Illinois women’s golf wins seventh straight Illinois Challenge

By Lucas Wright

The Illini women’s golf team took home its seventh straight Illinois Challenge title on Sunday in Venice, Florida, beating Illinois State 8-4 in match play.

The day opened with four four-ball matches, where Illinois got out to a huge lead, winning three of the four matches, and halving the remaining matches.

Coach Renee Slone went with a common theme across the Illini’s pairings. She focused on putting youth with experience, shown through the pairings of senior Pimploy Thirati and freshman Dana Gattone, and senior Erin Ahern and freshman Grace Park.

Sophomore Stephanie Miller and senior Michelle Mayer kicked off the four-ball event with a thrilling come-from-behind win. They were one stroke down going into the 16th hole, but rallied to win the final three holes after Miller birdied 17 and 18.

Although she came through in the clutch, Miller praised Mayer for her strong play throughout the day.

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“Michelle had to carry me through the first few holes, and she had to make a spectacular up-and-down from behind the green on No. 16 to push even,” Miller said. “She was our rock and momentum-changer for our match.”

Gattone and Thirati managed a halve in their match with a birdie on No. 18 by Gattone.

The final two Illinois duos secured wins, with Ahern and Park winning three-up and freshman Emily Joers and freshman Chayanid Prapassarangkul winning 3-2.

The Illini took a three-point lead into the afternoon session, which was a traditional match-play setup, with eight total points up for grabs.

The Illini were led by Joers, who won her match 8-7 and Miller who won 5-4. Park clinched the win for the Illini with a 4-3 win over Illinois State’s Maggie Ambrose. The remaining Illini on the course piled it on the Redbirds, including a win by freshman Pailin Ruttanasupagid.

Ruttanasupagid won in her afternoon match and Mayer also helped chip in a point in the morning session.

Although Slone was pleased with her team’s play, she was quick to point out that it was not perfect.

“There were some spots we really need to focus on in the next three weeks,” Slone said. “We need to focus on some short game and work on and around the greens. We’ll put together a game plan moving forward so that we’ll be ready for Arizona at the end of the month.”

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