Illini women’s golf gets back in action in Ohio

By Lucas Wright

Illinois women’s golf head coach Renee Slone will lead her team into its final regular season tournament this weekend at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational.

The Illini will face a tough task against a field filled with Big Ten teams on a difficult course. The Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, was designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the same man who designed Augusta National Golf Club — the club that hosts The Masters.

The course has a few distinct features that the Illini have to take into consideration.

“There’s a lot of different lies you could possibly have, along with big bunkers and sharply sloping greens,” assistant coach Jenny Coluccio said. “It’s not completely new to us but it is something we definitely have to consider as we prep for the weekend.”

The team will look to continue their recent success as they head into the weekend with two straight top-five finishes. Freshman Grace Park has been the catalyst for the team, posting two straight top-25 finishes.

In Illinois’ last event, the team finished with three players inside the top 25: Park, Gattone and freshman Jan Prapassarangkul.

“We’re ready to go,” sophomore Stephanie Miller said. “There’s a lot of high energy, and we feel that we are all prepared. We’re ready to put ourselves back out there and compete.”

The team will take six players, as opposed to the usual five, to the tournament this weekend: Miller, Gattone, Prapassarangkul, Park, sophomore Emily Joers and senior Pimploy Thirati.

Thirati has not qualified to appear in the last two matches for the Illini, but Gattone said Thirati made sure she would compete in the final regular season match of her career.

“Our team has been working really hard, Pim (Thirati) especially,” Gattone said. “I know she was working really hard to get into the lineup, and she played great in qualifying.”

Some of the Illini will be sporting new equipment at Columbus this weekend, as the team was fitted for new putters during practice last week. Prapassarangkul, Park, Thirati and possibly Miller will each be putting their new Edel brand putters to the test. The team is hoping that the new putters will spark some life into the Illini on the greens.

“Whenever you have something customized to exactly what you do, it certainly gives you confidence with that club in your hand,” Coluccio said.

Illinois will compete against a strong field of teams this weekend, including many they will see at next week’s Big Ten Championship. Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and host Ohio State are the Big Ten teams in the field.

Illinois’ biggest competition this weekend will be Ohio State. The Illini have yet to finish ahead of the Buckeyes this season, falling to them by 13 strokes at the Intercollegiate in March and by five strokes at the Westbrook Spring Invitational in February.

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