Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The improvement of the Central Michigan golf team has been steady.
Now midway through the fourth year since the program’s resurrection in 2014-15, the focus has shifted from building blocks to competitiveness.
“I think their mindsets have changed,” coach Cheryl Stacy said of her players. “They seem to be a lot more confident. It’s noticeable when I watch them.”
The Chippewas open the spring portion of their season on Monday at the Mid-American Match Play Challenge at Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. CMU’s spring schedule includes three events in Florida, one in Arizona and one in Georgia. The MAC Championships are scheduled for April 20-22 in Naperville, Ill.
CMU opens the two-day MAC Match Play by squaring off with Bowling Green on Monday morning. The winner will take on Northern Illinois on Monday afternoon; the loser will play either Western Michigan or Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
The 12-team tournament field includes eight MAC schools: CMU, Western, NIU, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio, Kent State and Akron.
The Chippewas enter the spring after a five-event fall schedule during which they broke nearly every program and individual scoring record. Those accomplishments are tangible testaments to the time and work that veterans such as seniors Kristen Wolfe and Natalie Johnson have put in since they arrive as CMU’s first recruits before the 2014-15 season.
It also shows the caliber of player that Stacy is now recruiting and bringing into the fold. Freshman Jami Laude led the Chippewas with a 77.86 stroke average during the fall. She closed that portion of the season with a program-record-tying 72 en route to an individual tie for fourth place – the best finish since the program’s re-birth -- at the Dayton Fall Invitational.
The Chippewas averaged 78.64 per 18-hole round during the five fall events. During the 2016-17 season, CMU averaged 82.75.
Johnson and Wolfe are the steady mainstays in the lineup, but the likes of Laude – who is still a freshman – along with sophomore Danielle Sawyer are pushing the veterans for the top spots. That quartet, along with junior Bria Colosky, will comprise the lineup for the MAC Match Play.
“I’m excited to get started,” Stacy said. “I think we’ve had a good winter of practice and strength and conditioning. We’ve had a couple different speakers come in from the university psychology department and another from physical education. It’s been a good time to step back and so some evaluating, and we’ve covered different topics – handling stress and pressure, the mental side of the game.”
Opening the spring with a match-play event has its advantages, Stacy said, because the format encourages a stroke-by-stroke approach as opposed to scoreboard watching in a stroke-play event.
“It’s more just getting out and playing,” Stacy said. “With match play you’re not so much focused on score but just what’s in front of you, and that’s kind of how you should play anyway. You’re just trying to win the match.”