Daily Egyptian

Women’s golf opens season in Kentucky

By Thomas Donley

After a four-month hiatus, the SIU women’s golf team is ready to get back into the swing of things.

The Salukis start their season Monday at the renamed Jan Weaver- Murray State Invitational at Drake Creek Golf Club in Ledbetter, Ky. Teams will play 36 holes Monday and finish with 18 holes Tuesday.

SIU is the only Missouri Valley Conference team competing in the 10-team field, which includes host Murray State University, Belmont University, SIU-E and Northern Kentucky University. Defending tournament champion Murray State will enter two teams.

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“It’s a winnable tournament,” head coach Alexis Mihelich said. “At any given time, any team could win.”

The Salukis play 10-round qualifying tournaments to determine the lineup for each tournament. Sophomore Brooke Cusumano, junior Mattie Lindner, sophomore Xianmei Jin, sophomore Kristie Yang and senior Kris Grimes posted the five best scores in qualifying and will compete at DCGC. Freshman Alice Ho will compete as an individual.

Yang made the season-opening lineup for the first time in her career this fall after playing two tournaments as a freshman.

Three of the Salukis traveling to Murray State have played at DCGC before. Cusumano, who played there eight times, said the Salukis could use their familiarity with the course to their advantage.

“We’ll have a really good showing, I think,” Cusumano said. “The course plays to our strengths. We could probably put good couple days together.”

The invitational will be the first test for the Salukis after losing Ashleigh and Cassie Rushing. The Rushings finished their careers in the top-10 lowest average scores in school history. Cassie, a four-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection, holds the all-time lowest career average at SIU.

Mihelich said replacing the Rushings would be a team effort.

“When you lose two players, you know how much work you have to do to improve to step up,” Mihelich said. “Everyone gets a couple strokes better and you kind of fill that gap.”

SIU returns a solid roster for 2014-2015.

The Salukis bring back the golfers with the third and fourth lowest average scores from last season in Lindner ‘s 78.8 and Grimes’s 78.9. Jin and Cusumano tied for fifth-lowest in 2013-2014 with averages of 79.0 while playing in all 34 rounds as true freshmen.

Yang also averaged 79.0 in her two tournaments last season.

Grimes said the Salukis have developed good team chemistry to help each other improve this season.

“I have high expectations for the team this year,” Grimes said. “We all push one another to reach our limits and blow through the roof on that.”

Mihelich said she is more confident in this year’s team than she has been in seasons past. She said her players have been feeding off of each other and is happy with the work they put in over the summer.

“We’re ready to compete. We know where we stand,” Mihelich said. “We’re just anxious to get out there and show people how good we are.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @tdonleyDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282

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