April 18, 2011
D’Angela finding her groove during golf’s second season
By David Boyce
A grass-covering snow struck Maryville just before Spring Break. There was nothing unusual about that kind of weather for the northwest corner of Missouri, particularly during this harsh winter.
But snow and cold failed to stop freshman golfer Kristina D'Angela from heading to Mozingo Lake Golf Club and practicing her swing at the driving range.
D'Angela showed her dedication and willingness to get better.
Actually, those traits were on display almost immediately after the fall season ended.
While fellow freshman Cassie Lowell began her collegiate career in stunning fashion and seniors Erin Luchtel and Jessica Feuerbach were proving they had rebounded from the Bearcats' disappointing finish in the spring of 2010, D'Angela struggled to find her way in college golf.
D'Angela's best performance during the fall was 12th out of 56 golfers at the Nebraska Wesleyan Fall Invitational Sept. 19-20.
"I think it is just being overwhelmed with school and then trying to do a sport at the same time, especially since fall golf kicks off right away. Trying to organize time is a bit of a challenge," she said.
Instead of giving in to frustrations, D'Angela, who is from Windsor, Ontario, took steps to ensure a better spring season.
"Her work ethic is amazing," said Northwest coach Pat McLaughlin. "An example is the day after our fall season, she went to strength and conditioning coach Joe Quinlin and said, ‘I need to get into a physical routine, can you help me.?' She started immediately to get ready for the spring season."
The preparation is paying off in a big way. D'Angela is playing some of her best golf ever as Northwest heads into the MIAA Championships Monday and Tuesday at Tiffany Greens Golf Club.
D'Angela shot a career-best 82 on the first day of the eight-team William Jewell Invitational on Monday to take a first-round lead. She followed that with an 87 and finished in a tie for second with a score of 169. Lowell took first with a two-day total of 162.
The tournament showed that D'Angela has hit her stride. A few days earlier, D'Angela took third at the Central College Spring Invitational with a two-day score of 178. Lowell was second with a score of 170.
"I'm taking my time. I'm really focusing on my putts. I'm not rushing. I'm just focusing on my game," D'Angela said.
From all indications, the Bearcats are poised to make a bigger splash at the MIAA Championships than last year. In fact, they want to prove that they can compete with all the other teams in the MIAA.
A year ago the Northwest finished last out of five teams, 25 strokes behind the fourth-place finisher, Fort Hays State.
"They have a point to prove, no doubt," McLaughlin said. "The wheels came off at the end of last year. We played our absolute worst at conference. It's been a long time, over the summer and in the fall and looking back at the what ifs," McLaughlin said.
That doesn't seem likely to happen this year. The returners entered this season determined to do better and showed their improved games during the fall. The freshmen have pushed the upperclassmen.
Solid scores have resulted in the fall and spring. Northwest has won its last two tournaments. At William Jewell, Luchtel took eighth, sophomore Tess Edwards placed 12th and Feuerbach and senior Lauren Atkinson tied for 19th.
And at the Central College tournament, Feuerbach and Luchtel tied for seventh and Edwards took ninth.
"We've had, for the most part, four solid players in the fall," McLaughlin said. "We had some difficulty, at times, in the four and five spots. Having Kristina come along the way she has is really helping us. It is not blowing up our team score and causing problems. It has really been helpful for her to come along, that's for sure."
The competition between the Bearcat golfers has pushed each player to new heights.
Before the season started, McLaughlin wondered how the freshmen would mix with the seniors.
"It has been a joy to see the dynamics," he said. "You worry about will it be kind of cliquey with four seniors and basically four freshmen. Are we going to have this split with the older girls and the younger girls?
"But what it has done with the younger girls playing so well is it really has elevated the play of the seniors as well. They take pride in what position they play. They've been able to put aside the youth movement and all work for the team, which is great."
D'Angela enjoys playing with all her teammates.
"I love playing with Cassie," she said. "It's great competition. She's a very good player and will keep at it.
"The older players are a lot of fun. They welcomed me. They provide a lot of competition. They are playing well. I hope I can do the same for the golfers coming in next year."
D'Angela's focus right now is on the MIAA Championships and helping the Bearcats place as high as they can.
"I'm really excited. I hope I play well," she said. "It's supposed to be a really difficult course. We will get a practice round on it and we will see how well we do."
Needless to say, D'Angela has adapted to being a collegiate student-athlete.
"It just sometimes takes players longer to transition going to college and all the things included of being away from home, going to classes and social life and all the other things that occur when you go to college," McLaughlin said. "Sometimes those distractions make it difficult to get on track.
"She is always striving to improve herself. Her game has really come around. I think her confidence is the main thing. She is playing with a lot of confidence."
And that gives McLaughlin even more confidence that the Bearcats will improve on last season's finish.
"I'm excited," he said. "This is the best team we've been able to field at the conference tournament. I'm excited about our possibilities."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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