller the first Illinois freshman to win a competition since 1992.

From there, Illinois took on a 16-team field in Greenwood, Indiana, for the Hoosier Fall Invitational. Despite being the top-ranked team at No. 22, the Illini shot 32-over and finished second. As for the individual competition, senior Ember Schuldt placed third by shooting 2-over.

Illinois’ top-three finish streak ended at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, its final fall tournament. The 19-team field was the largest of the season so far, but the Illini tied host-school College of Charleston for fifth place by scoring 902, 38-over.

The spring season began in Peoria, Arizona, on Feb. 23 at the Westbrook Spring Invite. The Illini were unable to maintain their top-five finish streak from the fall, as the golfers’ 11-over finish gave them eighth place in a field of 14 teams.

Illinois finished in the top half of the leaderboard at the Insperity Lady Jaguar tournament with seventh place in a 14-team field while junior Sam Postillion placed second individually, shooting five-over; however, the next two competitions featured the worst finishes of the season.

First came the Briar’s Creek Invitational where the Illini took 11th out of 17 teams. Following that, Illinois placed 15th in a 19-team field at the Marsh Landing Invitational.

The regular season then came to a close at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invite. Illinois was able to finish off strong with a 63-over-par performance for 6th place in the 12-team field.

At Big Ten Championships, the Illini earned fifth place by shooting 49-over, but it wasn’t enough. The struggles in the spring were costly enough to end Illinois’ season there. The team didn’t qualify for regionals, but Miller and Schuldt had enough individual success to be selected to participate in the Central Regional as individuals.

“Even though we fell short of our postseason mission, we accomplished a great number of things,” Slone said. “This year certainly has put the wheels in motion for great success next year and beyond. A great foundation has been set that these team members can be proud of.”

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