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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Women’s golf conquers MWC Championships

Emily Adam ’17 was one of three underclassmen to contribute to defending the MWC title. Photo by John Brady.

At last weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships in Rockford, Ill., the women’s golf team successfully defended its Conference title. Led by Hailey Speck ’15, the individual winner of the event, the team captured its second Conference crown in school history.

“It was a great finish to the season,” Speck said. “It was really hardcore because of tough weather conditions, but everyone hung in there and played well and continued to improve throughout the weekend.”

Speck hit 266 in the three-day event to lead all players, becoming the first individual champion in school history since Hilary Minnick ’02 achieved the feat in 2001.

“I was so surprised [because] it was not on my radar at all,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to go there … even going into the second day. I knew I was playing well on Sunday, but I thought everyone else was playing well, too. It was a great finish to my senior season.”

Speck actually started the third day on the wrong foot, hitting two double-bogeys and two bogeys in her first four holes. However, she maintained her composure and hit consecutive pars to get back into her rhythm to eventually secure the individual title.

“Hailey has a no-nonsense attitude,” said Lauren Yi ’18. “She’s not concerned about how her competitors do. This is just about her beating herself [and] she maintained that for our entire season.”

Kayleigh Kresse ’15 and Alex Plemmons ’15, the other seniors on the team, joined in on demonstrating why the fourth-years are the backbone of the squad by finishing in the top six. Kresse hit 268 to finish third overall while Plemmons shot 278.

Especially considering that the Championships was Plemmons’s second game of the season as she suffered from a back injury, her performance is even more outstanding.

“Alex’s performance was completely unexpected,” wrote head coach David Arseneault in an email to The S&B. “For her to finish [sixth] was just an incredible performance. She totally revamped her swing to put less pressure on her back. Ask any golfer how difficult this is and they will all tell you it takes months just to tweak a golf swing. To make such major swing allocations successfully in just a few days was something I’ve never seen before.”

Arseneault was also named the MWC women’s golf head coach of the year, in a weekend that was nothing but positive for the team.

The underclassmen fed off the seniors’ last campaign of their collegiate careers as Yi (16th with a 292), Sam Hengst ’18 (23rd with a 302) and Emily Adam ’17 (28th with a 320) all contributed to the team effort. The team collectively shot 1,104, edging out runner-up Monmouth College by 16 strokes.

“No doubt the seniors carried us,” Arseneault wrote. “They all have solid work ethics and from day one had resolved they wanted to go back to the national tournament. This year’s team was confident that we would win. Although we knew Monmouth had about the same stroke average, we beat them fairly decisively in our home tournament the week before.”

From the outset of the tournament, the Pioneers wasted no time in demonstrating why they were the defending champions. Despite the harsh weather conditions, Grinnell concluded day one of the event in first place and sustained its lead for the duration of the meet.

“Weather was a huge factor. It probably affected how a lot of people played this weekend,” Yi said. “Treating it as [if] it doesn’t even matter is probably the best way to attack it because in the end, it really shouldn’t affect your individual game.”

The squad attributes its diligent preparation, especially their work on the short game such as putting and chipping, to its success.

“The past few weeks before Conference, we spent a lot of our time on short game,” Yi said. “That’s where you decrease the largest number of strokes. Also, the short game requires the most amount of mental capability, [so] just staying focused and not getting deterred by individual mishaps.”

With the Conference trophy in hand, the team automatically qualifies to compete in next May’s NCAA Division III National Championships. At last year’s Nationals, due to weather conditions, the team was unable to complete the four-round event. The Pioneers will look forward to competing with the best of Division III teams this time around.

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