This past weekend our team was in Orange Park, Florida competing in the Eagle Landing Invitational. The Eagle Landing event hosted by James Madison is personally one of my favorite tournaments of the year. Our team has ventured to Orange Park the past four years so all five team members have had past experience on the course.
One of the reasons this event happens to be a favorite is the fact that we get to stay with a host family. Every year we have stayed with the Painter family and truly enjoy our time with them. As always, Mrs. Painter has the best breakfast for us before each round. It is pretty much a feast with all types of cereal, fruit salad with all of our favorite fruits, bagels, and more. The breakfast is so good that some teammates (Nora Lucas & Sammi Sloan) will eat some cereal and fruit for dessert! Another really enjoyable part of staying with the Painter's is getting to hear about the trips they take across the world. This year, Mr. Painter showed us a slide show of a safari they went on in Africa. The pictures were beautiful and they were able to get up close to some amazing animals like lions. Of course, I thought all of the wild animals were adorable even though they are all wild. Hopefully one day we'll have the opportunity to travel the globe and see some of these things as well!
The Painters are wonderful to stay with, but another reason I love this tournament is the course itself. I think Eagle Landing is a great course - the fairways are wider, yet it is imperative to hit them otherwise you end up in hazards or tall pine trees. The greens are on the larger side forcing you to hit some aggressive approaches to give yourself the best birdie opportunities. The course provides a unique challenge as there are plenty of opportunities, but you have to remain focused to succeed.
The first day of competition was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out, there was no wind, and it was really warm. We got off to an ok start and all spent plenty of time at the practice area following play to prepare for the second round. Our practice paid off as we posted a very solid second round score. The weather during that second round wasn't nearly as good as the clouds rolled in and wind picked up significantly, but that gives our team a lot of confidence given our performance. Eagle Landing plays much more difficult with the conditions we had in round two, but each teammate buckled down, stayed focused, and performed. Considering this tournament is ran by tee times rather than a shot gun start we were able to cheer for each other on the final hole. The shots I saw into that green were really solid especially considering the tricky pin location given a large lake to the left and a very strong wind. Ember Schuldt and I both hit great shots to about 10 feet (I'm still not sure who would have won closest to the pin), but that allowed me to roll in a birdie to shoot 73 while Ember had an easy par for 75. Nora led the way that round with a 1 under par 71.
Following our second round we placed ourselves in the lead group for the final round. The wind had calmed a little bit and it was still nice and warm outside. We ended up shooting a 304 to finish up the tournament in 5th. While it wasn't quite the finish we were looking for, there are some learning experiences we can take from the final round and the tournament as a whole. It is always exciting to put yourself in position for the win and next time we'll be able to take these experiences and improve on our final round. Since our return to Champaign, we've had a team meeting to discuss areas of improvement and we know exactly what we need to do to prepare for our spring break trip. We'll be returning to St. George, Utah, where we competed last year during spring break as well. Ember, Hailey, and I competed there last year so we've helped our teammates determine exactly what we should all focus on to shoot some low scores at Entrada.
Remember to check out fightingillini.com next week to see the results! And one more HUGE thank you to the Painter's for warmly welcoming us into your home the past four years. I know all of us graduating seniors will miss coming down to Orange Park for the Eagle Landing Invitational.
<3 Katie or as my teammates call me Dilge