Illini women’s golf finish 5th in second-straight tournament

By Lucas Wright

Things are starting to look up for the Illinois women’s golf team following its second-straight top-five finish this week at the Web.com Intercollegiate.

The Illini finished the tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, with a final score of 13-over par 877. The first and second rounds were played Monday, and the third round was played Tuesday.

Head coach Renee Slone’s team jumped out to a quick start in the opening round, posting a 1-over 289 in fourth place. In round two, Illinois shot the fifth-lowest round on the day, a 5-over 293 to secure the fifth-place position by six shots over North Florida. The final round featured another strong effort from the Illini — they posted a 7-over 295 to again finish in fifth, 10 shots ahead of 44th-ranked Chanticleers.

An unlikely hero emerged for the Illini this week as freshman Grace Park led the way with an even par 216. Park opened the first round with a 1-under 71, followed by a second round 1-over 73. She concluded the tournament with another 1-under round of 71. She finished tied for 11th individually.

A few team members have said that Park has added some length off the tee since the fall, but Park said she believes that another part of her game is making a big impact on her scores.

“My putting has gotten a lot more consistent over these last few weeks,” Park said. “That has really helped me with my confidence, and I was able to hit a couple good shots because of that.”

Although Park’s game has come together as of late, Slone said that it has not come easily for Park.

“This has been a work in progress for her throughout the season,” Slone said. “She has been very coachable, and she has really taken to heart and worked hard on those areas we have worked on.”

Along with Park, two other Illinois freshman stepped up this week: Dana Gattone and Jan Prapassarangkul.

Gattone finished with a score of 4-over 220 for the week and finished in a tie for 25th­­. She tallied nine birdies, a team high. She had the chance to tie Park in the final round; however, Gattone finished her final six holes at 4-over.

Despite the rough finish, Gattone was still pleased with her play.

“Overall I was pretty happy with how I played, but (Tuesday) I wish I had finished a little better,” Gattone said. “I was hitting the ball well and managing the course well, so I was happy with that.”

Prapassarangkul carded 3-over on the week, behind three consecutive rounds of 1-over 73. Her top-25 performance (tied for 22nd) was a good sign to Slone, who said Prapassarangkul had been dealing with a sore ankle that she had injured at the Briar’s Creek Invitational last week.

Rounding out the Illini scores were sophomore Stephanie Miller, who finished with a 6-over 222 and sophomore Emily Joers, who finished at 16-over 232.

Looking forward to their last few events, Slone is positive that the Illini will continue this success and finish out their season on a high note.

“We’ve posted some solid numbers against competitive fields,” Slone said. “Things are definitely moving in the right direction, and yet we know we’re barely scraping the surface. We’ve left some shots out on the course, and we need to tighten a few things up, and we will be there (in the end of the season).”

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