EAST LANSING - A week after capturing its first tournament title of the season, the Michigan State women's golf team will return to Ohio for the 2017 Big Ten Championships this weekend. This year's league championship will be played April 21-23 at the TPC River's Bend in Maineville, Ohio.
Michigan State enters the tournament on a roll, having placed in the top six in each of the last four tournaments. The Spartans' win at the Lady Buckeye last weekend was their first since 2014, further bolstering the confidence of a young Spartan team.
MSU enters the weekend No. 62 in the Golfstat rankings, up two spots from last week, and No. 60 by Golfweek, up seven spots from the previous week.
"We're definitely on a roll, momentum wise," MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. "Coach Caroline (Powers) and I knew all along that once we got Ally Geer here in February that we had a very good team. It just took us a couple tries to get things right and everyone feeling comfortable; it sure was fun winning the Lady Buckeye.
"We're really looking forward to the Big Ten Championships this year. This is what we play for. This is what we play for all year, to get to this point in the season to test ourselves against the Big Ten Conference. We do have some of the best teams in the nation in our conference, so it will be an exciting weekend."
Juniors Sarah Burnham and Katie Sharp, along with freshman Allyson Geer have been at the forefront of the Spartans' surge over the last four tournaments. Each player has been in the Spartans' top three of the last four tournaments and each has placed in the top 16 of the last two events.
Burnham was named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week after her runner-up showing at the Lady Buckeye Invitational last weekend as she shot a 2-over-par 218. Burnham has displayed tremendous consistency over her last six rounds, as all of her scores have ranged between 69 and 73.
Burnham's 72.38 scoring average is on pace to break her school single-season record (72.42) she recorded as a sophomore.
Geer had the best finish of her career last weekend at the Lady Buckeye, taking fifth place. She has a 73.73 scoring average and is averaging 2.8 birdies per round, second only to Burnham (3.0) on the team.
A team-best eighth-place finish at the Briar's Creek Invitational, March 20-21, has spurred Sharp over the past month. She has a 73.1 scoring average over the last three tournaments, over two strokes lower than her season average.
It will be a homecoming for Markley as the par-72, 6,357-yard TPC River's Bend is her home course.
"That, in its self, is just exciting to have a player that has grown up there and played the course so many times and have the knowledge she has," Slobodnik-Stoll said.
This Weekend's Schedule
Friday, April 21 -- 18 holes, 8:30 a.m.
Saturday, April 22 -- 18 holes, 8:30 a.m.
Sunday, April 23 -- 18 holes, 8:00 a.m.
Here's a look at the Golfstat rankings for each Big Ten team heading into the tournament: No. 12 Northwestern, No. 24 Purdue, No. 29 Illinois, No. 30 Ohio State, No. 33 Michigan, No. 52 Wisconsin, No. 61 Maryland, No. 62 Michigan State, No. 75 Penn State, No. 84 Iowa, No. 88 Minnesota No. 104 Indiana, No. 118 Nebraska and No. 141 Rutgers.
Spartans at the Big Ten Championships
Michigan State has won 11 Big Ten Championships, second most in conference history, including five under Slobodnik-Stoll (2001, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014). MSU won five consecutive Big Ten titles from 1974-78, and also claimed a conference crown in 1982 in addition to the five won by Slobodnik-Stoll. In the Big Ten record books, MSU is credited with six Big Ten Championships, as the conference did not officially sanction women's sports until 1982.
Michigan State has finished in the top four at the Big Ten Championships in 11 of the last 12 years and in 16 of Slobodnik-Stoll's 19 seasons.