Sept. 22, 2010
Young guns push seniors to the top
By David Boyce
Senior Erin Luchtel really didn't know much about freshman Cassie Lowell until after the first round of the season-opening golf tournament.
Lowell shot an 83 at the Iowa Western Reiver Fall Classic. That's really good, thought Luchtel. She saw a different reaction.
"She was really upset with it," Luchtel said. "I was like I don't understand why you are upset. That's really good. And then I understood the second day why she was so upset. She dropped 10 strokes. I was really impressed with her. Glad she's on the team."
The three freshmen - Lowell, Kristina D'Angela and Chloi Allen - add a competitive spirit that the three returning seniors openly embrace.
The Bearcats finished last in the MIAA Championships.
"It was very disappointing. It was a big motivating factor. We were not only disappointed, I will use the word embarrassed," said Northwest women's golf coach Pat McLaughlin said. "We had a long discussion before we left for the summer.
"While there are no requirements in the summer time that the girls do anything, they took it upon themselves to do a summer program where they played golf all summer, took lessons and competed in tournaments to get back to the level we knew we were capable of. When they came back this fall they were ready for the season."
McLaughlin never questioned the work ethics of his upperclassmen. It's something they've had since they've been at Northwest.
The Bearcats went to work during the summer months to ensure a better season. At the time they really had no idea how good the incoming freshmen were going to be.
It was up to them to help the program rebound from a disappointing spring. For Luchtel, it meant working on her putting. For Feuerbach, it was ironing out her chipping and putting, something she excelled at in high school.
The early results have been phenomenal. The Bearcats have won their last two tournaments, claiming the one-day Graceland Yellowjacket Fall Invitational on Saturday and the two-day Nebraska Wesleyan Fall Invitational on Sunday and Monday.
At Nebraska, the Bearcats shot a program-record 325 on the first day. In addition, Feuerbach shot a personal best 79 on Sunday.
"To be honest that's been in me for a long time," Feuerbach said. "It hadn't shown yet. I attribute it to a lot of hard work on my short game. My chipping and putting is where I really excelled in high school. Definitely, hard work paid off there."
Luchtel also produced a career-best 80 on the same day.
"I've been working extremely hard on my putting," Luchtel said. "In the past that has hurt me a lot. I was just really good at putting. It saved me a lot of strokes."
The Bearcats still have four tournaments left this fall to figure out what they need to work on during the offseason.
Needless to say, the confidence is growing.
"To go out and shoot as well as we did this week was really a great start for our fall season," Feuerbach said. "We're not quite halfway done. It's really a good platform for where we want to finish this fall and continue into the spring."
The seniors like what the freshmen have added to the program.
"Cassie and Kristina and Chloi are going to be hugely competitive for us," Feuerbach said. "The past couple of years we've been such great friends and close in scores. When you get freshmen who shoot low scores, of course you want to be competitive with them and as a team you want to shoot low. It's good for the team."
The friendly competition, McLaughlin said, helps all the players focus more on their games.
"It is hard to stay focused all the time, but to have the younger girls on the team performing so well helps them stay focused," he said.
"After our good start at Council Bluffs, the girls were really excited about the possibilities this fall. They could see the hard work paying off and it seems like each time they go out they get a little more confident. We are setting school records every time we go out and personal records at each tournament. It is a heck of a lot more fun."
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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