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Schuldt qualifies for NCAA golf regional

One more shot

Ember Schuldt is finishing off her college golf career in style.

A senior at Illinois, the 2010 Sterling High School graduate found out Monday she'll be in the field when the women's NCAA golf tournament begins next week.

Schuldt, as well as Fighting Illini teammate Stephanie Miller, will tee it up at the Central Regional. Twenty-four teams and six individuals are entered in the event to be held May 8-10 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

Regionals will also be held in Ce Elum, Wash., and Tallahassee, Fla. The top eight teams and top two individuals not on those teams from the three regionals advance to the NCAA Championship, slated for May 20-23 at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.

It is the third NCAA appearance for Schuldt, the first U of I women's golfer to achieve that. She was part of Illinois teams that qualified for regional play her freshman and sophomore seasons, but she is seeking her first trip to the finals.

"That's the plan," Schuldt said, when asked if the third time will be a charm.

Schuldt is averaging a team-best 75.17 strokes per 18 holes this spring, and she's been on a roll of late. In the first round of the Intercollegiate on April 7 in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Schuldt opened with a 5-under-par 67. It tied for the third-lowest score in U of I women's golf history.

At the Big Ten Tournament held April 25-27 in French Lick, Ind., Schuldt had a three-round total of 225, good for sixth place overall. She was named second-team all-Big Ten on Tuesday.

"I think it's just my experience," Schuldt said. "I learned a lot over the last 4 years, and we usually play the same courses, so I know where to and where not to hit it. It's all about maturing as a player."

Schuldt has a career average of 76.33, second only to her coach, Renee Slone. The former Renee Heiken averaged 75.53 during her time at Illinois from 1990-93.

Schuldt was hoping to catch her coach in the scoring average department.

"That was the carrot that was out there," Schuldt said, "but it looks like I'm going to fall a little bit short."

Schuldt will soon be undergoing major changes in her life. On May 17, she will graduate with a bachelor's degree in sports management. This summer, she'll do an internship with the Illinois women's golf program, to learn the ins and outs of being a college golf coach.

That is her backup career plan. First, she wants to take a shot at being a professional golfer, and plans to turn pro in August. The first step down that path will be attending Q school in Rancho Mirage, Cal.

Outside of golf, she also has a wedding to plan. She will marry fellow Sterling graduate Joshua Villareal on Sept. 26, 2015.

Schuldt is looking forward to getting on with the next phase of her life.

"It is definitely exciting," she said. "I guess I'm nervous about graduating and sad to be leaving a team that I loved being on, but I'm excited about the opportunities that are ahead of me."

Schuldt file

High school: Sterling, class of 2010

College: Illinois

FYI: Will graduate from U of I on May 17. ... 4-year member of women's golf team, with career average of 76.33. ... 3-time NCAA tournament qualifier, including this season. ... Plans to turn pro in August

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