In the past, the Truman State University golf team has mainly consisted of upperclassmen, but now there are only two upperclassmen on a team of 10.
With such a young team, the competition within the team is wide open, creating anticipation to see which freshmen will make an immediate impact on the course this season. Tryouts were close and competitive this year, resulting in five freshmen joining the roster: twins Sydney and Macyn Young, Molly Jones, Kara Hunt, and Natalie Fatka.
Over the 2017-18 season, the team placed second in two out of nine events. The Bulldogs were also fifth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC), consecutively improving their results from the conference since 2014. Last season, the team started out doing well in tournaments, but finished 11th out of 14th at the GLVC championships. Even though last season’s results did not live up to the team’s expectations it provided all three freshmen with valuable tournament experience, which Fitzpatrick believes will benefit the team in the upcoming year.
This is something head coach Clint Fitzpatrick plans to build off of with the incoming freshmen given their limited experience with tournaments. With four starters graduating in the past two years, it gives everyone — not just the freshmen — the incentive to play their best, Fitzpatrick said.
“With a young roster everyone can travel, keeping golfers more engaged. The open positions also create a lot more opportunities for the incoming players. With open spots on the traveling team, they all have the ability to be in our top five and travel to tournaments,” Fitzpatrick said. “It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure.”
Returning golfers ended last season with the goal of improving their game over the summer, Fitzpatrick said, making him anxious and excited to see how their efforts have paid off. He said he’s not worried because he knows these girls and their work ethic is one of the team’s strengths.
With a favorable schedule, Fitzpatrick’s goal for this season is to win a tournament, something the team hasn’t accomplished since fall of 2012. Fitzpatrick has the players working on more than just improving their scoring from last season to achieve better placements this year. This season, Fitzpatrick said he made practices more competitive with individual and team challenges, which places extra pressure on the girls to help recreate what they go through when they’re playing in tournaments. One challenge during practice would be having them make a certain number of putts in a row without missing, or they start over. Compared to last year, the practices are now more organized and focused.
“[Practices] force us to work on the parts of our game that cause us the most problems as a team,” senior Lindsey Repp said.
Once tournaments start, the team will see if these new practices are paying off, especially against their biggest competitors at the Drury University Fall Invitational in Bolivar, Missouri, and the Flyer Intercollegiate Tournament hosted by Lewis University.
This team is the closest group of girls Fitzpatrick has coached in his six years here at Truman. He said these girls still care deeply for one another despite competing against each other on the course.
The returning players are optimistic, welcoming the new freshmen and showing them the ropes.