Illini women’s golf compete this weekend in Arizona

By Lucas Wright

Last year around this time, the Illinois women’s golf team was riding high.

It had just beaten Illinois State in the Illinois Challenge, and headed to Peoria, Arizona, for the Westbrook Spring Invitational.

There, the Illini finished eighth in a field of 14, the start to what was a difficult spring season.

This year, Illinois is in a similar spot, but with more experience and more confidence.

The Illini defeated Illinois State in the Illinois Challenge on Feb. 1, and this weekend, heads back to Arizona for another shot at the Westbrook Spring Invitational.

According to head coach Renee Slone, the team has been hard at work in practice, building on its early season successes.

“Everyone is bringing a lot of energy to practice,” Slone said. “Motivation levels are high, confidence levels are high and I think a lot of positives came from the Illinois Challenge.”

For sophomore Emily Joers, this will be her first event since winning the Big Ten Player of the Week award for her performance in the Challenge. She claimed her success comes from the work she put in over the winter break with a professional.

“She changed my swing around a little bit and helped a lot with my putting and short game,” Joers said. “I was able to gain a lot of confidence in what I was doing and putting it into play really helped with my confidence as well.”

Joers, who has played in every match this season, hadn’t placed higher than 17th before the Illinois Challenge. She shot even par in an 8&7 match play win against Illinois State and was involved in a 3&2 win along with teammate Jan Prapassarangkul in the Illinois Challenge.

Sophomore Stephanie Miller said she’s happy to see Joers playing well, and believes this could be a turning point in Joers’ season.

“Emily is a very dedicated person and I’m really happy to see that she is getting some notoriety and recognition for her effort,” Miller said. “I feel like she is going to have a very good season. She is more confident in her swing and in herself.”

Aside from Joers, Miller and freshman Grace Park are coming off sweeps in the Illinois Challenge.

The course the Illini will play this weekend will be familiar to the upperclassmen on the squad. The team played the same course during last year’s Westbrook Spring Invitational, and according to Joers, it fits the Illini well.

“It’s a really open course. There’s a few holes with some water, but I think this course plays to our strengths,” Joers said. “Our team is a really great putting team, and the greens are kind of slow, so that allows us to be really aggressive with putts.”

This weekend, Slone said the Illini lineup will consist of Miller, Joers, Prapassarangkul, Park and freshman Dana Gattone. Senior Pimploy Thirati will travel with the team and play as an individual in the tournament.

Illinois will face five Big Ten teams in Arizona: Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and tournament host Wisconsin. Six of the 15 teams in the field are ranked in the top 50 in the nation according to Golfweek.

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