With only three invitationals left before the Big Ten Championships arrive, the Michigan women’s golf team is proving to its competition and itself that it is a realistic threat. After the Wolverines’ hopes for improving their score at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge were dashed due to weather conditions, coach Kathy Teichert added the California-Irvine Anteater Invitational to the team’s schedule.
“This was a great experience for us, the timing was perfect, and it just happened to fall in a perfect spot,” Teichert said.
The two-day tournament, held in Coto de Caza, Calif., proved to be an opportunity for the women to shine, and resulted in the Wolverines’ second best finish of the season. When the final 54-holes of golf had been played, the Wolverines were in third place with a 929 total, following first-place California-Irvine by four strokes, and a mere two strokes behind Cal State-Northridge.
Senior Kim Benedict showcased her talent during this tournament – especially in the second round. Benedict tied her season-best score with a two-under par 70. Benedict finished in a tie for fifth place, followed by freshman Amy Schmucker, who finished 13th with 17-over-par for the tournament. Both women carded their second best total of the season – Benedict with 224, one shot off her season-best, and Schmucker with 233.
“The more I put myself into a position to finish well and the more pressure I put on myself to perform, the better I will be in the future,” Benedict said.
The Wolverines usually count on sophomore Laura Olin to assist Benedict in leading the team. After a score of 169 after two rounds, Olin was far behind the lead. She shot a 76 in the final round, but was unable to repair the damage from her second round of 88.
Olin finished in 29th place with 245 total stokes. Stephanie Stasik made a notable effort – her 22 over-par landed her in 21st place – and Courtney Goebel tied her season-best round with a 77 in the second round.
The Wolverines have faced disappointment during final rounds this season. The team struggled during its last tournament at the Central District Invitational in Florida, dropping three spots during the last day to tie for eighth place.
But the Wolverines maintained a level of consistency throughout this tournament that displayed their increasing dependability and stability.
“I thought we put ourselves in very good positions to actually win the tournament,” Teichert said. “It was great to actually have a chance to win it, and I think that can help our program and our players.”
The California-Irvine Invitational was comprised of 13 teams. Among them were two frequent competitors: Texas Tech, who placed higher than the Wolverines in the last tournament, and Iowa State.
The Wolverines will confidently head down to Austin, Texas in less than two weeks for the Betsy Rawls Invitational over March 24-26. The field will consist of competitive teams from the Midwest and South, and should provide a challenging and aggressive atmosphere for the Wolverines.
“The field will be a little more difficult and more competitive, which is a good thing,” Teichert said. “I’m expecting our players to improve from each tournament and step up to the challenge.”
While improving at each tournament is on Michigan’s agenda, there are other motives to attending tournaments. As Benedict put it, “It also is just another opportunity to see grass, which isn’t a bad thing from where we come from.”