The Fighting Illini Women’s Golf team will have to wait another year to make its first NCAA tournament appearance.
Illinois fell just three shots short in today’s NCAA Regional in Madison, Wisconsin. Weather conditions kept the tournament field at bay with team scores in the Top 9 only differing by a slim margin of 8 shots.
Illinois began the day in a three-way-tie for sixth place with the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats (last year’s NCAA runners’ up). With the top six teams advancing to the National Tournament next weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the Illini needed to apply some pressure early to move the needle in their favor. However, a field-wide shotgun start would start the Illini on holes 5 through 8 to begin their final round.
The team held its ground early, but Illinois began to whither as they made the turn to the back 9 with a combined team score of +4. Senior Grace Park would then start the rally with back to back birdies, and junior Bing Singhsumalee followed with a birdie of her own to help bring the team scoring back to +1 for the day.
With just four holes to play in the 2017-2018 season, Illinois clawed their way back into contention with six birdies in the closing stretch. At one point, the Illini had come all the way back to tie for the final NCAA qualifying spot, but gave away a few costly chances in the final few holes to ultimately fall just short of the program’s first ever NCAA tournament birth.
A team led by Seniors Pailin Ruttanasupagid, Chayanid Prapassarangkul, Dana Gattone, and Grace Park finished the season as the 20th ranked team in the country. For a program that has seen consistent success with these four players is something to hang their hats on.
While it’s bittersweet that history will have to wait another year, it’s promising to see this team continuing to establish a winning culture for the future.