Women’s golf builds on strong year with third-place finish

Neal Hogden

After a third place finish in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, the UW Oshkosh women’s golf team looks back on its season as one with a many ups and downs. The team’s youthfulness was evident in some matches, but also ended up being a strength for the squad this year.

Starting out the year, the Titans had sophomore Hannah Braun take home the individual championship at the UW Oshkosh Titan Classic on Sept. 2nd and 3rd. As a team, they claimed second in the tournament, with strong performances from senior Micayla Richards, junior Kayla Priebe, sophomore Anna Scheibe and freshman Keara Richards on top of Braun’s performance.

The team seemed to take a step back the next week, recording an 11th place finish out of 20 teams at the competitive Wartburg College Invitational in Waverly, Iowa. Braun was the top finisher for the Titans in this tournament as well, turning in her scorecard in 10th place at nine over-par. Micayla Richards wasn’t far behind, finishing in 14th place and just two strokes back of Braun.

This would prove to be the team’s worst finish of the 2017 fall season, as they placed in the top five in every other tournament during the year.

Over the next three weeks, the team showed steady improvement. They took fifth out of 17 teams at the Illinois Wesleyan University Invitational, posting a team score of 626.

This tournament featured another season highlight for the team as it shot a school record 304 on the first day of the tournament. Contributing to this effort were Braun with a score of 73, Priebe with 75, Micayla Richards with 77, sophomore golfer Hanna Rebholz with 79 and junior Ireland Dunne with 81. Keara Richards also had a stellar day as an individual golfer turning in her scorecard with 77 strokes.

After a bye week, the team traveled to Stevens Point where it took third at the Mad Dawg Invitational, shooting a 660. The Titans placed two golfers in the top four, as Micayla Richards took home second place, only two shots off the lead, and Priebe came in fourth, two shots behind Richards.

A week later, the team traveled to Reedsburg Country Club for the WIAC Championship. Again, the Titans came home with third place in the final season tournament. UWO had three golfers in the top ten as Priebe, Richards and Braun had outstanding tournaments.

Yet another season highlight took place on the first day of the WIAC Championship when Richards led the tournament after one day with a score of 75. Richards thought since the weather was not bad on the first day of the tournament, there would be more low scores but did not expect to be alone atop the leaderboard.

“Friday’s weather wasn’t terrible so I thought that there would be more low scores,” Richards said.

Over the next two days, Richards then played herself to a sixth-place finish.

Although the season was overall deemed a success, Braun said that they didn’t meet one of their ultimate goals.

“Obviously our end goal would be to win conference and make it to nationals,” Braun said. “Although that didn’t happen, we still grew tremendously as a team” Braun said.

Setting smaller goals and keeping track of the players’ progress helped the team stay focused during tournaments, according to Braun.

“Each week we set small goals for the tournament that was on the weekend,” Braun said. “Coach Laura [Stair] was in charge of making sure we were all remembering our goals. If we reached a goal during a tournament, we would set a new goal for the next one.”

Braun said the team members were able to focus on their own scores instead of scores of other players by using these goals.

“By having smaller goals, I think we all ended up playing better than we would if we didn’t have any,” Braun said. “It gave us something to focus on other than score and other players.”

Scheibe said making team goals helped the individual golfers focus on working well as a team too.

“As a team this year we went into each tournament with a different approach of just ‘winning the tournament’,” Scheibe said. “Each individual player focused on one specific goal to achieve that during the round. “I believe this really helped our team this year because instead of just thinking about winning, we thought about what can each player do to help the overall team.”

Priebe summarized the season by saying it was fun to see the team grow together.

“Our team played well this year, and I think we did a great job of improving each week throughout the season,” Priebe said. “It was especially exciting to see how much some of our younger players improved as they benefited from the consistent, focused practices.”

Head coach Liza Ruetten further explained the process players go through to set their goals for the season.

“At the beginning of our season, each player was asked to create three very personal goals–an academic goal, a personal growth goal and an athletic goal,” Ruetten said. “Each player met at least one of their goals in our short fall season which in turn helped the team meet our goals as well. If each player becomes stronger individually, the team benefits.”

A final highlight for the team during the season was placing three players on the All-WIAC team. Braun and Richards earned first team honors and Priebe achieved a second team nomination. Braun averaged 79 strokes per 18 holes, the second best mark in the conference.

Richards showed she deserved her first team nomination by posting a 79.9 stroke per 18 holes and earning a WIAC sportsmanship award for the 2017 fall season. Priebe had three top-six finishes in tournaments this year, allowing her to secure her second team nomination.

Looking ahead to the spring season and upcoming 2018-19 season, Scheibe said the squad has plenty to be excited about.

“I am really looking forward to this spring season as well as next fall because we have so much potential on our team,” Scheibe said. “With only losing one senior, that leaves nine girls coming back with experience of tournament competition.”

Braun said there is still work to be done in the offseason if the team wants to reach its ultimate goal of winning the WIAC next year.

“I think one thing our team can work on for next year is our mental game,” Braun said. “Although we handle ourselves very well on the course, we sometimes let a bad hole get to us. It is crucial that we maintain a positive attitude and remember that the most important shot is the next one.”

Ruetten has expectations for her players to help keep them sharp for the Spring and Fall 2018 seasons.

“During the offseason, the girls will continue to work on their three goals,” Ruetten said. “Many have plans to practice indoors over the winter season. While hitting into a net or putting on a artificial surface is not ideal, it is still helpful in maintaining the muscle memory of the mechanics of the game.”

Priebe also offered specific adjustments her and her teammates can make during the offseason to improve their scores.

“Our team can continue to work on fundamentals as we prepare for next year,” Priebe said. “Ball striking is typically a strength on our team, so it will be important to work on chipping and putting to improve our scores.”

The youthful team has a lot to look forward to in the future of this program. However, that shouldn’t take away from a very successful 2017 fall season for everyone on the team.