The Loyola women’s golf team is gearing up for its final Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship April 17-19. Head coach Carly Werwie said her team can finish the year strong if her players shoot consistently and avoid small mistakes.
Last season, Loyola placed ninth out of 10 teams with a score of 991 — led by then-junior Lorenza Martinez’s 54-hole tally of 239 that earned her a 15th-place finish. Loyola is now looking for more success and will count on a reliable group of golfers that score low in its last competition of the season.
Werwie said her golfers will succeed if they approach the weekend one hole at a time, adding that she wants her team to enjoy the experience instead of worrying about round scores.
“If we have a bad hole, [we] try to not let that get us down or make it feel like our round is totally done,” Werwie said. “We want to have fun out there and stick to their game rather than getting ahead of themselves or getting down on themselves.”
Senior marketing major Lorenz Martinez said she’s confident in her teammates after they faced eight MVC teams at the Diane Daugherty Invitational March 28-29, as Loyola placed seventh out of 16 teams. She said facing conference rivals boosted the team’s confidence for the MVC Championship by beating four MVC opponents in the tournament standings.
Sophomore molecular neuroscience major Abby Thielbar leads Loyola with a team-best 75.9 stroke average — Thielbar’s 66-stroke round at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Paradise Invitational Feb. 8 is the lowest round score for a Rambler this season. Werwie said Thielbar has played well this season and that her achievements will motivate her to score lower.
“Abby started out this spring really well by setting a new individual record as well as the 54-hole record, sometimes that can play in your mind of always wanting to shoot that low round again,” Werwie said. “She’s done a really good job of staying consistent.”
Thielbar said she will rely on her putting skills to help her through rounds — adding that her short game skills give her confidence if a shot doesn’t fall. She said her mental toughness will also help her play better since Werwie encourages her golfers to stay calm during rounds.
Leading with experience, Martinez falls just below Thielbar’s stroke average by averaging 77.7 strokes this season. Werwie said Martinez was inconsistent to start the season — tallying high and low score rounds at the same competitions — but has found her groove to score low.
Martinez has competed in two MVC Championships during her career, as the 2019-2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19. Martinez earned 15th place with a score of 231 as a first-year and placed 15th again as a junior. Martinez said her goal for the conference tournament is to place inside the top 10 competitors, adding that she avoids statistics goals because of weather conditions.
“I’ve gotten into the top 15 both times, so this time around I’d like to get in the top 10 or better,” Martinez said. “I don’t like having numbers as my goal because a lot of it is weather-dependent and condition-dependent, so it’s going to change week to week. Getting inside the top 10 in the field is a very attainable goal.”
First-year Grace Suter will also be key to Loyola’s success, averaging 78.6 strokes this season. Suter’s average is noteworthy for a first-year golfer, as her average beats out Thielbar’s first-year average of 78.8 strokes.
The event is a return to the 18-18-18 hole format over three days that Werwie’s team hasn’t experienced since her first year at the helm. Werwie said playing 36 holes in a day can be tiring, while playing 18 holes will be a much-needed change for her golfers.
While the MVC Championship marks the last for Loyola before it must find a new conference since the Atlantic 10 (A-10) doesn’t play women’s golf, Werwie said the conference tournament is like any other tournament. She said her team is looking forward to the tournament course in Kirkwood, Missouri that it competed on last season.
“I feel like for them, it’s almost like any other tournament,” Werwie said. “I don’t feel like we’ve put any more emphasis or stress on it because there is so much to think about on a golf course in general. We have the experience out there, and it’s a course that we do really enjoy, so I know the team was looking forward to that.”
Werwie said her team has a chance to place high if her golfers stick to their games, and that they can find success if her golfers avoid easy mistakes.
“I think there is an opportunity where we could win as long as we play consistently and stick to our games,” Werwie said. “Our team has a lot of depth this year, we’ve had some really low scores and some personal bests. It’s a matter of if four scores can come together three rounds in a row.”
The Loyola women’s golf team tees off again at the MVC Championship April 17-19 in Kirkwood, Missouri. Live scores can be viewed on the Loyola Athletics website during and after the tournament.