Numbers play a significant role in golf. When it comes to an individual or team score, the lower the score, the better. But there is also strength in numbers when it comes to team members. However, this year’s golf team is down four players from last year, making the numbers game much more difficult.
With a drop from nine to five players due to players graduating, each golfer’s role has become more significant. The players this season have also had to overcome other challenges, such as the addition of a new player and a new coach, all while trying to play their best golf at each tournament.
Senior Mary Rooker said because the team is smaller this year, the women on the squad have been able to form much more tight–knit relationships both on and off the golf course. She said the closer bond is a motivating factor when it comes to working hard on the course.
“[We are] really working with each other and helping each other out to try and get the whole team up to another level,” Rooker said. “I think it’s been a really positive thing that we have adjusted to pretty well.”
Graduate assistant Sharon Li, who played for the Bombers last season and was one of the best Division III golfers in the country last year, said during practice the team members are helping one another so everyone can improve and be more motivated.
“We want them to have fun, and that’s what golf is about — having fun and learning more about yourself and your golf game,” Li said.
In its 2015 campaign, the team has seen much newfound individual success, which is largely due to head coach Molly Braid, who was hired in August and came in with prior experience teaching golf as a Professional Golf Association instructor and a Ladies Professional Golf Association instructor in Charlotte, South Carolina.
Braid said in golf, only four scores are counted in the final score, which in turn has made the level of commitment higher this year.
By being able to work one-on-one with their coach, each woman has hit a personal best this season, and sophomore Indiana Jones said she attributes that success to Braid’s teaching style.
Jones, who earned Empire 8 Player of the Year, improved by seven strokes this year to have a personal round best of 70. Sophomore Kyra Denish, who was Empire 8 Player of the Week twice this season, dropped nine strokes to have a personal round best of 77. Rooker and sophomore Lauren Saylor both dropped a significant number of strokes to have personal round bests of 89 and 86, respectively. The newest player of the team, senior Colleen Vaughn, had a personal best of 120.
Jones said the Blue and Gold have felt more pressure during tournaments this year because each stroke counts.
Not all of the women on the team were able to compete in tournaments last year because of the bigger squad. This year during each tournament, only one score can be dropped for the Bombers, unlike the bigger teams they compete against that can choose from a larger pool of players to compete in each tournament, Braid said.
The addition of the team’s newest golfer, Vaughn, thus gave the squad another player to compete in its tournaments. Vaughn said she picked up golf over the summer by playing with her dad and saw potential in her game. She decided to join the team for her final year of college instead of running track and cross-country.
Jones said the Bombers view Vaughn as an invaluable member of the team, and all of the women on the team love her positive attitude toward playing and learning golf.
Vaughn’s first tournament was the 2015 Empire 8 Championship held on Sept. 12 and 13, which she said put more pressure on her to succeed, but as the season has progressed, she has felt more comfortable on the golf course in recent tournaments.
“I was very nervous, but I needed that starting point, and I’m really glad I did it because from that point on it was a lot easier being put out in a tournament,” Vaughn said.
The South Hill squad’s biggest success was winning the Empire 8 Championship for the sixth year in a row. The Blue and Gold won the championship by 39 strokes, proving to themselves and everyone else that they can be competitive and win tournaments. Braid stressed the importance of the team being able to win the championship despite all of the changes this year.
“The team [winning] with not having as much experience was great for them to prove themselves that they could go out there and perform too and show that their hard work from last year was paying off now,” Braid said.