Legendary golfer Ben Hogan once said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.”
The Michigan women’s golf team followed Hogan’s advice and shot its way to sixth place out of 22 teams. The Cougar Classic was the Wolverines’ best finish in a fall tournament since Michigan coach Jan Dowling took over in 2013.
“Our ball striking was very, very good,” Dowling said. “That set us up for some great opportunities, which we capitalized on.”
Sophomore Elodie Van Dievoet led the way for the Wolverines, taking eighth place out of 110 golfers with 211 shots — five under par. Van Dievoet completed the first round in 69 strokes and notched birdies on the second, third and 12th holes.
“I think we prepared really well for this tournament,” Van Dievoet said. “We love the tournament, but we work even more so that we can do our best.”
Added Dowling: “(Van Dievoet) is a great ball striker and always has been. This golf course demands good ball striking, particularly coming into the greens. She’s been working really hard on our putting and she’s been really motivated on improving that part of her game.”
Senior Grace Choi was not too far behind Van Dievoet, placing 17th with a score of 214. She finished the first two rounds under par and made 10 birdies in the process. Choi’s birdie total would ultimately reach 13.
“(Choi) is an incredibly calming force,” Dowling said. “She’s also a very good course manager. She’s able to put a lot of things into perspective and I think that helps the younger golfers.”
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, junior Megan Kim turned in a strong performance in her own right as she finished 31st with 218 strokes. Her rounds included scores of 73, 72 and 73, respectively, and she tallied four birdies in the final round.
“(Kim) has been working really hard on her golf swing,” Dowling said. “She’s gaining some distance, and I think she’s gaining confidence there. She’s got a great short game, which prevents her from having a lot of ball-striking miscues.”
Junior Kathy Lim joined her teammates in the top 50 when she used a 71-shot second round — which featured three birdies — to propel herself into 50th place with 221 strokes. Fellow junior Emily White finished 71st, and completed round one in 73 strokes and birdied twice.
The Wolverines’ strong finish at the Cougar Classic, along with their 5-0 victory over Nebraska on Sept. 20, has them thinking of lofty goals for the 2016-17 season, a far cry from where the program was when Dowling arrived in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago.
“I think our first goal should be winning a tournament,” Van Dievoet said. “Then I think the whole team would love to win the Big Ten Tournament, just because it’s such a special tournament.”
But before any of those dreams can be realized, Michigan will finish up its fall schedule by competing at the Ruth’s Chris Invitational next weekend and the Trinity Forest Invitational next month.
With those tournaments on the horizon, the Wolverines might modify Hogan’s quote to say, “The most important tournament in golf is the next one.”