After placing eighth out of the 11 teams at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago, even receiving a bid into the NCAA Central Regional might have been a little surprising to the Michigan women’s golf team.
But it may have been more due to the sheer strength of the conference than the Wolverines’ performance at the Big Ten Championships that sent them to compete this past weekend. Michigan shot a total score of 938 and took 18th at the 24-team tournament to finish out its season.
The Wolverines were one of eight Big Ten teams to receive bids to the Central Regional in South Bend, Ind., leaving just three teams in the conference without a bid.
“The Big Ten conference is strong, and our strength of schedule wasn’t far behind,” Michigan coach Cheryl Stacy said. “We beat Arkansas and Notre Dame this year, and that definitely made a big difference as far as attending the tournament. In the weeks leading up to the Central Regionals, the team continued to practice at their normal rate.
“With the pressure of finals coming to a close, the girls knew they were at an advantage with more time to focus on golf.
The Central Regional took place at Warren Golf Course, a venue the Wolverines played at in the fall as well.
The course was tough and the scores showed it — numbers from the tournament were considerably higher than other regionals.
“The greens were small and tough to hit, and with several weather delays it really threw off our momentum” Stacy said.
Just like the thunderstorms met at day two of the Big Ten Championships, weather intervened and first-round play was delayed an hour and a half due to frost.
Despite the delay, the round saw junior Meagan Bauer shoot a three-over score and rake in three birdies on the back nine — then leading the team individually and tied for 26th overall with Chandra Alexandra of North Texas. As the first day came to a close, the Wolverines were tied with Butler for 20th of 24 total teams in the competition.
On Friday, the Wolverines jumped from 24th to 17th with a team score of 307. Freshman Alyssa Shimel came in at three-over to match Bauer’s first-round score.
Round three was again hindered by weather conditions, forcing the girls to delay their play after 12 holes.
“We were playing really well after seven holes when play was called off — we sat in (the clubhouse) for over two hours, and it really killed our momentum,” Stacy said of the delays.
Walking off the course on Saturday with the 18th-place finish, the Wolverines were upset and frustrated.
“There were lots of tears,” Stacy said. “They really wanted to make it into the top eight.”
Shimel was one-under at one point during the first round, but ended up shooting six over. This season, third rounds seem to have been a challenge for the Wolverines. In large part, the Central Regional served as a learning experience for the future.
UCLA took first at 26-over par, and will be joined by seven other teams from the regional (LSU, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and Wake Forest) to compete at the NCAA Championships.
Although Michigan will not be advancing, they still had a successful season for such a young team, with four of the five girls returning who competed in Ind. They will say farewell to senior captain Min Yean Tan.
“Even though we didn’t play as well as we had hoped, we really went out there with a great attitude,” Stacy said after the final round on Saturday. “We had heart and effort and we were there mentally. I see so much potential in this team going forward.”