By Michael Kessler, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 6, 2014
It has been a trying season for the Michigan women’s golf team. Heading into their sixth event of the season in Coral Gables, Fla, the Wolverines had been able to record only one finish outside the bottom four.
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So while a 12th place finish out of 18 teams in the Hurricane Invitational may not light the world on fire, Michigan’s performance was a welcome step in the right direction.
Even more encouraging than the team’s final placing was its performance in Wednesday’s final round of the three-day competition, which saw the Wolverines shoot the second-lowest team score of the day. Their season-low 291 score was bested only by event winner No. 16 Northwestern, which scored a final round 290 en route to a total 54-hole score of 864, a mere one stroke better than runner-up Iowa State.
Michigan was led by senior Alyssa Shimel, who recovered from a disappointing last event in Puerto Rico to shoot a career-low 69 in the last round. Shimel was the only Wolverine to finish in the top 20 with an overall score of 219, and her final round marked the team’s only below-par effort.
“I got more confident as the tournament progressed,” Shimel said. “I hit the ball pretty good all three days and putted pretty good. But today, I made some really key putts, I hit the ball better than I did the first two days and corrected mistakes I made the first few days.”
According to Michigan coach Jan Dowling, the course presented its toughest conditions on Wednesday. Yet Shimel wasn’t the only Wolverine to finish strong in the event.
Michigan’s second and third place finishers, freshman Grace Choi and junior Lauren Grogan, also shot their best rounds on the final day of competition with scores of 73 and 74, respectively. All five Michigan golfers were under par at some point in the third round.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, many other competing teams also improved their scores on the final day, which prevented a higher overall finish.
“Unlike other sports, we can’t control what other teams are doing, so we’ve got to focus on our improvements,” Michigan coach Jan Dowling said. “And there’s a lot of really positive things that went on this week.”
Added Shimel: “Everyone improved as the rounds progressed and they corrected mistakes they made, and I think that was a huge confidence boost for everyone.”
The Hurricane Invitational, which Michigan also competed in last year, provided the opportunity for the Wolverines to compete in the warm Florida climate, in stark contrast with Michigan’s winter and naturally limiting indoor facilities.
“It’s real nice to be able to practice off grass,” Shimel said. “We are very fortunate to have the indoor facilities that we have, but to be on grass and get to hit those tough field shots that you don’t get to hit indoors is a huge bonus.”
Because Michigan is on spring break this week, the team’s trip to Florida represented their official “winter” break trip. The Wolverines will remain in Florida until next Wednesday, and after taking a day off Thursday will use their next few days to train on various golf courses in the greater Miami area.