Illini women’s golf wraps up fall season

By Lucas Wright

Illinois women’s golf finished its fall season on a sour note with an eighth-place finish at the 12-team Jim West Challenge in Boerne, Texas, on Monday.

The Illini opened the tournament with an opening round score of 310 on Sunday, which put them in a tie for seventh place, 13 shots out of the lead.

The team recovered somewhat in its second round Monday, where it carded a 17-over-par 305, including a 3-under round from Stephanie Miller. Miller attributed her success to her consistent ability to hit greens in regulation, having hit 16 of 18 greens throughout her round.

“I hit a lot of greens and made some quality putts,” Miller said. “I kept my tempo even all day, and committed myself to make sure I’d golf my own game.”

Illinois finished out its tournament with a 19-over 307 in its final round, which was also played Monday following the second round, due to threatening weather entering the area on Tuesday.

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The slow start on Sunday was not the only reason for Illinois’ struggles, according to head coach Renee Slone.

“Overall, it was a very mediocre tournament for us,” Slone said. “In none of the rounds did we put together four solid scores together. We made a lot of birdies as a team, but we had a bunch of big numbers as well.”

Although their fall season ended on a disappointing note, the Illini had a solid overall showing this fall. Out of its five fall tournaments, Illinois notched two wins: at the Diane Thomason Invitational and the Hoosier Fall Invitational.

The win at the Diane Thomason Invitational in early October was driven by the strongest final round from the Illini all season, a 2-over 291 that gave them a 14-shot lead over host Iowa. The win at Iowa also helped launch freshman Dana Gattone onto the big stage, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors along with her individual tournament win.

The second fall victory came at the Hoosier Fall Invitational at Indiana between Oct. 17-19, where the Illini posted an opening round 302, to give them the 3-seed going into the match play portion of the tournament. Illinois then proceeded to blow out Boston College, narrowly beat host Indiana, and finally top Fresno State in the title match.

The Illini’s second victory of the season was marked by more Big Ten Player of the Week honors. This time the distinction belonged to Miller, who finished second in stroke play with an even-par round, and went 2-1 in match play for the Illini.

Illinois also had a third place finish at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic, the first tournament of the year. The only teams to finish ahead of the Illini were UNLV and SDSU, both top-25 teams, according to Golfstat. There, the Illini put up their lowest single-round total, 289, and their low three-round total, 881.

Illinois rounds out the fall season at 50th in the Golfstat national rankings, and has solidified itself as a top contender in the Big Ten.

The Illini will build on their experiences moving forward, according to Coach Slone.

“There were definitely a lot of positives. We had three strong tournaments and we had a lot of growth, development and learning take place,” Slone said. “We just need to sit down here in the postseason and go over a lot of things as a team to come up with a plan to come out even stronger in the spring.”

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