Nguyen making major contributions to Whitman women’s golf team

Alden Glass, Sports Reporter

On Sept. 12-13, the Whitman Women’s Golf team won their first tournament of the year at the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational. After two grueling days of competition, Whitman emerged as the winner by a mere two strokes over rival Whitworth University. The Whitman team stated its high ambitions by  coming out strong early in the season. Sophomore Phoebe Nguyen was pleased with the team’s performance at their first major test of the year.

“We had the spring classic [at Pacific Lutheran University] last year, so we were all pretty familiar with the course,” said Nguyen. “It was pretty cool to win by two shots over Whitworth because it meant every shot counted, and you had to play your best.”

Phoebe Nguyen ’18

Nguyen certainly played close to her best as she won the entire tournament and the Athlete of the Week award from the Northwest Conference. Nguyen was understandably pleased with the honor and her performance even though she is no stranger to being the Athlete of the Week.

“I won a few times last year, but it’s still special. It’s the first tournament of the year, I’m off to a good start, and the team’s off to a good start,” Nguyen said. “I want to help my team out as much as I can. I’m not super worried about winning tournaments; it’s nice if I do, but I just want to help the team get to nationals.”

One of the biggest challenges for the team this fall will be building a team with only a few returners. Due to junior Lou Points going abroad first semester and first-year Charlotte Simons currently recovering from a foot injury, the team only has four eligible players. In collegiate golf, the scores of a team’s top four scores count towards the team total. With no extra players, there is pressure on all four teammates to perform, because no one can pick up the slack. Nguyen talked about her teammates stepping up and performing under this pressure.

“I’m proud of my teammate Kendall [Dunovant], because she was our fifth last year and now she’s a counting scorer. She did really well in the last tournament, and I’d like to see her keep doing that,” Nguyen said.

Another player who has immediately stepped up to help the team is first-year Shiyang Fan. Fan was an integral part in the first win of the season, yet she believes she has even more to offer. Fan discussed her transition into the college game and her goals for the year.

“My transition was pretty smooth. The golf team helped a lot. My high school team didn’t have many practices together. But here we practice together, and it’s a good team bonding process,” Fan said. “I want to play my best, hopefully. I just try to do what I’m supposed to every time, and the results will come. We want to go to the National Championships at the end of the spring.”

Team cohesion is vital in golf, even though it seems to be a very individual sport. That belief in your teammates’ abilities and trust that they will back you up is a huge component to any success. Senior captain Alyssa Maine will be charged with helping form this chemistry and creating a strong, close team.

“As the senior captain, my whole goal has been getting that cohesiveness in the whole team with the two new first years coming in,” Maine said. “We definitely are a family, and by the end of the year we’re all sisters. That’s the hardest part of being captain, but the girls are making it so easy – and the team is very close already.”

With only a win at the conference tournament standing in their way, the Missionaries could be poised to make a run to the National Tournament. Maine, as the only upperclassman on the team this fall, will provide the experience and leadership in that hunt for a bid to nationals. Maine believes that George Fox will be the main competitor for that bid in the conference.

“Every year, George Fox is ranked top ten nationally, often top five, but we usually get them once or twice a year in other tournaments, so they are definitely beatable,” Maine said. “I’m really looking forward to it being my senior year, I’m hoping I can win a tournament or two, and I want to get my scoring average down under 80. But that trip to Nationals is the biggest goal for me.”

The team is next in action on Oct. 3 and 4 at George Fox University as they build their promising start to the season.