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The Scarlet & Black

Women’s golf wins SLIAC title and automatic berth to Nationals

The women’s golf team has won the SLIAC championship, earning the league’s automatic bid for the NCAADIII Championships come spring. Contributed.
The women’s golf team has won the SLIAC championship, earning the league’s automatic bid for the NCAADIII Championships come spring. Contributed.

By Alec Maloney

The Grinnell College women’s golf team achieved their goal of qualifying for nationals on Tuesday as the Pioneers shot a 330 as a team to win the SLIAC title and a berth in the NCAA DIII National Tournament next spring. This season marks women’s golf team‘s first season in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) as an affiliate member. The team had seen extensive success in the Midwest conference, and moved to the SLIAC aiming to secure an automatic berth to the Nationals.  

“The conference tournament is always one of my favorites and this one was no different. We switched to the Saint Louis Intercollegiate Conference this year so it was a whole new course and new competition which is always exciting,” said Danielle Oberlander ’21.  

This is the second consecutive season the Pioneers have reached the conference tournament, as they finished ninth last season. This tournament is the culmination for the fall season for the Pioneers.   

In team competition, the Pioneers put up a SLIAC record round of 321 on Monday, and came back with a score of 330 Tuesday for a two-day score of 651. At the conclusion of play, the Pioneers led the runner-up Illinois College by 12 strokes. 

Individually, All-American standout golfer Nina Kouchi ‘22 beat the defending SLIAC champion Kassidy Wallin of Spalding University by scoring a birdie to win a match-style sudden death playoff. Kouchi has won three of five tournaments this season and was named the SLIAC Player of the year after her dominant season. Coach David Arseneault Jr. also won the SLIAC Coach of the Year award, one season after being named the MWC Coach of the Year. 

Kouchi scored 153 over the course of the tournament, starting strong on Monday with a 1-over-par round of 73, followed up by an 80 Tuesday for the best individual score. Oberlander also had an excellent showing at the tournament, shooting 162 (78 Monday, 84 Tuesday) to tie for sixth place individually. Kouchi was named to the SLIAC All-Conference first team, and Oberlander was named to the SLIAC All-Conference second team while also earning one of the league’s Sportsmanship Awards.   

Aubrie Torhorst ’23 and Julia Echikson ’20 were next in line for Grinnell, placing 13th and 14th. Torhorst’s rounds were 83 and 85 for a 168 and Echikson had an 87 and 82 for a 169. Right behind them was Zoe Robinson ‘23, who shot 87-84-171 for a 16th-place finish. This performance is especially encouraging, with Oberlander remarking: “This year was a little different than past years because we could not rely on Vidushi and Vrishali Sinha ’19 to shoot in the low 70’s. Nina, Julia Echikson ’20 and I had to step up in order to secure the win. Our first years also played well considering the high pressure situation! Overall, I’m very happy with my team and I can’t wait to see everyone improve next year.” 

The team’s momentum is very positive heading into the spring season, despite facing the loss of Danielle Oberlander as she heads abroad for her spring semester. However, Oberlander is confident that the team will continue to succeed in the spring and beyond.  Star Nina Kouchi talked a bit about her statistical approach to training, saying that she was working on improving her chipping statistics. Both Kouchi and Oberlander believe that the current success of the team will help team morale, boost the confidence of younger players and attract more recruits as the program grows in stature. They also both agree that the National Tournament is an amazing experience for the team.   

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