Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Improvement has been steady and incremental, and that’s all Cheryl Stacy, or any coach for that matter, can ask.
The Central Michigan women’s golf team opens the spring season on Monday at the Mid-American Match Play Challenge at Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
The Chippewas, who are in their third season since the resurrection of the program, showed vast improvement in the fall season, bettering their team and individual scores and their team placings in every event in which they competed compared to the fall, 2015 season.
Stacy, who is in her third spring as the Chippewas’ coach, said the goal is to continue to make strides.
“My goal was to get them better and they’ve definitely improved and met the expectations,” said Stacy, who took over the program prior to the spring season in 2015. “Now the standards are higher and they know it.”
Juniors Kristen Wolfe and Natalie Johnson have been the steady mainstays in the program since it was re-started for the fall, 2014 season after some three decades.
Their numbers, like those of their teammates, have shown steady improvement. Wolfe led the Chippewas with a 79.93 scoring average in CMU’s five fall events. Among her many sub-80 rounds in the fall was a career-best-tying 73 that came at the Toledo Rocket Classic when CMU posted a program-record 311 team total.
Johnson averaged 80.64 during the fall, and combined with Wolfe and the likes of freshman Danielle Sawyer and junior Holly Hines to give the Chippewas an ever-growing consistent core.
Sawyer, a freshman from Grafton, Ont., led the nation in the fall, averaging 28.89 putts per round. She ranked second on the team with an 80.07 scoring average, and her even-par 72 at the Toledo Rocket Classic in October is the best in program history.
The Chippewas have eagerly looked to the MAC Match Play to get an early gauge of where they stack up against their league brethren. They open the event on Monday against Oakland, and, if they win, would face Western Michigan in the second round.
The 12-team event includes MAC representatives Ohio, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Akron. Florida Gulf Coast, Fort Wayne, Dayton and Lamar round out the field.
The Chippewas have spent myriad hours this winter at their indoor training facility at Mount Pleasant Country Club.
“We’re looking forward to getting started, looking forward to getting out on grass and seeing how all of our winter work has paid off,” Stacy said. “We’ve worked a ton on short game.”
Stacy said a major factor in the players’ continued development is simply experience, particularly in tournament golf. Playing top-notch competition in summer amateur tournaments has been a priority, and one that players have embraced, Stacy said.
“I think just maturity and maturity in a golf sense, knowing better how to practice,” she said. “They’re more disciplined as golfers. If you look at their stats they’re all consistently better.
“Developing their skill level, and since they have developed that they’re not going to make as many of those mental mistakes because they’re more confident in their ability to hit the shots.”
Junior Amanda Walsh, sophomore Bria Colosky and freshman Katie Logan are also back. Colosky averaged 81.82 in the fall and led the Chippewas in fairways hit, a critical statistic.
“The goal,” Stacy said, “is to continue to chip away at the numbers. Now we’re starting to get the low 80s and high 70s more consistently. Obviously the better you get the harder it is to make bigger jumps, but that’s the goal. We’re always trying to beat our personal best.”