Miller tees up for successful season

It took just one season for Stephanie Miller to establish herself as a star player for the Illini women’s golf team.

Miller came in to her freshman year as a highly touted recruit, boasting two state championships, three conference championships, and all-state honors all four years during her high school career.

Fast-forward to her sophomore year. Miller entered this season already having an individual win at last year’s Diane Thomason Invitational in Iowa City, a top-15 finish at the Big Ten Championship and a career low round of 69, which she matched three times throughout her freshman year. She also became the first Illinois freshman to qualify for the NCAA Regionals.

Going into this year, Miller felt even more prepared with a Big Ten season under her belt.

“Going back and seeing the golf courses we already played is helpful, because I already know what it looks like,” Miller said. “I’ve already played it. I can expect something, unlike last year when it was all fresh and new.”

Miller put in a lot of work throughout her offseason, focusing mainly on a hitch in her backswing. 

“At the end of last season, I got into a position at the top of my swing that caused me to hit it left a lot,” Miller said. “Getting out of that took a long time, actually 17 days to get away from that position (of my swing).”

Once Miller corrected her swing, the positive results followed. She has shown early on in her season that she is settling back into her groove, placing 16th and 21st, respectively, in her first two matches. 

“In the first tournament, my swing felt pretty good, but in the second my swing got a little bit into the old position, so that wasn’t the best,” Miller said. “I think after this week, and probably the next week after that, all of it should be back where I want it to be.”

As a team, the Illini have already notched a third place finish at the Colonel Wollenberg Ptarmigan Ram Classic hosted by Colorado State University, which consisted of non-conference opponents.

Looking ahead to the next match, the Diane Thomason Invitational, Miller should be a favorite, considering she is the tournament’s returning champion. She says, however, that she will not treat it differently than any other match. 

“That win was last year. Anything could happen. I could shoot 80 or I could shoot 68,” Miller said. “It just depends on the weather and who I am that day. I like that golf course, so I am looking forward to it.”

Miller and the rest of the Illini will arrive in Iowa City on Oct. 4, where Miller will look to defend her title, and the team will look for its first win. The team won the tournament last season, one of five top-five finishes the team recorded last fall.

Last season was a good one for Miller, and as a result, she has high expectations for this season.

“I would like to make it to regionals again, and nationals would be great,” Miller said. “We just have to keep shooting good scores individually and team-wise.” 

Lucas can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @LucasWright95.