Last season, the Michigan women’s golf team far exceeded expectations. The Wolverines finished 18th at the NCAA Championships despite barely being ranked in the top 50. And with four of five golfers returning from last season, this year’s Wolverines seemed poised to have another good season.
But Sunday, Michigan faced the reality that this year isn’t last season.
Competing at the East & West Challenge at Radrick Farms Golf Course — one of the two courses owned by the University — the Wolverines got off to a slow start, finishing fifth out of eight teams on Day 1. Michigan shot a first-day total of 598, 15 strokes behind fourth-place Oregon.
The three-day tournament was structured so that the first day consisted of 36 holes of team-stroke play, with the top four teams and the bottom four teams competing in a match-play winners and consolation bracket, respectively. By placing fifth, the Wolverines went to the consolation bracket to face off against eighth-place UC Davis.
Michigan’s struggles only continued Monday, as the team fell to UC Davis 3-2 in the consolation bracket semifinal. Junior Megan Kim, senior Grace Choi and sophomore Elodie Van Dievoet — all veterans from last year’s NCAA tournament — faltered in their matches.
“We had a couple of rough stretches on the 36-hole day, which kept us out of the championship bracket,” said Michigan coach Jan Dowling. “And we hit a UC Davis team that putted really well and got us thinking about needing to improve our putting.”
Even though the Wolverines couldn’t find their sense of direction Day 1 and Day 2, there was still another day to get on course against Big Ten foe Nebraska. And as if Michigan were using the sextant for the first time after sailing blind, get on course is what they did.
All of the Wolverines finally put a complete round together, beating the Cornhuskers, 5-0, to secure seventh place in the tournament. Choi and Kim won their matches 1-up, while juniors Kathy Lim and Emily White — the only Wolverines to win their matches against UC Davis — won commandingly, 4-and-3 and 3-and-2, respectively.
“We played really well today; we finished the tournament on a high note,” Dowling said about Tuesday’s match. “We certainly have some work to do and exposed some weaknesses, but we’re ready to work.”
A bright spot for Michigan, though, was freshman Alisa Snyder, who was competing in her first collegiate tournament. Snyder competed individually and took part in the individual competition comprising of players that are not part of each team’s five-person lineup.
Snyder shot 157 on Day 1 to qualify as the No. 3 individual golfer. In Monday’s semifinal, Snyder defeated No. 2 seed Kate Granahan from Penn State, before falling to the No. 1 seed from Kentucky in the Individual Match Play championship.
“She’s gaining some confidence and some experience as a collegiate golfer, and it’s a big step from junior golf to collegiate golf,” Dowling said. “I’m thankful she got the experience and got a tournament under her belt.”
Dowling also said she realizes one of the difficult parts of a new season is keeping up the momentum from the last one. Since the golf season is made up of both a fall and spring season, the fall season can be used to identify weaknesses and develop the players.
“I don’t think there is a team in any sport that plays their best every single week,” Dowling said. “It’s a great motivation how you react to it. I wouldn’t say we’re thrilled with our finish, but at the same time we have to learn what didn’t go well and get better.”