Not many college sports can say they play in two separate seasons, but golf is one of the few sports that can. Golfers play tournaments in both the fall and the spring, with offseasons in between lasting three to four months.
The Loyola men’s and women’s golf teams wrapped up their fall seasons when they headed to Dayton, Ohio, for the Flyer Invitational on Oct. 17-18. Now, the teams will spend a few months away from the course to work out, practice and focus on classes.
Men’s golf remains average
At the Flyer Invitational, on the men’s side, each player had an average score below 80 — which is average for Division I golf — and first-year Justin LaFrance led the way with a 77.3 stroke average. Junior Garret Buckley finished right behind him, with an average of 77.4.
Director of golf Erik Hoops said despite the team’s slow start at the beginning of the season, his team held a steady momentum from then on.
Hoops said the Cleveland State Invitational on Oct. 3-4 was a learning experience for the team. There, the Ramblers finished last out of 11 teams, 25 shots behind the team in 10th place. He said the tournament was the pivotal point of the fall season that motivated everyone to get better.
“We played at Cleveland State, and we just played bad,” Hoops said. “That was kind of the wake-up call for everybody, even for me as a coach. Everybody got to work, and I worked more one-on-one with [the players] those two weeks [after the tournament] than I did the rest of the fall.”
Hoops added he saw less excuses for bad holes, and he wished the struggles would have came sooner in the season so the team would have had more time to learn and rebound.
LaFrance said one of his biggest challenges this year was adjusting to playing collegiate golf and playing high-caliber golf courses.
“In high school, [the courses] are so easy,” said LaFrance. “Then you get into college, and all these courses are over 7,000 yards and very difficult.”
Junior Garret Buckley said the tournaments were scheduled close together, making it difficult to reflect on how each went.
“The tournament schedule is very tough,” said Buckley. “It was hard to be able to take a step back after every tournament and prepare for the next one because it was so rapid-fire.”
Buckley said the most recent tournament in Dayton, Ohio, stood out to him because of the way the team played in less-than-favorable conditions.
“I hit the ball really well in extremely difficult conditions … 25 mile-per-hour winds,” Buckley said. “It was the best I hit the ball all year.”
The men will pick back up this spring when they head to Dallas, Texas, for the Bradley Spring Break Invitational scheduled for March 13-14.
Women’s golf on the rise
On the women’s side, sophomore Elayna Bowser picked up where she left off last season as a scoring leader with an impressive 77.3 stroke average. First-year Morgan Brown, despite not playing in the first tournament of the season, wasn’t far behind Bowser, logging an average of 77.8 strokes per round.
Head coach Carly Schneider said she felt her first season in charge is going well. She said she thought all nine players did well in Dayton and she liked that she was able to throw everyone into the mix.
“I was really happy to get everyone to compete in a couple tournaments each,” said Schneider. “Everyone worked together really well.”
Bowser also said the key to keeping her scores down was simply being confident in her game and having a positive mentality. She said the most important strategy is to shake off a bad start.
“What I realized this season was that if I get off to bad start … I’m confident in my game that the birdies are out there,” said Bowser. “I know my game is good enough that I can get the birdies back later on, even if I’m off to a bad start.”
Brown — who, along with junior teammate Jessie Staed, was named Missouri Valley Conference Co-Golfer of the Week — said collegiate golf was a change from high school and junior golf, but she said she was well-prepared thanks to her previous experience.
“You’re playing for a team now rather than your individual self,” Brown said, “You have to think about that when you’re out [on the course].”
Brown said that during the break in between the fall and spring seasons, she will work on her strength to gain distance on her shots and improve her accuracy on 10-foot putts, which she thinks are the reason she didn’t post lower scores.
Schneider, Bowser and Brown all said the Rocket Classic in Toledo, Ohio, was an important tournament. Schneider said she thought the team scored well at the Classic, as the Ramblers finished fourth out of 14 teams.
Brown and Morgan both said they need to keep in shape during the winter to ensure they don’t take any steps backward before next season. Once the snow starts to fall, all players spend time on the practice green and in the simulator, which uses uses a computer to show how far a shot is projected to go. But as long as the weather cooperates, they’ll be out on the golf course.
The women will pick back up Feb. 26-28 when they head to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, for the Edwin Watts Intercollegiate.