Women's team prepares for nationals
RAPID CITY, S.D. – For the Lewis-Clark State College women’s golf team, success at the NAIA National Championships will depend on the Warriors’ mental approach.
The four-day 72-hole event kicks off Tuesday at the Meadowbrook Municipal Golf Course, which measures more than 7,100 yards and features a creek that comes into play on five of the 18 holes. The course also features large undulated greens that are protected by more than 80 bunkers.
How the Warriors fare isn’t so much about the course, but their mental approach, LCSC women’s coach Steve Tilden says.
“My thought is I think we can surprise a lot of people back there,” Tilden said. “I’ve got a lot of national tournament experience going with me and all five girls are capable of shooting in the 80s. There is some confidence that comes with that.”
The Warriors, ranked No. 16 in the final NAIA poll, received the seventh and final at-large berth to the 28-team field. There were 21 automatic qualifiers, including Rocky Mountain, which edged LCSC by 17 shots for the Frontier Conference title. The FC title was decided by the combined five team scores from conference tournaments during the year. A sixth tournament was scheduled, but was snowed out.
Despite just barely making it in, Tilden says this is a deep Warrior team with plenty of experience. The Warriors are making their fourth straight trip to nationals and three players have been to the tournament at least twice, including senior Juanita Villa, who is making her fourth trip to nationals. Junior Cortney Shrout, who won the Frontier Conference individual title, and senior Katie Fuqua are making their third trip to the tournament, while senior Chantelle Beveridge is going for the second time. Only freshman Madeline Jarrett has not played at nationals before.
“The key for us it that we are going to have to be consistent and we’re going to have to make good decisions,” Tilden said. “A four-day tournament is a long haul. We need to make sure we are up for it and mentally prepared.”
The Warriors best finish at nationals came three years ago when the current group of seniors was freshmen and the team placed seventh. Tilden says he asked the seniors which team they thought was better, the one from three years ago or the current team. Tilden says the response was unanimous with the current team.
“We played well this spring and I know we’re disappointed we didn’t get to play the last conference tournament,” Tilden said. “I think the girls are real confident. They trust one another and I think they will make some noise.”
Tilden says the weather forecast for the week is cool temperatures and rain. He says the team should be used to that because several of the spring tournaments were played in tough weather conditions.
Because the field was expanded from 120 to 144 golfers, there will be a cut after the third round. Only the top 17 teams and 40 individuals will play in Friday’s final round.
“Our first goal is to make the cut,” Tilden said. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t make the cut. Our next goal is a top 10 finish, which I think we are more than capable of doing if things go the way they should.”