Sept. 8, 2011
Bearcat golfers ready for breakout year
Junior Tess Edwards is the veteran of the nine-member Northwest Missouri State women's golf team. She is wise enough to know nothing is guaranteed on the links.
Two days before opening the season at the William Jewell Cardinal Invitational, Edwards refused to think she would be one of six golfers Coach Pat McLaughlin would automatically take to the tournament.
Despite Edwards experience and the fact that six of the Bearcats are freshmen getting their first taste of collegiate golf, she understood she has to earn her way to each tournament.
"If I make it, I hope to do well and improve on my scores from last year," Edwards said.
"I'm really looking forward to the season. I worked all summer trying to get better. Hopefully, this season will be better than the last couple of years."
Odds are good that Edwards, along with sophomores Cassie Lowell and Kristina D'Angela, will be at Cardinal Golf Course today and Friday when the Bearcats tee off against seven other teams.
Lowell and D'Angela are coming off solid rookie seasons. Last fall Lowell burst on the scene with strong showings, winning a couple of tournaments and finishing in the top five in others.
Lowell helped the Bearcats win three fall tournaments, finish second in two others and third once.
The success didn't prevent Lowell from learning.
"One of the most important things I learned was to stay positive," Lowell said. "I know a few tournaments last year I struggled and it was really hard to come back from that.
"Ending the season the way I did last year was definitely not the way I wanted. I learned from that and started working even harder.
"I worked a lot on my swing at the beginning of the summer. I had some lessons to fix it. I was definitely working on my short game as well. Towards the end of summer I had some knee problems so I haven't been able to practice as much as I wanted to."
D'Angela came on strong last spring. She tied for second behind Lowell in the William Jewell Spring Invitational, the last tournament before the MIAA Conference Championships at Tiffany Greens Golf Course.
At the conference tournament, Lowell and D'Angela gained valuable experience. D'Angela finished 18th and Lowell placed 23rd.
D'Angela said it was wise not to hit the ball in the water at Tiffany Greens.
"I think you already knew that," McLaughlin quickly chimed in.
Understanding how to deal with the pressure of an important tournament was the most valuable lesson for D'Angela.
"You got to think a little harder and take one shot at a time," she said.
Lowell, Edwards and D'Angela are already sharing their experiences with the freshmen to help them adapt.
"Their experience is going to be invaluable," McLaughlin said. "The fact they have played at the college level, they can share those experiences with the younger girls who have not had those opportunities.
"The overall leadership of just bringing them along in practices and sharing those experiences is going to make the transition much easier for the freshmen."
In practice, each returner is paired with a freshman. Edwards sees a lot of promise from the youngsters.
"We try to help them relax because they are so serious and nervous," Edwards said.
Edwards, Lowell and D'Anglea all want to top what they did last year and help the team take another step up.
"With our new freshmen last year, they helped a lot," Edwards said. "Now that we have six new freshmen, that should help boost our team even more."
D'Angela said she wants to shoot 82 or lower in every tournament.
"I want you to, too," McLaughlin said. "We are on the same page."
Golf is the type of sport that can quickly zap confidence with just a few stray shots.
"You can always improve on your confidence out there," D'Angela said. "The main thing for me is watching bigger girls drive it farther than me. It's hard watching them out drive me by 50 yards. But you can't let that get to you. You got to focus and still hit that green for par."
McLaughlin will begin to find out today what kind of team he has for the 2011-12 season. He liked the way the program progressed last year. He is looking for more growth this year.
"I want to see our overall team scores continue to go down," McLaughlin said. "It's an evaluation time for the six freshmen, how they are going to fit in and what role they will have with the team as we progress.
"Obviously, we would like to win the tournament. We have the capabilities to win each of the tournaments we play in. I want to see them play very steady and very consistent and see where we shake out as a team as we start the season."
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