A year ago, then seniors Emily Stone and Kate Engler were preparing for their senior season on the golf course.
With six varsity letters, five all conference awards and numerous big match moments between them, it was safe to say senior leadership served as a strength for the UW-Eau Claire women’s golf team during the 2014-15 season.
What a difference a year can make.
Engler and Stone are gone, but head coach Mike Greer said he isn’t concerned that the Blugolds will miss a beat this year as what they lost in senior leadership they’ll gain in junior leadership from co-captains Katie Moore and Katy Bolduc.
“We are lucky to have two great captains on our team who are both juniors,” Greer said. “We are a younger team this year … and they are great leaders by example.”
Bolduc and Moore’s leadership was evident the first week of practice Greer said, when he noticed how the younger players started following and mimicking the two captain’s actions.
Any doubt the Blugolds may lack leadership quickly faded as Greer saw his young team start to take shape under Bolduc and Moore’s direction.
“We did lose some leadership, but we gained a lot of good young players,” Moore said. “This year our team dynamic feels a lot better, and we are really close as a team because a lot of us are new at this so we are going through this together.”
Eau Claire’s roster consists of four underclassmen, and on a roster that only total seven, it could be easy for a team with such little returning experience to fall into mediocrity.
But the Blugold’s notched consecutive third place finishes to begin the year.
First at the UW-Oshkosh Invitational, Eau Claire scored 707 in a field of 10 teams and then a week later they hosted the Georgianni Memorial Blugold Invite where Greer said he witnessed the Blugolds grow as a unit.
After a “tough” day one, Eau Claire improved its second round score by 22 shots to edge out Carroll College by three strokes.
Bolduc said a relaxing family and team joint meal after day one helped calm the Blugold’s nerves heading into the second round.
“We had a tough first day,” Bolduc said, “but (Greer) is always very positive with us and gets us to do our best and that really helped.”
With two top three finishes to their name, Greer said he stresses his staff to not rush their young golfers as they continue to improve and rather slowly get them used the grind of college golf.
Greer’s slow-but-steady approach is against the clock though.
The Blugold’s most important match of the year, the WIAC Championship is only three weeks away.
Winner of the conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the national tournament in May.
WIAC champions in 2013, Bolduc and Moore both know what it is like to sit atop the conference, and Bolduc said each week they practice with the conference match in mind.
“We hope to win conference this year,” Bolduc said. “So we are just practicing and doing our best before then.”
As Eau Claire preps for conference, its attention first is on the Division III Classic this weekend in Lake City, (Minn.).
Men’s golf wins home meet
After finishing round one in eighth place, the Blugold men’s golf team shot 291 to shoot up to first place and win the Frank Wrigglesworth Blugold Invite for the first time since 2013.
A 21 shot improvement beat out Concordia College (Minn.) and Augsburg College (Minn.) by three strokes and Greer said it was a special performance all around.
Juniors Joey Drier and Brady Hanson tied for third scoring 148 and senior Andrew Schmidt and sophomore Ryan Isaacson improved their scores by 10 and 12 strokes respectively.
Eau Claire travels Saturday to Collegeville, Minn., for the Saint John’s invitational.