As five players from the Michigan women’s golf team compete at an NCAA Regional for a spot in the national finals, its biggest fans are not fans at all, but members of the team.
With the regional being held at the University of Michigan Golf Course, graduate student Ashley Kim and senior Jacqueline Young were granted a unique opportunity to watch their teammates compete in-person.
As the second round waned, and the Wolverines began to slip down the leaderboard — from two shots back from the lead to 11 shots back from third place — Kim and Young remained in high spirits. The upperclassmen were the first to cheer when their teammate dropped an approach shot near the pin or sank a putt.
“Nice Hailey!” Kim and Young shouted almost in unison from their greenside vantage point as junior Hailey Borja’s chip from the rough nestled within a few feet of the cup on Hole 15.
An outside observer might assume that Kim and Young are just doing their best to be good supporters by cheering on and encouraging their teammates. However, the outcome of a round of golf is often decided more by what happens inside a player’s head than the circumstances of the outside world. Especially for amateur golfers playing on the biggest stages of their young careers, noise from a crowd — or lack thereof — can be detrimental.
Kim and Young realize this, and they credit their understanding of each individual player’s specific needs to the strong bond they have built.
“We’re really close as a team this year,” Young said. “So we can tell when people are playing well and when they need to be cheered on or when they need a little bit of space. We’re familiar with all of that, so it’s more comfortable for us to be the first ones to cheer.”
For Kim and Young, a good teammate can’t just be defined as a familiar face and voice on the sidelines. During extended delays between shots, like on the 12th tee box — a long par three that has seen only five birdies in 132 attempts thus far — the pair could be found cracking jokes and sharing snacks with one of their teammates waiting for the green to clear. Their impromptu roles keeping their teammates loose and energized are crucial to the Wolverines’ success.
“We want each other to do well,” Kim said. “Uplift each other through in and throughout.”
Most teams might only claim to have great chemistry and a strong sense of team culture, but for a Michigan group that has retained the same roster for two consecutive seasons, the chemistry is clearly visible.
Despite the camaraderie, the Wolverines are no stranger to competition within the program.
“I think our team dynamic this year has been really great,” Young said. “Because you’re kind of competing directly against your teammates for spots, but this year has been pretty great.”
Kim agreed that this season’s team is always pushing itself to succeed, even while all of its golfers remain friends.
“I’d definitely say there’s a great balance,” Kim said. “Obviously we want our team to do super well even though you have the independent aspect of it.”
After supporting her teammates for the first two days of the NCAA Regional, Kim will get the chance to compete in round three in place of senior Sophia Trombetta.
When Kim takes the place of Trombetta on the first tee box Wednesday morning, it’s almost certain that Trombetta will be taking Kim’s spot as one of Michigan’s two biggest supporters.
In the gallery or on the green, each of the Wolverines’ impact is bound to be felt.