The Loyola women’s golf team is off to a record-setting start to the spring, shattering the 54-hole program record of 910 strokes with a tally of 889 strokes at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Paradise Invitational Feb. 8.
Earlier this season, Loyola earned sixth place at the Coyote Creek Classic Oct. 10, its best placing of the fall, while averaging 919 strokes for 54 holes. Now, the team is looking to capitalize on its strong weekend in Florida to prepare for the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament this spring.
Sophomore Abby Thielbar also broke records at the tournament. She bested her program record of 217 strokes with a score of 215 — powered by a 66-stroke first round tied for the lowest round score. Following her performance, Thielbar was named the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Women’s Golfer of the Week — the second weekly conference award of her career.
Thielbar said she knew she could break her record when she was under par after the first few holes, adding that her winter training helped her correct issues with her swing speed and control.
“I kind of knew after the first couple of holes when I was under par that it was possible,” Thielbar said. “We all worked really hard over winter break. I’ve been working a lot on my downswing, getting my clubhead speed up and making sure that my lower body is in the correct positioning to increase consistency in how I strike the ball.”
Thielbar wasn’t the only Rambler to break records in Florida. First-year Grace Suter shot three-over-par 219 — the third-lowest 54-hole score in Loyola history — with a career-best two-under-par 70 round. Head coach Carly Werwie said Suter achieved a goal to finish rounds stronger while improving her mental toughness as well.
Werwie said her team’s performance was due to intensive practice over winter break, helping the team succeed with mid-range shots to reach the putting green. Thielbar helped lead the Ramblers due to her experience traveling for tournaments, Werwie said.
“We hit the most greens in regulation that we’ve had all season, and it’s really fun to see that. Especially [in] the first tournament out of winter, you can have a little nerve feeling,” Werwie said. “Abby Thielbar set … a new 54-hole tournament record as well. She was a very solid player as a [first-year], and I think being a sophomore you know how school goes, how travel goes.”
Much like their distinct training, Werwie’s players have unique roles on the team. Some like Thielbar are expected to score low while others are focused on developing in the gym since they aren’t up to Thielbar’s level of performance yet. No matter their role, the players cheer each other on and recognize that the success of one player means success for the team, Werwie said.
While players underwent individualized training to improve their play, Werwie required her entire team to read “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon, using the book to hold weekly team discussions and teach players to set achievable goals for tournaments over break.
“The Energy Bus” guides readers to increase their energy through positivity, conveying lessons about focusing on your journey and encouraging others to follow the same path through leadership.
Senior Lorenza Martinez said the book taught her and her teammates to stay positive when rounds don’t go as expected. The team discussed the importance of positive outlooks on life and noticing good things in tough situations, leading one player to set a goal of staying positive for the FAU tournament.
“I think the biggest thing people took away was being positive and having a positive outlook on things, always looking at the bright side of the situation,” Martinez said. “I know one of our [first-years], her goal was to be positive for the entire duration of the tournament, that’s really hard to do in golf.”
The book’s message appears to have positively impacted the team’s mentality and has helped players trust their skills for each shot, Werwie said. Her players aren’t worried about hitting the perfect shot while also reaching the fairway more often, giving the Ramblers best chances for low scores.
“I feel that it energized us and made us think a little differently about our goals, how we can have individual goals and team goals,” Werwie said. “Mentally they are just a little bit sharper, course management-wise, not worrying about needing the perfect shot and all of that kind of stuff.”
So far, Loyola is led by Thielbar and Suter, two of the team’s youngest players, who average 74.9 and 76.7 strokes, respectively. Thielbar’s 66-stroke round at the FAU tournament is the lowest score of Loyola’s season — while Suter and Martinez have both shot 70-stroke rounds.
Suter’s 76.7-stroke average is noteworthy for a first-year golfer, as her average bests Thielbar’s first-year average of 78.8 strokes. Fellow first-year Jolie Brochu is also off to a promising start to her career, averaging 78.4 strokes in 11 rounds played.
The Loyola women’s golf team tees off again at the Rio Verde Invitational Feb. 25-27 in Rio Verde, Arizona. Live scores can be viewed on the Loyola Athletics website during and after the tournament.