Amy Nguyen `26 putts the ball towards a hole at a team practice at the Grinnell College Golf Course.
Amy Nguyen `26 putts the ball towards a hole at a team practice at the Grinnell College Golf Course.
Meilynn Smith

Women’s golf looks to continue decade-long conference title streak

The women’s golf team is keeping their eyes on the prize as members say they hope to secure a bid for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) and a potential shot at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division III Women’s Golf Championships in Nicholasville, Ky.  

While the women’s team has won their conference championship every year for the last decade, they have been in a unique situation emerging from changes following the pandemic, given the SLIAC title no longer guarantees an automatic ticket to the NCAA championships. Cole Cody, head golf coach, and Connor McKay, assistant golf coach wrote in an email to The S&B that they remain hopeful this changes this year. 

In the 2019-20 season, the team transitioned from the Midwest Conference (MWC) to SLIAC, joining as an affiliate member.  

The SLIAC will receive an automatic bid on the condition that all core members: Blackburn, Eureka, Fontbonne, Lyon, Spalding and Westminster play in six events with a team score. 

“Winning the conference championship is something that I truly think Coach Dave and his dad Coach Arseneault made a tradition at Grinnell. We just hope to continue the tradition for as long as we possibly can,” wrote McKay.  

Dave Arsenault Jr. `09 took over the program in 2018 after his father, David Arsenault Sr., former head coach of the women’s golf team led the team down a road of success. 

At the start of this academic year, following Brian Jaworski’s release from his duties as the men’s head coach and Arsenault Jr. as head coach of the women’s team, Cole took over as head coach for both the men’s and women’s golf teams, merging the position for the first time in over 10 years.

Cole wrote that one of his points of emphasis this year was to expose the team to the best events in the country. They competed in the preview to the National Championship and the Golfweek Division III Invitational in the fall. He added, “Competing against the best teams from across the country is always difficult, but it is a fun challenge.” 

Emily Lackershire `27 strikes the ball during a team practice at the Grinnell College Golf Course. (Meilynn Smith)

“We are hopeful that the necessary steps will be taken to allow us to return to Kentucky in May,” Cole wrote. If they make the trip, he continued, their goal is to make the cutline and compete on the final day. After three rounds, the top 15 teams out of 29 competing teams in the standing move on to the fourth round. 

He added that both the women’s and men’s golf teams are very interconnected. “Sometimes it feels like our players want their teammates to succeed even more than they want to succeed,” Cole wrote.  

Meilin Hoshino `27, a women’s team athlete, said she knew the team would be a supportive and welcoming community from the moment she first visited Grinnell.  

McKay wrote that he believes coach involvement in the recruiting process before student athletes join the team helps create the environment Hoshino described, and upholds the legacy of the strong, close-knit culture the Arsenaults aimed to create according to McKay.  

“One of the many incredible things about the women’s golf team is they push each other to play well but also are the biggest fans of one another.” Wrote McKay.  

One of the many incredible things about the women’s golf team is they push each other to play well but also are the biggest fans of one another.

— Connor McKay, assistant golf coach

“I thought college golf would be somewhat competitive because we only have five spots and there are ten people, but we really support each other and we ultimately want what’s best for the team,” Hoshino.  

“While it’s a very individual sport, playing college golf is so different from junior golf. In college golf, we’re a part of a team. We’re winning as a team, and we’re losing as a team,” she added.  

This season, the team scoring average is down by five shots per round. Emily Lackershire `27 said that everyone on their team has a pretty tight scoring dispersion, so it is difficult to know who will play the best in each tournament.  

The top five qualifying players each tournament week are selected to compete as individuals, until the conference championship, when the team travels together. Each practice consists of practicing different skill sets. “We practice about four of the five days during the school week, and depending on if we have a weekend tournament, we will have a qualifier, which will be a nine-hole course set up tournament style,” said Lackershire.  

“It’s no fluke putting seven players on the First Team All-Conference,” wrote Cole. Seven out of nine players that competed finished in the top 10, a record Hoshino and Lackershire said they are proud of.  

“This year we have all faced challenges as we have all faced change. Coach change, NCAA rules changes concerning contact periods, different tournaments, different routines at practices. All the changes, which isn’t a bad thing, they just take time to adapt,” wrote Cole. Mckay added, “This has been an adjustment for everyone — including the coaches.” 

The NCAA now allows Division III teams 114 days for team activity to use whenever. Cole wrote that this allows the team for a full offseason and a much different environment for golf than in the past. 

Lackershire said she anticipates that the team will get their bid to the NCAA championships back this year, and if not, they should by next year. She continued that the team is full of hope that they will continue to set records after winning SLIAC this past fall, their 11th conference title in a row.  

As the weather warms up, Hoshino and Lackershire said they look forward to finishing the season strong with their teammates and coaches, on the course toward success. 

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