Lady golfers ready for challenges

Story by Emily Gresbrink

This spring, the UW-Eau Claire women’s golf team is definitely up to par.

The team is beginning its spring season strong, ranking in at No. 2 in the nation – the highest rank it’s ever had. With a handful of invitational wins under their belts from the fall season, the ten women, along with head coach John Means and assistant coach Meghan Sobotta, said they are looking forward to national as well as individual victories.

Last fall, the team won the WIAC Championship, which automatically qualified them for the NCAA Division III Tournament coming up in May. Aside from individual practice in the off-season, freshman Catherine Wagner said the team started back up in February working on swings and putting techniques in preparation.

Sophomore Katie Maurer said the team is very strong this year and is ready to face even the toughest competition.

“We had a tournament (the O’Brien National Invitational) where we were able to test our skills against the number one ranked Methodist University,” she said. “We lost to them by only two strokes. We are definitely putting on pressure and showing our competition that we are there to win.”

Methodist University (Fayetteville, N.C.) is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the NCAA Division III school category, and Eau Claire is right behind them. Both Maurer and Wagner said they were anticipating future head-to-head competition with Methodist.

To achieve their goals, Wagner said, there would have to be individual as well as team success. Wagner, who has been golfing for 11 years, said it is the combination of individual and team play that makes the sport unique.

“Golf is the type of sport that can be totally individual, but yet at the same time a team effort,” Wagner said. “I think that that is one of the great aspects of the sport.”

Maurer, a golfer of 11 years as well, said she started playing to keep herself busy during the summer. But, like Wagner, she fell in love with both the team and individual aspect of the sport. Maurer also said she has already set a goal for herself for both this season and beyond.

“For the remaining season, individually I want to improve my stroke average . both as an individual goal and team goal,” Maurer said, adding, “. In the next 5-10 years, I want to potentially go pro for a little bit.”

Over spring break, the team will participate in a tournament in Wichita, Kan. on April 2. After that, the Blugolds will travel for events throughout Minnesota and Iowa, as well as host the Blugold Spring Invitational on May 1 and 2 in Eau Claire. After these five events comes the long-awaited NCAA Division III championship from May 11 to 14 in Florida.

Maurer said she looks forward to the upcoming NCAA tournament season.

“(One goal I have is to) win nationals,” she said. “We are excited to play against all of these (nationally-ranked) teams. And, of course, we are excited just to play at Nationals against the best of the best.”