Illini women’s golf powered by strong freshman play

By Lucas Wright

The Illini women’s golf team has been riding the hot play of its freshmen this spring. Illinois has played in four stroke-play events this spring, and in each event a freshman has led the way.

In the last two tournaments, the team’s strong play has started with freshman Grace Park, who has been the team’s standout.

Park shot a career low 70 at the Briar’s Creek Invitational March 23-24, where she finished 23rd with a 6-over par 222. She followed that performance with a career-high finish at the Web.com Intercollegiate March 30-31, placing 11th in the 96-player field — first among the Illini — and shooting an even-par 216, which included two rounds of 1-under 71.

During the fall season, Park’s play wasn’t good enough to place high in tournaments, but consistent practice has helped her tremendously.

“She has gained some yardage off the tee,” head coach Renee Slone said. “She understands now how to approach the golf course and has better course management skills.”

Jan Prapassarangkul was the top Illini finisher in the Westbrook Spring Invitational with a second-place finish, shooting 3-under 213 for the tournament. She followed up with another second-place finish at the Hurricane Invitational. Prapassarangkul shot a season-low round of 69 in the final round, to finish at 1-over 214.

Dana Gattone, who finished 82nd in the Hurricane Invitational — the team’s last competition before the Briar’s Creek Invitational — got back on track at the invite and finished in a tie for 14th. Gattone shot a 4-over 220 on the tournament, which featured a career-low round of 69 in the final round.

“I was ready to have a really good tournament,” Gattone said. “I had been practicing really hard the previous few weeks, after I had struggled in the last tournament.”

Miller has suffered late season struggles

Coming in to the season, all signs pointed toward sophomore Stephanie Miller being the leader of this young Illini team.

Miller advanced to last season’s NCAA Regional, and was the recipient of two Big Ten Player of the Week awards in the fall; however, Miller has faltered in the spring.

Miller has yet to finish higher than 32nd, and she has only broken par in one out of 12 rounds.

Looking forward to April 18th and 19th, Miller will have a chance to rebound at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational. History will not be on her side, however. Miller finished in a tie for 50th last season in Columbus, Ohio.

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