Oct. 6, 2010
A smooth transition
By David Boyce
A week like this one could be overwhelming for a freshman student-athlete.
The Northwest Missouri State women's golf team completed a two-day, Nebraska-Omaha Collegiate Golf Classic on Tuesday in Valley Falls, Neb. The Bearcats finished fourth out of eight teams.
After a day of rest, or more specifically, classes, the Northwest golfers return to action Thursday and Friday and play host to the Bearcat Fall Classic at Mozingo Lake Golf Club.
It's a pretty daunting task for a freshman learning the rigors of being away from home for the first time, going to class and competing against older players.
Northwest has a freshman in Cassie Lowell who is handling it like a seasoned veteran. She finished fourth out of 44 players at the UNO Collegiate Golf Classic and that was her worst finish of the season.
Lowell has won two tournaments, taken second in one and third in the other.
"As a freshman, making the transition from high school to college I thought would take longer to score as well as she's scoring because of the longer distances that you play in college," Northwest coach Pat McLaughlin said.
"I knew she had great capabilities but it might take her longer to realize those capabilities than it has."
The winning came quite quickly. She took first in her third collegiate golf tournament, topping a field of 52 golfers.
"I was excited but kept it inside. It was pretty exciting but I stayed humble," Lowell said.
That's precisely how McLaughlin remembers it.
"She was very mature and calm," he said. "As a young person coming in and winning a college golf tournament as early as she had, she was obviously very excited, but she handled it very professionally."
Lowell followed that winning performance with another first-place finish at the Ottawa Invitational. She shot a program-best 154. It was also the first time a Bearcat had won back-to-back tournaments.
Despite results that any senior would love to have, Lowell maintains the exuberance of a typical freshman playing college golf for the first time.
"We get to travel and play nice courses," she said. "I love my team. We have so much fun together."
McLaughlin uses the word mature to describe Lowell, and actually those traits could be seen back when she was a senior at Concordia, Kan.
The golf abilities were obvious. She finished tied for second in Class 4A in her junior and senior years. She won the second-place playoff as a junior and lost it as a senior.
Those high finishes proved she had more than enough ability to play at the next level.
But it was Lowell's initiative in finding the school that best suited her that showed her maturity. She went looking for a place that had a good journalism program.
Journalism is in her blood as much as golf. She can't remember when she started playing golf because she started so early and she has always been around newspapers all her life.
"My family owns the local newspaper and I was on the high school staff so I know how that kind of rolls," she said.
Lowell picked Northwest and went after the school with the same determination as sinking a 15-foot putt for a birdie. She sent an e-mail to coach McLaughlin.
"I asked about her stats, checked out her stats and invited her to campus to meet with some of the players," McLaughlin said. "We are glad to have her as a Bearcat."
"She's very easy to get along with, personable, outgoing. I really go back to her maturity," McLaughlin said. "She's poised. She has a lot of confidence. Sometimes you can have too much swagger. She doesn't have that. She really believes in her game and she goes out and does her best."
Obviously, golf is an individual sport. You are out there on your own, playing one hole after another.
But college golf is also a team sport. Lowell likes that aspect.
"Team wise, you want to play well for your team, but it is a lot more individual and a lot more mental," she said.
"It can be frustrating, but you just have to concentrate on the shot you are on and can't worry about what happened on the hole behind you. You have to stay positive and that's what I try to do."
The fall portion of the golf season is drawing to a close. The Bearcats final fall tournament is the Avila Fall Invitational Oct. 11-12 in Grandview, Mo.
"Right now I'm trying to stay healthy and keep pushing through and stay positive and stay focused," Lowell said.
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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