Getting back into the swing of things after a 10-month break between competitions, the Michigan women’s golf team (1-0) found few holes in its game during a training match against Florida Gulf Coast (0-1). The Wolverines beat the Eagles, 289-310, finishing one over par as a team.
Sophomore Hailey Borja led the charge for Michigan, matching a career-best card of 69. She tinkered with her game throughout the offseason with tournament play and indoor practices in Ann Arbor. Already, the changes are paying dividends.
“(Borja’s) ball striking is very, very consistent,” Michigan coach Jan Dowling said. “She hits a ton of fairways, a ton of greens. When she goes low like she did on Monday is when she gets her putter hot and maybe gets a couple ups and downs to save her momentum.”
Despite her success in Florida — a state in which she has played the best rounds of her career — Borja found some challenges in the courses’ use of Bermuda grass compared to the courses she plays at home in California.
“Coming to Florida is definitely a challenge because you’ve got to get used to (Bermuda grass) and you’re definitely reading the grass a little bit differently,” Borja said. “I have always struggled, especially on the green, with just reading the grain and being able to take that into consideration with how the ball will go and how it will roll.”
Alongside Borja, junior Ashley Lau and freshman Monet Chun contributed strong performances, each placing in the top three golfers overall. While Borja, a second-team All-Big Ten golfer last season, was expected to rise to the occasion, Chun’s performance was more surprising. Coming to Michigan by way of Canada, Chun showed poise with a second-place finish to kick off her college career.
“(Chun) talked about how she was pretty nervous the first couple holes and she handled that pretty well,” Dowling said. “I think she’ll be able to take that momentum into the rest of the spring, which is very exciting. I think it really gives the team a lot of confidence too just to see that she can step up and help us win.”
While questions surrounding the team’s abilities after the long gap in matches may have existed before the matchup, the Wolverines put their best foot forward from start to finish to address those.
Still, the team is not complacent with its performance. Borja specifically is focusing on honing her putting game to break individual and team records this season.
“A lot of my putting was a little bit off, at least earlier in the weekend and it definitely got a lot better by Monday,” Borja said. “I had a lot of birdie opportunities that could go in so having my putting as best as it could be, I could’ve been shooting a lower score.”
While the team has plenty of room for improvement, an easy win against an unfamiliar team on an unfamiliar course to start the season brings hope for the team’s ability to adapt on the fly going forward.
That resilience could be crucial during the four-tournament marathon that runs before this season’s Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines left Florida conscious of where they need to improve in order to dive into tournament play on Feb. 7 with confidence.
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