Women’s Golf focuses on post-season play

Riley Foreman

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With low scorecards and high ambitions, the Whitman Women’s Golf program is rapidly approaching a shot at the Northwest Conference league championship. So far this spring, the team has secured four top-two finishes, a number-19 national ranking and a pair of NWC Student-Athlete of the Week awards.

This past weekend, the women competed in the Spring Classic, one of the two NWC-ranking tournaments of the year. The team shared top honors with Whitworth University, who also shot a collective 53-over par. Whitman’s success marks an improvement from the Fall Classic, at which the team placed second to league rival George Fox, the number-two ranked team nationally. However, as Head Coach Skip Molitor notes, the competition remains fierce.

“It’s clear that [George Fox] is very legitimately in the hunt for a national championship, and we’re very legitimately in the hunt for the league championship, even with them in our league,” he said.

Molitor’s confidence in his players might stem from their 1-2-3 finish atop the leaderboard at Whitman’s Easter Invitational. First-year Phoebe Nguyen finished one stroke ahead of teammate junior Alyssa Maine to secure her third-consecutive tournament win. Sophomore Lou Points, who holds the second-best stroke average on the team, finished third, while senior Kelly Sweeney took eighth as Whitman rolled to their second team victory of the spring.

“It’s remarkable that Phoebe won [the UPS Invite, the Cal Lutheran Regal Invite, the Easter Invitational and the Spring Classic],” said Molitor. “The Cal Lutheran tournament had the leading scorer in the country. For Phoebe to win a tournament where you’ve got the top player in the country was a tremendous confidence boost.”

Despite the recent success,  there is no guarantee of a team or individual bid to Florida for the NCAA D-III National Championship. The women are aware that they will be the team to beat at the upcoming NWC Championship, but they are determined to stay focused on the opportunity at hand.

“My mind will wander and start thinking of results, and there will be times when I have bad holes,” said Nguyen. “But I go to the next hole telling myself that I can always come back –– if not for me, then for my team.”

Nguyen’s drive led her to yet another first place finish at the Spring Classic in Tacoma this past weekend, where she held a nine-stroke lead over the next competitor, Whitworth junior Chelsea Bayley. Sweeney added to the excitement with the program’s first-ever hole-in-one. All four of the team’s scoring players cut shots on the second day of play, finishing in a tie for first overall with Whitworth. Third-place finisher George Fox was not far behind, a mere two strokes away from the Spring Classic winners.

“It is great to have another top-20 ranked team in our conference because it pushes us to improve all aspects of our game,” said Nguyen of George Fox.

Although Nguyen and her teammates are ecstatic about their recent success, they have just over one week to prepare for the biggest challenge of the season.

“After tying for first in the Spring Classic, our one-and-only goal for the remainder of the season is to win the NWC championship and get the automatic qualifier bid to the national tournament,” said Maine.

For the golfers and their coach, their improvements and the journey to the NWC Championship has made the team more of a family than a group of athletes.

“As we moved from fall to spring, we grew even closer and have been able to translate the cohesiveness to the course,” said Maine. “Even though we are out there by ourselves on the course, we all feed off of each other’s energy to compete at our best.”

The Whitman women’s golf program will make its way to Sunriver, Oregon on April 25 and 26 for the NWC Championship.

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