Illini of the Week Oct. 8: Dana Gattone

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Illini of the Week Oct. 8: Dana Gattone

At first glance, Dana Gattone appears to be a freshman with little experience, but on the course, she is an emerging superstar for the Illini women’s golf team.

Her early season achievements include winning Big Ten Player of the Week, making a hole-in-one and, most recently, tying for first place at the Diane Thomason Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.

Gattone opened up her winning performance last weekend with a solid first round of 76 on Saturday, putting her in second place and helping the Illini jump out to a seven-shot lead over the field.

“It played pretty tough,” Gattone said of the course. “45 mile per hour winds will definitely put your game to the test, but I think it set up very well for me. I’m a big player as far as course management goes, so I think I had a plan set up for the course, and I was still able to do that despite the conditions.”

Adding to her first round 76, Gattone returned to the course Saturday and put up a 2-over 74, giving her a 6-over 150 over the first two rounds. She went into Sunday with a one-shot lead and only 18 holes standing between her and the victory.

“As far as mindset goes, I was just focused on putting up a good number for the team,” Gattone said. “You can’t really control what other people do, so you have got to go out there and play as well as you can. I just wanted to go out there and keep our team in it and put up a round that they needed.”

Gattone’s final round opened with an early bogey, but a birdie on the par-5 sixth hole helped her shoot a 37, one-over, going into the back nine. Gattone carded bogeys on Nos. 12, 14 and 16 to reach a 4-over 76. The solid round tied her for first with Lena Gautier of Northern Illinois.

Gattone said she had no idea she was leading throughout the day, which helped her keep her mind clear and focused.

“Coming down the stretch, I wasn’t sure where I was at in the field. I hadn’t seen a scoreboard the entire day,” Gattone said. “I knew that the team was playing good and that kind of pushed me forward and helped me fight for a few shots.”

When Gattone made her par putt on the 18th hole to solidify the win, her team was there to celebrate and congratulate her.

“Coming in, they were all there waiting for me on 18 to congratulate me, and I thought it was because we had just won as a team,” Gattone said. “Stephanie (Miller) was the first one there to hug me and congratulate me. At that moment I realized (that I had won), but up until that I was just focused on putting up a good number for the team.”

Gattone is the second Illini freshman in a row to win the Diane Thomason Invitational, following Miller, who placed fifth this weekend. Gattone mentioned how Miller has taken the freshman under her wing, and had given some useful advice leading up to the tournament.

“Steph was really instrumental in preparing me for this tournament,” Gattone said. “She’s actually been my support sister for the past month for our team. Working alongside her prepared me very well for this tournament and showed me what I needed to work on and what my strengths were.” 

Gattone’s season has also included being named Big Ten Player of the Week, which stemmed from her 7th place finish at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic. Even though the match was the first of Gattone’s collegiate career, she said she was not as focused on results, but on gauging herself against higher levels of competition.

“It was more than I expected,” Gattone said. “I went in just to get the feel for a college tournament and just see what it was like to compete against a totally different class of players. I wasn’t really focused on results, but at the end when I saw that I finished in the top ten I was ecstatic.”

Gattone has also attributed much of her excellence this season to her coaches, Renee Slone and Jenny Coluccio.

“Coach Slone and Coach Jenny are amazing, and I think we mesh really well,” Gattone said. “They know how to talk to everyone, and play to each of our advantages to make us feel really comfortable out on the course.”

Coming off of her victory in Iowa City, Gattone is looking forward to the team’s next event, the Hoosier Fall Invitational in Noblesville, Ind., and beyond.

“It is going to be a match-play event this year and it’s something we don’t get to compete in often,” Gattone said. “I know Coach (Slone) is going to prepare us very well for it and who knows, it could be good practice for the NCAA’s.”

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