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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

First year golfers grow into leaders

After recording an impressive team score of 360, the third best team score in the Women’s Golf team history, last week at the Monmouth College Fighting Scots Invitational, it seems a safe bet that whatever first-year jitters may have hindered the Pioneers in their first match have all but disappeared.  

“We’re playing well this year,” Captain Ashlen Matzdorf ‘12 said. “Definitely a lot better than last year, but we can still improve before conference.”

Led by first year Mallory Messin, who shot an 82 for the day, the Pioneers placed 4th overall in the 14-team tournament. Just trailing Messin were her teammates Elizabeth Burnett ‘13 and Natalie Klee ‘13, who put up a 91 and 92, respectively.  

“The first years have a lot of potential,” Matzdorf ‘11 said. “With their talent I think we are going to be very successful this year and in the years to follow.” 

The match also marked a dramatic shift in the team’s dynamic following last season, as three first years moved into the top spots which had previously belonged to powerhouse seniors Amy Livingston and Jordan Heguy and junior Stephanie Goggin.

“If you asked any one of the three [first years] if they played to their potential, they’d say not even close,” Coach David Arseneault said. Our scores will be dominated by first years. They’ll consistently occupy the top three spots.”

In just a single off-season, the Pioneers transformed from a team that was able to comfortably rely on the experience and wherewithal of seasoned veterans into a seniorless squad that must depend on the abilities of first years never tested in the NCAA environment.  However, despite the inexperience the first years golfers have with the Grinnell program, Arseneault believes the first year players possess an unusual collective knowledge of the sport and the resultant maturity imperative to success. 

“Things did not always go their way and they really conducted themselves like champions,” Aresenault said. “They’re used to the ups and downs of the sport.”

If there was one major obstacle for the first years in realizing their potential immediately, it was inexperience with the Grinnell program.  In the first tournament of the season at Illinois College, the first years struggled with the newness of the courses and nerves.

“It’s tough to go out and play new courses every day without having seen them before,” Messin said. “But since the first match I have gotten more confident in playing with college girls.”  

The upward trend in finishes over the past few weeks—a 9th place finish at the Illinois College Invite, a 5th place finish at the Knox Invitational and a 4th place finish at Monmouth—is a direct result of that gained confidence and newfound comfort playing on the college level.  

“I am becoming much more confident in my game strategy,” Klee said. “Coach Arseneault is helpful in teaching us course management strategies too. As a whole, I think the first years are doing extremely well since we are just starting to become acclimated to college and playing collegiate golf.”

As the season moves into its second half and the nerves of a new year start to fade, focus begins to shift to the Midwest Conference Championship. 

“We still have a few more weeks and the team is improving very rapidly,” Elaine Teo ’12 said. “Especially since we have motivation now that we might win conference.”

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