Finally, the Michigan women’s golf team is victorious.
After 41 years, the team has won the program’s first Big Ten Championship, and the university’s first golf conference title since the men’s team last won the Big Ten in 1952. Sophomore Monet Chun also brought home an individual Big Ten Championship – the second by a Michigan female golfer – leading the field by four strokes, posting a card of -8 (205) at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“It feels pretty great,” Michigan coach Jan Dowling said. “It’s just been an incredible run. It’s not just been one year of hard work, it’s been years of hard work for these players and our coaching staff. (We’re) just really really proud to be able to accomplish it. It’s not an easy feat.”
The Wolverines spent their whole season preparing for this event. After a second place finish in 2021, they entered this year’s tournament as the top seed, holding an 18th rank nationally. And after last season’s shortcomings, Michigan had something to prove.
With three tournament wins under their belt this season, expectations were high for the Wolverines entering the weekend. Thanks to the experience they gained holding leads and contending for tournaments all season, they managed the pressure.
“We were able to tap into (our) experience going into the final day,” Dowling said. “We really had to dig deep, cause this was different than just a regular season tournament. They did it, and I’m really proud of them.”
Michigan cruised through the first round of play, ending Friday +1 (285) – three strokes back of defending champions Michigan State in first.
After Saturday’s play wrapped up, the Wolverines found themselves four strokes ahead of the field, and Monet Chun earned a spot in Sunday’s final grouping, sitting at -6 with a two stroke lead in the individual field.
As Sunday’s final round neared completion, Michigan’s lead began to shrink. While the advantage dwindled, the Wolverines’ coaching staff had to trust its team’s preparation, talent and experience while keeping its players calm between shots.
“Golf is so much about managing yourself between the shots,” Dowling said. “They’re so talented and so good, they know how to perform when it’s their turn to hit. It’s (about) keeping them distracted and keeping their mind off things between shots. That’s what we try to do. Just trying to keep them loose and tell them funny stories between shots, to be honest.”
No one managed their game throughout the tournament better than Chun. After posting a career-low 66 (-5) on Saturday, Chun returned on Sunday with four birdies, totalling 16 on the weekend.
“Everytime we do a stats review of (Chun’s) tournaments all year long we’ve been like, ‘Man you’re getting ready to take off,” Dowling said. “Just kept saying that. And it was her time, it was her turn. It was an incredible performance all weekend long.”
Chun’s breakout performance occurred at the right time for Michigan. Her first career tournament win came on a weekend when its more experienced golfers didn’t have their best outings.
Upperclassmen Mikaela Schulz, Hailey Borja and Ashley Lau all finished outside of the top 15, scoring +7 (220), +9 (222) and +9, respectively. While Chun’s performance was important for establishing herself as an individual, she was more concerned with securing her team a Big Ten Championship.
“I really just wanted to go out there, play the best that I could, post a score to help the team,” Chun said. “It worked out that it was three pivotal rounds (for me).”
The next step for the Wolverines is the NCAA Regional at the University of Michigan Golf Course on May 9-11, where they will host 11 competing schools for the chance to move on to the NCAA Final in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“We’re going to enjoy this, this is pretty special,” Dowling said. “We’ll regroup … and then we go right back to what we’ve been doing.”
The Wolverines have the pieces to be great. If they can ride their momentum from this weekend, a national championship may be well within their sights.