As spring storm clouds encircled the Hickory Ridge Golf Course, Meg Gilley stood on the practice green calmly sinking putt after putt as she closed up an evening of practice that started nearly four hours earlier.
The SIU women’s golf team ran away with their fourth win of the 2011-12 season Sunday and Monday at the Saluki Invitational. Gilley, a senior studying sports management from Flossmoor, came up big for the Salukis this year by winning two individual meets and being named Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Week twice during her senior season.
With a roster full of talent from players such as current MVC Golfer of the Week sophomore Cassie Rushing, and senior leadership like Gilley’s, the women’s golf team has racked up some impressive wins this year under it’s new coaching staff.
Though this is coach Alexis Mihelich’s first year at the forefront of the women’s golf team, a sense of chemistry is visible between Mihelich and her golfers, said Gilley and her cousin Ryann Gilley, a freshman from Flossmoor studying pre-dentistry.
“What’s unique about Meg and Ryann is that I knew them four or five years ago before I started here,” Mihelich said. “When I was a teaching pro, before I got into college coaching, I worked at a golf academy. I first met Meg and Ryann when they came to the clinics we hosted for high school golfers.”
After the Gilleys commited to SIU, Mihelich said she heard about an open coaching position at SIU and jumped at the opportunity to once again mentor the two as they progressed through their athletic careers.
Mihelich said Gilley never individually won a meet while at SIU before her senior season. She said Gilley has gathered all the pieces throughout her Saluki career and has finally put them all together.
Fellow senior golfer Alisha Matthews has been close friends and roommates with Gilley since first attending SIU in 2008. Gilley and Matthews have practiced and competed together for four years as Salukis, and both have watched one another’s collegiate golfing careers from a front-row seat.
With such a strong relationship as friends and teammates, Gilley and Matthews can’t seem to keep a straight face when talking to each other.
“She’s a character,” Matthews said. “She runs a lot, and I don’t mean she likes to jog everywhere. Instead of walking from the front door to her bedroom, she runs. She’s always in a hurry.”
With a new class of recruits well on its way and two seniors fit to graduate before next season, only three tournaments remain for Salukis this season.
As she nears the end of the spring golf season, Gilley said she will have a long Saluki career to look back on.
“I’ve had a blast here,” Gilley said. “We have been a good team ever since I’ve been at SIU. Things have really fallen in place this season.”
As practice came to an end, the smell of rain filled the air and the golfers began to disappear. Gilley remained on the golf course for a few more puts as the sky began to grow ominous until she stopped what she was doing and plopped down onto the green.
“My back hurts,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve sat down in like four hours.”