If there is one thing the No. 21 Michigan women’s golf team was reminded of in its trip to Florida over spring break, it was that the Big Ten will be an extremely tough conference this season. The Wolverines got a first-hand look at the Big Ten in the Midwest Classic, and it is fair to say that everyone came away impressed.
“The Big Ten conference has never been as strong,” Michigan coach Kathy Teichert said. “Last year it was very strong too, but it’s very, very strong right now.”
Michigan finished fourth out of a field of 14, but also finished fourth out of six Big Ten teams. No. 12 Michigan State walked away with the victory by 11 strokes, followed by No. 20 Purdue and No. 8 Ohio State.
It was the second straight fourth-place finish for the Wolverines in the spring season.
“I was pleased with how we played,” Teichert said. “If we could have had a couple of other things happen to us, we would have been right there.”
It was a hard fought tournament for the Wolverines, as they battled back from sixth place after the first two rounds.
The team’s first sub-300 round of the year (299) helped propel the Wolverines to an impressive finish in a field laden with top 50 teams. It was also a very significant improvement over last year’s 10th-place finish, and perhaps a sign of better things to come.
“It was a different course last year, but everyone is stepping it up a notch,” Teichert said.
Leading the charge was freshman Laura Olin, who finished fourth in the individual standings with a 220 – just four strokes off the leader. Her 72 in the third round was a team low for the tournament, and it culminated in the first top-five finish of her career.
“She has had a tremendous year so far. We probably didn’t expect her to play as well as she has, so it’s like an added bonus,” Teichert said. “She has really stepped up for us, she’s a competitor.”
Olin was joined in the top 10 by teammate Misia Lemanski, who shot a 224. Olin and Lemanski have gotten off to good starts this spring, as they’ve been the top two finishers for the Wolverines the last two tournaments.
And despite a semi-disappointing finish at the Lady Aztec Invitational two weeks ago, Michigan is showing that it can compete with any team in the country.
“Each tournament we’re getting better and better, and that’s the goal,” Teichert said.
Because the Midwest Classic was earlier in the week, the Wolverines spent the rest of their break practicing and training in Lakeland, Fla
It was a good change of pace for the team, as the Wolverines were able to play on an actual golf course for an extended period of time.
“We’ve had a great opportunity to play in practice, we’ve taken advantage of every minute of sunlight,” Teichert said. “We start in the morning, break for lunch and dinner, and play until 9 p.m. It’s not a Jamaican fun trip – it’s a working trip.”
Although the Wolverines had an undefeated fall season, all of that is forgotten now as they look ahead to the remainder of the spring season. Michigan still needs to work on individual skills.
But the Wolverines believes they have the qualities needed to put together a strong season.
“We were very consistent this weekend, and we’re already consistent,” Teichert said. “We have tons of depth, and our goal is to get to the NCAA Championships.”
Michigan next plays at the Hatter Spring Fling (Mar. 16-17) in Daytona, Fla.