Illinois women’s golf to compete at Big Ten Championship

By Lucas Wright

The Illinois women’s golf team will compete as the sixth seed at the Big Ten Tournament on April 24-26. The team is coming off three-straight top-six finishes.

The tournament will be held at The Fort Golf Course in Indianapolis, Indiana, a neutral site. The Illini have not played the course before, so they will focus heavily on its aspects during their practice rounds.

“The practice round on Thursday will be instrumental in creating a solid game plan for each individual,” head coach Renee Slone said. “We will be very diligent during that to take good notes and look at the information so that each player can be successful.”

Stephanie Miller will lead the Illini in this event. Miller has the most postseason experience on the team, having finished 15th in last year’s Big Ten Championship. The sophomore is also coming off her best finish of the spring, a 10th-place finish at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational on April 18 and 19. Miller is confident in her team’s ability to contend with the higher ranked teams based off its recent success.

“I know that we can play and compete with the top teams,” Miller said. “We just have to prove to ourselves that we can, and we have to go shoot the good scores that we know we can.”

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Along with Miller, freshman Grace Park is riding a hot streak. Park has notched three-straight top-25 finishes and established a scoring average below 75 on the spring season.

Rounding out the team will be freshmen Dana Gattone and Jan Prapassarangkul, sophomore Emily Joers and senior Pimploy Thirati.

This will be Thirati’s final time competing for Illinois if the team fails to qualify for the Regional Championships — a possibility that has been on her mind. Thirati shot 31-over par and finished in 68th place in her final regular season event at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational. However, she plans to approach the Big Ten Championship differently.

“I’m going to treat this event like it should be fun,” Thirati said. “I put too much pressure on myself last weekend, so going into Big Ten’s I’m going to have a different perspective on it.”

The field consists of three top-50 teams: No. 13 Northwestern, No. 36 Ohio State and No. 39 Purdue. Also ranked ahead of Illinois are Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Illini enter the tournament as the 64th-ranked team in the country.

Illinois has shown flashes of solid play throughout the spring and fall seasons, tallying two tournament victories and six top-five finishes. Going into this weekend’s Big Ten Championship, Slone has confidence in her team’s ability to compete and contend for a title.

“Throughout the season, we have had moments of brilliance,” Slone said. “Every tournament we have gotten better in some manner. I feel like this tournament could be a culmination of all of that learning.”

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