Western Illinois women’s golf team ends Indiana State Invitational on a high note

Nicole Hamilton-Cross follows through her swing.

GOLEATHERNECKS.COM

Nicole Hamilton-Cross follows through her swing.

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

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On Monday, the Leatherneck women’s golf team looked to finish the Indiana State Invitational on a high note. The event held at the Country Club of Terre Haute was the last matchup of the regular season for Western Illinois, and after making a statement in their previous match, they had high hopes that they could keep their momentum churning into this one.

Western’s competition in the invitational posed an onerous task for them to overcome. Battling the Leathernecks in the two-day event was Eastern Illinois, Green Bay, Dayton, Evansville, Valparaiso, Purdue Fort Wayne, Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Loyola, Butler, California Baptist and Youngstown State. Of the opposing schools, Butler stood out as a program ranked 59th nationally according to NCSASports.org. The Bulldogs would prove worthy of their ranking as the match played out. Nonetheless, the Purple and Gold had plenty of optimism as they felt they were just beginning to play their best golf of the year.

However, things didn’t go exactly as planned as the lady Leathernecks struggled to find their groove early on. An area where the team just couldn’t get things going was on the green, where several misfires around the cup left them with a tough hill to climb back to the top of the standings. Nicole Hamilton-Cross (Jr.) provided a spark for her squad through the first 18 holes, where she led the bunch with a 77 (+5). Falling next in line was Mariah Peters (Sr.), who fired an 80 (+8). As a team, WIU shot a combined score of 323, falling to dead last on the leaderboards with one round left to play. Head Coach Lia Biehl Lukkarinen stressed the importance of improving in the second-half of the meet.

“We let a couple of holes get away from us,” Lukkarinen said. “We need to capitalize on the greens that were holding and improve our stats getting up and down.”

Day two of the invitational showed some steady improvement amongst her squad. Just as it did in the first round, a score of 77 (+5) led the team, this time coming from the clubs of Emily Marrs (Fr.). This left her off with a total 164 (+20) for the event. Hamilton-Cross provided rock-solid play once again, finishing with a team-best total of 157 (+13) after firing an 80 on Monday. Peters, after a sufficient day-one outing, stayed right on track with an 82 in the concluding round, ending with a tally of 162 (+18). Right behind them were Cassidy Jurkaites (Jr.) and Katie McTaggart (Sr.), who rounded out the starting lineup with scores of 165 (+21) and 171 (+27), respectively. As a team, the Purple and Gold finished 13th out of 13 qualifying teams.

Lukkarinen spoke again following the meet, acknowledging that her squad will have to improve in certain areas of their game before the postseason tournament.

“We will be focusing on iron accuracy and our short game as we prep for The Summit League Championships,” said Lukkarinen.

While this wasn’t the kind of performance the lady Leathernecks envisioned to conclude their regular season, this won’t deter them from giving their utmost effort in prepping for The Summit League Championships. They’ll have just under two weeks to do so, as they’ll head to Newton, Kan. on April 21 to compete in the biggest event of the year

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