ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia women’s golf team will return to action on Monday at the Illini Invitational, the third or four tournaments on the Bulldogs’ fall state. Last season, Georgia shot a tournament-record 15-under tally en route to winning the Illini team title at historic Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.
“It’s always an honor to come here,” Jenny Bae said. “We did win last year, so we come back with a lot of confidence. I know it’s going to be a little bit more difficult conditions this year because last year there was rain. Now, it’s going to be a lot firmer and faster, but we can handle it.”
The Bulldogs’ lineup will include super seniors Bae and Jo Hua Hung, seniors Caterina Don and Candice Mahé and junior Isabella Holpfer. In addition, sophomore LoraLie Cowart will compete as an individual.
The tournament will be the first appearances this fall for Holpfer and Mahé. Holpfer was Georgia’s top individual finisher in last year’s Illini Invitational, tying for sixth at 5-under 211.
“We feel like we’re eight deep and are excited to have a couple of new people competing this week,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “All of them have been involved either at the NCAA Regional win in 2021 or helping us get to match play (at the NCAA Championships) last spring . . . or both. If you look at it, it’s a very experienced group and a group that deserves a chance to play and try to get us back on the right track during the fall season.”
Bae is off to a stellar start this fall, with a pair of top-10 individual finishes including a runner-up showing at the Mason Rudolph Championships two weeks ago. She has played six fall rounds at a combined 11-under, with five par-or-better efforts and three scores in the 60s.
“I’m pleased with how I’m playing right now. That’s for sure,” Bae said. “There are things that I do need to work on, a few things I need to tweak. Overall, I’m really happy with where I currently stand, and I’m confident going into this tournament.”
It will be Mahé’s first outing for the Bulldogs since tying for sixth individually and then defeating Stanford’s Rose Zhang in the quarterfinal round of match play at the NCAA Championships in May.
“When I came back from summer, I actually had a wrist injury that put me out of the first two qualifiers,” Mahé said. “I had a cortisone shot three weeks ago, and since that time I’ve really felt good. I’m super happy to be back with the team and see what we can do for the rest of the fall. I obviously played the whole summer, but it was different because it was not with my teammates. I’m excited to be back in the lineup and compete after what we did at nationals last season.
“What I did at nationals was really good and put me in this level of confidence,” Mahé added. “I have a lot of confidence going into the first tournament, but it’s never good to have too much confidence either. I think it’s a good balance between those two.”
The Bulldogs traveled to Illinois on Friday and played that afternoon to begin adjusting to the cooler climate.
“I think it was important to play Friday and start to get a feel for how far the golf ball will go in cold weather,” Brewer said. “We’ll continue to adjust, even into tournament rounds. I think we’re really good at that as a program, so we’ve got to make sure we play to our strengths. We did it last year for NCAA Regionals and nationals when the ball flew further. Here, you’ve got to adjust and to the other way.”
“Obviously, it’s a lot colder here compared to Georgia,” Bae said. “I do just want to make sure how far each club is going to be flying so that I’m not confused when I actually go off the first tee. There’s some other normal stuff like green reading and speed for putting.”
Four of five Power 5 conferences are represented in the field. Joining the Bulldogs from the SEC are Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Tournament host Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue are the Big Ten schools competing. The Big 12 will be represented by Oklahoma, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 24 TCU and Texas Tech. Oregon State is traveling from the Pac 12 to compete. Rounding out the field are No. 21 San Jose State and East Tennessee State.
Monday’s play will include 36 holes beginning with a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start. Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament atwww.golfstat.com.