Freshman Stephanie Miller produced four rounds under par in the fall season.
Dec. 4, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 2013 fall season is in the books for the Illinois women's golf team, a season that brought many highs and records. Despite only one senior on the team, the Illini played with great composure and skill in the five tournaments of this fall season, finishing in the top-three in all but one.
"What a journey it has been for our program in the past several months," said Illinois head coach Renee Slone. "It has been exciting to see the team members embrace our vision and create challenging goals that have raised the bar. We enjoyed many successes this fall and are highly motivated to stay focused on our process to continue our progress this spring. We know that by doing the little things each and every day we will achieve great things."
The Illini successfully bounced back from a down 2013 spring season, thanks in particular to the addition of freshmen Stephanie Miller and Emily Joers. Miller and Joers played a key part in the fall season, traveling to all five tournaments and finishing in the team top four in each.
The season started at the Ptrarmigan Ram Classic in Fort Collins, Colorado, where Sam Postillion started off the season with a strong even par weekend. Postillion's fifth place finish was a new career best for the redshirt junior. The Illini finished third at the tournament, with Ember Schuldt and Stephanie Miller each shooting rounds of 69.
The strong start to the season fed the Illini into the Minnesota Invitational, where Illinois finished just one stroke behind champion Kent State. Miller and Schuldt finished second and third, respectively, while Joers finished eighth. Miller led the comeback effort on the back nine in the final round, where she went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie on holes 12-15.
The Orange and Blue hit their stride in Iowa City, Iowa, where they captured the team crown at the Diane Thomason Invitational against a field of twelve teams, including four Big Ten teams. The Illini defeated second place Kansas by five strokes, while Miller won the individual competition by a staggering 10 strokes. Miller's three under par total ranked as the sixth lowest score in Illinois history for a 54-hole tournament. In addition, Miller became the first freshman golfer since Becky Biehl in 1992 to win a tournament outright. As a result, the Elgin, Ill. native was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week and Golfweek's College Player of the Week.
Coming off of their first win since February of 2012, the Illini competed next at the Hoosier Invitational with their new top-25 team ranking by Golfstat. Illinois continued their consistent play, finishing second overall, making it four straight tournaments finishing in the top three. Ember Schuldt finished third overall while Miller finished 11th.
Finally, the Illini traveled to Kiawah Island, South Carolina the last week in October to cap off their fall season against a strong 19 team field. Playing through delays due to darkness and a challenging course, the Illini finished tied for fifth. The Illini top four of Schuldt (T-16), Miller (T-22), Postillion (T-22) and Joers (T-26) all finished in the top 30 out of a field of 99.
Over the course of the fall season, Miller and Schuldt had the top two strokes per round averages for the Illini, at 73.40 and 73.73 respectively. In addition, the duo totaled a combined seven rounds under par and two even-par rounds. Furthermore, Postillion (75.07) and Joers (76.13) finished third and fourth while junior Erin Ahern, redshirt junior Jackie Calamaro and junior Michelle Mayer all rotated at the fifth position over the course of the season.
The Illini certainly have a lot of momentum heading into the 2014 spring season. After climbing 84 spots in the Golfstat rankings, Illinois finished the fall at No. 38, their highest end of fall ranking since at least 2002. The spring 2014 season will begin on February 2nd, when the Illini host the Illinois Challenge in Venice, Florida.