Women's golf eyeing strong finish to an already successful season
Men’s basketball isn’t the only team at MSU seeking a strong finish to a successful season.
Women’s golf is ranked No. 10 in the country and features last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year, Sarah Burnham.
Sophomore Allyson Geer won Big Ten Player of the Week after finishing third in New Orleans at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational, shooting a career-low 67 in the first round.
“She shot a 68 the week before when we were at Florida State and bogeyed the last hole. She was so mad,” head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said.
The team has played two tournaments since the break between the fall and spring. It finished second in the Seminole Match Up in Tallahassee, Florida Feb. 9-10 behind South Carolina, and finished third in New Orleans.
Slobodnik-Stoll said she believes the team can improve, noting the team struggles to handle tougher conditions, such as the windy course they faced in New Orleans.
“It’s helping the young women realize that even though it’s windy, we still have to keep it around par,” she said. “They’re very capable of handling that. We just maybe made some mental errors in those rounds in the third and fourth spots. And they know that.”
Burnham said her development from a wide-eyed freshman to being the player she is now — a two-time All-American and favorite to repeat as Big Ten Player of the Year — has been great to see.
“My freshman year, I struggled. I was like, ‘Oh, I barely missed the green,’ but I had such a long shot in,” she said. “(As a senior), with the longer ones, you just have to focus back and think, ‘OK, this is a par-type of hole, and not a birdie hole where you can fly it right next to the pin and it’s an easy shot.’ So, that mentality is something different on longer holes.”
Senior Katie Sharp spoke of a more experienced Spartan team in the spring session.
“We have a little bit more experience under our belt this year than we did last year, and it shows with how we’re playing,” she said. “We’re a lot more mature, we have a very strong lineup of people who can play well.”
Slobodnik-Stoll said the coming graduation of a foundational player like Burnham could change the program.
“It’s our job to keep bringing in players behind Sarah who are going to challenge Sarah’s records. With Ally and (sophomore Paz Marfa Sans) we have that,” she said. “That’s really exciting as a coach to have three incredible players who are all ranked in the top 35 in the nation, and two of them are only sophomores.”
Geer, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week for her performance in New Orleans, started to break through during her sophomore year.
“Ally has been a great player since she was born. She’s fitting right into the role,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “I’m just really proud of Ally. She committed in eighth grade, I’ve known her for a long, long time.
“Sometimes, I look at her like, ‘Wow, she’s finally here.’ We waited for four years to get her here.”
Geer said she has always played golf for the game and competition instead of the accolades.
“I’ve never done it for the trophies. I’ve always done it for the love of the game and for competition,” Geer said. “Those honors are really just extra reward for your hard work. I look at it as an extra blessing. I understand that if you play well you’re gonna get those opportunities. I just try to play well.”
There are only two tournaments left for the team before the Big Ten Championships in Maineville, Ohio, which takes place April 20-22.
One of these is the Clemson Invitational in Sunset, South Carolina, March 23-25, which Sharp said she is looking forward to.
“We’ve played in Clemson the past two years, and I actually won that tournament two years ago, so it’s a favorite of mine,” she said.