Former Fighting Illini great Renee Slone completed her seventh season as the University of Illinois head women's golf coach in 2012-13. Slone was named the third women's golf coach in school history on June 8, 2006. She replaced her former coach and mentor Paula Smith, who retired at the conclusion of the 2006 season after 28 years directing the UI golf program. Slone, formerly Renee Heiken, played for the Illini from 1990-93 and is the most decorated golfer in UI history.
"The University of Illinois was a very special place for me as a student-athlete," Slone said. "I plan to move the team forward and challenge for Big Ten and NCAA titles in the near future."
Behind Slone, Illinois has already started making those strides. In the fall of 2006, the Fighting Illini shattered the 54-hole school record by firing a cumulative total of 890 at the Shootout at the Legends to finish second overall. Additionally, the Orange and Blue's final-round total of 292 was just one shot off the single-round school record.
In the spring of 2007, Slone continued to improve the program. The lady golfers finished third at the Indiana Invitational and notched the school's third-lowest 72-hole tournament total at the 2007 Big Ten Championships with a 1255.
During the 2007-08 season, Slone coached the Illini to two tournament victories at the Gainesville Shootout III and the Illini Spring Classic as well as a second consecutive runner-up finish at the Shootout at the Legends. The Orange and Blue had a stretch of six straight top-five finishes during the year and posted the second-best season scoring average in school history (308.44). The Illini also matched the lowest team round (291) at the 2008 Samford Intercollegiate and the team's tournament total of 898 at the 2008 Indiana Invitational ranks second in school history for a 54-hole tournament.
In the 2008-09 season, the Illini boasted the fifth-lowest season scoring average (315.09) in school history with a youthful lineup, including seven freshmen, one sophomore and one senior. The team made history at the season-opening tournament, sending five freshmen to the event for the first time in the program's history.
In the spring of 2010, Illinois won its first tournament since the 2007-08 season at the UC Spring Invitational, shooting the second lowest 54-hole tournament total (893) in the program's history. At the Big Ten Championships, the Illini made program history finishing the 72-hole tournament with a total of 1230, the lowest score to date. Not only did Slone coach Illinois to record breaking team finishes, but each individual golfer posted or tied her career low round and experienced her career low 54-hole tournament total during the 2009-10 season.
The 2010-11 season was full of milestones. The Illini advanced to the NCAA Regional Championship for the third time in program history, as well as set new team records at the time. At the first tournament of the season, the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic, Illinois set the then-lowest team round in school history, carding a three-under 285. Later in the fall, the Illini shot a one-over 281 during the Challenge at Onion Creek, the second lowest team round in school history.
In 2011-12, Illinois earned a berth to regionals for the second year in a row and fourth time in school history, tying for 14th at the NCAA West Regional. The Illini placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships, which was the program's best finish since 2002 and top showing at the conference tournament under Slone. The Orange and Blue won a team title to start off the spring and recorded eight top-five team finishes. The Illini also twice set the team school record for a 54-hole tournament total and turned in the top two individual tournament and team single round performances in school history.
In 2012-13, the Fighting Illini reloaded its roster with young talent, after the notable Class of 2012 left Champaign-Urbana. Led by the experienced junior Ember Schuldt, Slone helped develop rookie Samantha Postillion into a contender. Illinois' season was highlighted by a third-place finish at the Wolverine Invitational, in which Schuldt and Michelle Mayer finished in the top 10, and the fifth-straight victory over Illinois State at the Illinois Challenge in February.
To add to the excitement, the Illinois athletic department opened the 16,000-square foot Demirjian Golf Practice Facility. The facility features large chipping and putting areas, heated hitting bays that open onto an outdoor driving range and full locker rooms, complete with a lounge and study areas for the players.
"The Demirjian Facility is an excellent practice venue for our team," Slone said. "The building has been a tremendous asset for both the men's and women's golf programs and will play a key role as we work toward building a championship program."
As a player, Slone had an unparalleled career while donning the Orange and Blue. During her senior season in 1993, she averaged a school-record 74.33 strokes per round, claimed a school-record eight medalist titles - including the Big Ten Championship - and was named the 1993 National College Player of the Year by both the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) and Golfweek Magazine. Throughout her career she was a three-time All-American, claiming three straight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships (1991 - 3rd, 1992 - t-4th, 1993 - t-6th). She also was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year (1992, `93), two-time Big Ten Championship Medalist (1991, `93) and two-time UI Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year (1991, `92).
Slone remains Illinois' career-stroke average leader (75.53) and owns the top two single-season stroke averages in school history. In addition, she holds two of the top five single-round scores, two of the top-four 54-hole scores and the top three 72-hole scores.
Slone also earned notoriety when she tied the LPGA 9-hole record of 28 at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. After her stellar Illini career, Slone continued playing as a member of the LPGA Tour from 1995-97 and also spent time on the Futures Tour and Ladies Asian Tour.
Following her playing career, Slone moved into coaching as assistant coach for both the men's and women's golf teams at Bradley University during the 1999-2000 season. The following season, she returned to the University of Illinois and served as an assistant coach under Smith during the spring of 2001 while finishing up her bachelor's degree in business administration-marketing. In addition to customary assistant coach duties, Slone was designated as the team's head coach for two tournaments, the Illini Spring Classic and the Big Ten Championships.
Since that one-year stint as an assistant at Illinois, Slone served as an Assistant Golf Professional at two different courses in the south. She has served as the manger and golf professional at Sherwood Forest Golf Club in Brevard, N.C. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Professional at Connestee Falls Country Club in Brevard, N.C., where she established a "Clubs in the Classroom" campaign introducing hundreds of young children to the game of golf. She also was responsible for clinic development and instruction, in addition to helping with all daily golf operations and personnel.
A native of Metamora, Ill., Slone had an outstanding junior career before coming to Illinois, finding success at the area, state and national levels. She won an unprecedented four consecutive Peoria Women's City Titles (1987-90), was a two-time IHSA Individual State Champion (1987, `89), and was a three-time American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-American.
In 2004, Slone was inducted into both the National Golf Coaches Association Players Hall of Fame and the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.
THE RENEE SLONE FILE
Maiden Name: Renee Heiken
Born: June 2, 1972
Hired: June 8, 2006
Family: Married Rick Slone in 2001
University of Illinois - B.S. Business Administration-Marketing
|2006-||Head Coach, University of Illinois Women's Golf|
|2005-06||Manager & Golf Professional, Sherwood Forest Golf Club, Brevard, NC|
|2002-05||Asst. Golf Professional, Connestee Falls Country Club, Brevard, N.C.|
|2001-02||Asst. Golf Professional/GM, Country Club of West Georgia, Villa Rica, Ga.|
|2001||Asst. Coach, University of Illinois Women's Golf|
|2000||Asst. Coach, Bradley University Men's and Women's Golf|
|1990-93||University of Illinois|
|NGCA and Golfweek National Player of the Year (1993)|
|Three-time All-American (1991, '92, '93)|
|Three-time NCAA Tournament Top-10 finisher (`91 - 3rd, `92 - t-4th, `93 - t-6th)|
|Two-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year (1992, '93)|
|Two-time Big Ten Conference Individual Champion (1991, '93)|
|Three-time All-Big Ten (1991, '92, '93)|
|Two-time Academic All-Big Ten (1992, '93)|
|Two-time Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year (1991, '92)|
|UI Career Stroke Average Leader (75.35)|
|1986-89||Metamora Township HS, Metamora, Ill.|
|Two-time IHSA Individual State Champion (1987, '89)|
|Three-time AJGA All-American (1986, '88, '89)|
Updated June 2013