By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
May 10, 2022
The Illinois women’s golf team went into Tuesday’s NCAA Regional second round with the mission of allowing for the realistic possibility of a comeback.
Mission accomplished, sort of.
Following a disappointing opening round that put them 11th in the 12-team Tallahassee Regional at Seminole Legacy Golf Club, Illinois jumped four teams in second round action that saw three Illini players card a 74 or better in difficult conditions. However, the deficit between Illinois qualifying the 2022 NCAA Championship on May 20-25 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona is still double digits.
Illinois sits tied for seventh place at 30-over-par and currently sit 11 shots behind South Carolina, which came into this regional ranked No. 3 in the nation, for the fourth and final transfer spot into the NCAA Championships. Considering Illinois posted a score 12 shots better than their opening round number, Renee Slone’s squad made the biggest leap forward of any team in the regional on Tuesday and will tee off Wednesday morning with an opportunity for a dramatic comeback.
The host Seminoles share the team lead with UCLA in the regional at four-over-par 580 making up a four-shot opening round lead by the Bruins thanks to the play of FSU’s Beatrice Wallin (2-under, 142), who is in second place and just two shots behind with UCLA’s Emma Spitz for the individual medalist honors.
Spitz was one of six players to post an under-par round on Tuesday after back-to-back rounds of 70. Wallin had a roller coaster ride on her home course that included just two pars on her opening nine score of 4-under-par 32 (four birdies, two bogeys and a eagle). However, after a birdie on the par-4 10th, Wallin played the final eight holes at 6-over-par to post a 1-over-par 73. Mississippi State sits in third place comfortably in a position to make the NCAA Championships and South Carolina is seven shots ahead of Miami (Fla.) and eight shots in front of Georgia Southern for the final transfer spot.
Illinois started on the back nine at Seminole and senior Crystal Wang, sophomore Isabel Sy and junior Siyan Chen all made the turn at 1-over 37 or better to get the Illini on the path to a second-day comeback.
Wang, originally from Diamond Bar, California who was named to the All-Big Ten team last week, managed to play the front nine at 1-under-par 35 to turn in an even-par 72 to place her tied for 20th individually after two days. Sy was 1-under through 16 holes Tuesday but bogeyed the final two holes to post 73. Chen played the four par-5 holes at 2-under-par Tuesday and recovered from an early double bogey to play the remaining 17 holes at even-par to post 74.
If Illinois can somehow get four scores around even-par in the final round earlier in the day, the 11-shot deficit might be eliminated while all the Illini players are already in the clubhouse with signed scorecards based on course conditions and pin placements for the final day of competition set for Wednesday morning.
This is the fifth-consecutive NCAA Regional appearance and ninth overall in Illinois women’s golf history. The Illini posted a 13th place finish at the 2021 NCAA Columbus Regional a season ago. The only time Illini have advanced to the NCAA Championships was the ninth place finish in 2019 led by Wang, Kornkamol Sukaree, Tristyn Nowlin and Bing Singhsumalee.
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