Illini women’s golf heads into break content fall season

By Lucas Wright

The Illini women’s golf team has gone into the winter break with a successful fall season.

Two victories, three Big Ten Players of the Week awards and one individual victory are just a few of the accolades this team has already achieved.

Illinois opened its season with three freshmen and two sophomores on the roster. Despite having such a young team, it showed it had potential.

The Illini notched a third-place finish in their opening tournament at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in Colorado in September. The third-place finish included topping top-50 ranked Colorado and California. Illinois finished with four golfers inside the top 30, including freshman Dana Gattone, who opened her collegiate career with a 1-over-par 217 in the three rounds.

“I was excited to get out and compete again,” Gattone said. “I just got in the competitive mindset and started playing well.” 

Following the strong start, the Illini faltered at their next tournament, the Minnesota Invitational, finishing with a 56-over 920. Their score gave them a 10th-place finish, their worst finish of the fall season.

Illinois rebounded from its poor finish at Minnesota by defending their title at The Diane Thomason Invitational, shooting a 917 and winning by 14 shots over Iowa. The Illini were led once again by Gattone, who earned her first individual win by tying for first at 10-over. Gattone also went on to win the Big Ten Player of the Week honor for her performance.

“(Winning Big Ten Player of the Week) was a pretty big achievement for me, but it was something that hadn’t really crossed my mind in the start of the season,” Gattone said. “After earning that, it kind of propelled me forward to have a really great season.”

The final two matches were led by one of Illinois’ leader sophomores, Stephanie Miller.

The Illini took on a match-play competition at Indiana in the middle of October, where they notched their second team win of the year. Illinois topped Boston College, Indiana and Fresno State on its way to the title. The win also helped Miller win the Big Ten Player of the Week award by going 2-1 in match play and shooting even par in the stroke play round.

The final match of the year at the Jim West Challenge was a disappointment in the eyes of coach Renee Slone, where Illinois shot a 922, finishing in eighth. Slone called the match a “very mediocre” finish to their fall season. Despite a poor team showing, Miller managed to win her second Big Ten Player of the Week award, shooting a 6-over 224 in the three rounds in Texas.

Notwithstanding the rough ending to the season, assistant coach Jenny Coluccio was positive about the season as a whole.

“I would say we played pretty well (during the fall season),” Coluccio said. “We had set out to win a few tournaments, and we at least put ourselves in contention to win some high-level tournaments. What we want to do now is improve our ranking, and that will require us to play more and in stronger fields.”

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