Illinois, No. 29 in the latest Golfstat rankings, won its second straight tournament title and third of the season when Sunday’s final round of the Lady Buckeye Invitational was wiped out by the massive storm that brought winter back to the northern tier.
But everybody who teed it up at the Ohio State Golf Club’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio for 36 holes in summerlike conditions Saturday benefited from having their games challenged by one of the great campus golf courses in the country, a course good enough to stage a Web.com Tour event.
For many teams in the field it was the final dress rehearsal before they head for conference championships. It was something of a Big Ten Championship preview without two of the conference’s perennial powers, Northwestern and Purdue. And again, there could no better preparation for college golf’s postseason than the Scarlet Course.
The Fighting Illini will take a lot of momentum to TPC River’s Bend in Maineville, Ohio when the Big Ten Championship tees off Friday.
Behind individual co-champion Grace Park, a senior from San Jose, Calif., Illinois opened with a 1-under 287 over the 6,319-yard, par-72 Scarlet Course layout Saturday morning and added a 4-over 292 in the afternoon for a 3-over 579 total.
No 16 Kent State, which qualified for match play in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms last spring, matched Illinois’ opening-round 287 before adding a 10-over 298 that left the Golden Flashes six shots behind the Illini in second at 9-over 585.
No. 12 Michigan State will head to TPC River’s Bend as the defending Big Ten champion Friday, not last year’s national runnerup Northwestern, not Purdue, not Ohio State nor Illinois. The Spartans tuned up for their title defense by finishing third at 16-over 592. They were right in the hunt after opening with a 3-over 291, but struggled to an afternoon 301.
A couple of Pac-12 invaders, No. 15 Washington and No. 57 Oregon State, accounted for the next two spots as the Huskies took fourth at 17-over 593 and the Beavers were three more shots back in fifth at 20-over 596. Washington had solid rounds of 295 and 298 while Oregon State bounced back from an opening-round 301 with a 7-over 295.
No. 63 Indiana posted a 5-over 293 in the afternoon Saturday to move into sixth place at 21-over 597 and host Ohio State, ranked 39th, was another shot behind the Hoosiers in seventh at 598. The Buckeyes put together rounds of 300 and 298 on their home course.
No. 66 Penn State posted rounds of 306 and 300 to finish ninth at 30-over 606. The Nittany Lions finished behind four Big Ten teams, but ahead of three others.
Seton Hall, ranked 119th, but probably deserving to be in the top 100, was last in the 14-team field at 623 after rounds of 309 and 314. But the Pirates will benefit greatly from their trip to Columbus as they head for the Big East Championship, which tees off Friday at the Callawassie Island Golf Club in Okatie, S.C.
The Lady Buckeye also afforded teams to go with a six-player lineup, one more than the customary five, although the top four scores counted, as usual. It was one last chance for coaches to resolve any battles for that starting five they will take to the conference championships. It has to be one of the toughest calls a coach has to make and often these battles have been going on since Day One last August.
Park led the way for the Fighting Illini, opening with a 3-under 69 and adding an even-par 72 for a 3-under 141 total. Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong, a talented sophomore from Thailand, opened with a 4-under 68 before posting a 1-over 73 in the afternoon to get a share of medalist honors with Park.
Illinois also got a strong showing from Tristyn Nowlin, a sophomore from Richmond, Ky. who finished tied for fourth at even-par 144 after a pair of solid even-par 72s.
Dana Gattone, a senior from Addison, Ill., gave the Fighting Illini a third top-10 finisher as she added an even-par 72 in the afternoon to her opening-round 75 to finish tied for 10th at 3-over 147.
Bing Singhaumalee, a junior from Naperville, Ill., finished tied for 25th at 150 after adding a 78 to a solid opening-round 72. Charyanid Prapassarangkul, a senior from Thailand, finished tied for 27th at 151 with a 2-over 74 in the morning that was Illinois’ final counter in the opening round, and a 77 in the afternoon.
Rounding out the Illinois contingent was Ali Moralios, a freshman from Long Beach, Calif. who finished tied for 36th at 152 with a pair of 76s.
Toledo’s Pinyada Kuvanun, a junior from Thailand, finished alone in third place in the individual chase. Kuvanun added a 2-under 70 to her opening-round 73 and was the only other player beside the top two to finish under par on the tough Scarlet Course at 1-under 143.
Sharing fourth place with Illinois’ Nowlin at even-par 144 was Washington’s Wenyung Keh, a junior from New Zealand who added a 2-over 74 to her opening-round 70. As a freshman two springs ago, Keh went 3-0 in match play at Eugene Country Club to play a huge role in the Huskies’ unlikely march to the NCAA championship.
Kent State’s Karoline Stormo, a sophomore from Norway, and Pilar Echeverria, a sophomore from Guatemala at the Division II University of Indianapolis (UIndy for short), finished tied for sixth at 1-over 145. Stormo opened with a 1-under 71 before carding a 2-over 74 in the afternoon. Echeverria fired a 2-under 70 in the second round after opening up with a 75.
I’m not sure Denise St. Pierre’s Penn State team can do enough to earn a berth in an NCAA regional. But it has been a solid season for the Nittany Lions as they head for TPC River’s Bend.
It was a season that began with a weeklong trip to Ireland for some team bonding in August as the Nittany Lions got to experience golf in the home of teammate Ariana Coyle Diez, a senior from Dublin. I’m certain there will be lifelong memories from that week because nobody does a road trip like a group of Nittany Lions.
They were led by junior Cara Basso, the 2012 PIAA Class AA champion as a sophomore at Villa Maria Academy. Basso, winner of the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia Match-Play Championship last summer, has emerged as Penn State’s top player and she finished tied for 13th at 4-over 148 with rounds of 76 and 72.
Junior Jackie Rogowicz, a two-time PIAA runnerup at Pennsbury, finished tied for 27th at 151 after finishing strong with a 2-over 74.
Three Nittany Lions – junior Lauren Waller, the 2014 PIAA Class AAA runnerup as a senior Canon-McMillan, sophomore Megan McLean, a Voorhees High product, and Kamerine Taylor, a junior from Dublin, Ohio – ended up in the group tied for 46th at 155. Weller and McLean both went 78-77 while Taylor opened with a 75 before adding an 80 in the afternoon.
Sophomore Madelein Herr, the 2015 District One Class AAA champion as a senior at Council Rock North, struggled at the Scarlet Course, carding an opening-round 78 before finishing up with an 85.
Seton Hall will head for Callawassie Island thinking it has a shot to win a Big East Championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals.
The Pirates were led by sophomore Maddie Sager, the 2015 PIAA Class AAA runnerup as a senior at Owen J. Roberts. Sager opened with a 75 before adding a 78 to finish in the group tied for 43rd at 153.
Freshman Mia Kness, the 2016 PIAA Class AAA champion as a senior at Peters Township, finished tied for 46th at 155. Kness opened up with a solid 2-over 74 before struggling to an 81 in the afternoon.
Sophomore Sammie Staudt, a former Coatesville standout, had rounds of 80 and 78 to finish tied for 61st at 158. Cassie Pantelas, a senior from Canton, Ohio, and Lizzie Win, a sophomore from Sylvania, Ohio, both landed with the group tied for 65th at 159. Both went 80-79 for the day.
Rounding out the Seton Hall contingent was senior Macky Fouse, the 2013 PIAA Class AA champion as a senior at Central Valley. Fouse struggled at the Scarlet Course with rounds of 83 and 85 to finish 82nd at 168.