Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - The Cheryl Stacy era of Central Michigan women's golf begins Monday as the Chippewas play in the Women's Mid-American Match Play Challenge on the Royal Lakes course at Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
The Chippewas, who resumed women's golf last fall after a 32-year hiatus, feature an extremely young eight-player roster. Six of those student-athletes are freshmen.
"I know the players are super excited, I'm excited," said Stacy, who was named the Chippewas coach on Dec. 10. "We're really looking forward to just getting outside, to hitting off real grass and feeling the elements, the wind and the sun."
The Chippewas have been practicing daily at their new indoor facility at Mount Pleasant Country Club, utilizing the simulator, the chipping and putting area, as well as the driving range, with it's interior-bay tee boxes that open up to the club's outdoor driving range.
"I'm going be looking a lot of times (in Florida) at the ball flight and what they're doing with that, how far they can hit, how consistent they are with their irons," Stacy said. "Is there a big difference from club to club? There is going to be a long list of things I'll be looking at and writing down and keeping notes for."
The Chippewas performed reasonably well against expectations during the fall portion of the season, particularly considering that six of the eight players on the roster are freshmen and it is, for all intents and purposes, a new program.
Arielle Roberts averaged 80.8 per round and recorded four sub-80s rounds, including a school-record tying 75 which came in CMU's final event of the fall.
Most of the other Chippewas averaged from 83-86, and they posted a combined seven sub-80 rounds.
It's a good start and the foundation is being laid. Stacy said she is anxious to see her players perform in the heat of the battle.
"We've been mentally focusing on what they can control," she said. "We can't control the weather, they can't control what their opponents are doing, so really it's about controlling their attitude and preparation and pre-shot and post-shot reactions."
The match-play format is a good way to start the season, Stacy said, because the focus isn't so much on score, but rather on a player's shot-to-shot and putt-to-putt performance. In match player, players go head to head with a single opponent as opposed to playing the entire field, as is the case in stroke play.
"I think it's helpful especially with the first tournament out in the spring," Stacy said of the format. "I think all the girls like match play. So they're excited about it because you know you can have one bad hole, kind of blow up on a hole, but then you could still win the match. It really keeps them focused. It's just one shot at a time."
The tournament features seven MAC schools - CMU, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Ohio and Akron - along with Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
The teams are seeded based on their Golfstat ranking. Eastern Michigan is the top seed, CMU is eighth. The Chippewas and Eagles will square off in Monday's opening match.
The winner will play the Bowling Green-Akron winner, while the loser will take on the Bowling Green-Akron loser on Monday afternoon. The teams will play for place finishes on Tuesday.