After a brief period of green grass on campus, snow has returned to Minnesota. Many golfers this time of year flee to the south to escape these weather conditions; however, the weather hasn’t deterred the Macalester Women’s Golf team from making strides towards improvement in the land of seemingly never-ending snow.
After a rocky fall season in which the Scots placed eighth out of 11 teams in the MIAC Championships, the women’s team hopes to reap the rewards of their productive winter training season with successes in their shortened spring season. The Scots 36-hole event scheduled for this weekend at St. Thomas has been cancelled due to wet conditions and a wintry forecast for the next few days. They will instead begin their spring the following weekend (April 20-21) at the Bethel Invitational at Logger’s Trail in Stillwater.
Grace Caird ’13 (Shorewood, WI) was the team’s leading golfer in the fall, averaging 89.9 strokes per round. She became All-Conference in 2010 by finishing ninth at the MIAC Championships, recording scores of 87-84-85. The next season, she narrowly missed gaining the honor again, finishing 11th at the conference meet, including a final day score of 75. However, she struggled this fall, dropping all the way to 27th at the MIAC Championships. Caird said that the team had a tendency to get down on themselves during this past season.
“Once we had a bad hole we’d sort of get together and commiserate,” Caird said. “Coach kind of pulled us together and said, ‘I expect more out of you. You should expect more out of you.’”
With the MIAC Conference Meet in the fall and the National Championships in the spring, the team has a long stretch to remain focused. Head coach Tomas Adalsteinsson said that while the national championship is not in the cards for this year, it is an exciting challenge for the future. “We have to make sure we’re good enough in the fall so we’re contenders in the conference and if we win the conference, place high enough to qualify for the national championship,” he said.
In the meantime, Suzanne Dufault ’15 (Fosston, MN) said that the spring season will be a vital time for the first-years and sophomores to gain experience.
“I think all of us know that we can improve,” she said. “We taped my swing in February, and it was the worst I’ve ever seen. I was not rotating correctly, my swing was too long and I was crossing the plain.”
Dufault fired scores of 88-88-82 at conference her freshman year, enabling her to finish 25th in the tournament. The fact that her score was only 2 strokes higher than what Caird fired the previous season (which was good for 9th place) is testament to how much better the conference has gotten over the past couple of seasons.
Adalsteinsson said that Dufault has made significant strides on her swing in the past month.
“A big part of our athletic performance is mental,” he said. “We need to have strong mechanics. We need to be physically able, but when it comes right down to getting the most out of your performance, you need to be able to visualize, control your emotions and your physique.”
Dufault admitted that it was scary to see a coaching change after her first season. “There are just things Tomas does differently,” she said. “It’s just a process of learning to communicate with him and what kind of coaching style he has. He’s just a little bit more laid back on the course.”
After more than a semester under Adalsteinsson’s tutelage, Dufault said his use of psychology has benefitted her game.
“It’s key to visualize,” she said. “For me, I can hit nine out of 10 balls perfect on the range, but as soon as it’s like, ‘If I don’t hit this shot, I’ll be set up poorly for the next shot.’ It’s just a huge mental block to having a good game.”
“[Adalsteinsson] did a really great job of preparing us,” added Maddie Arbisi ’14 (Stillwater, MN). “Two weeks ago, I felt the most prepared going into this spring as ever. I feel like I could go out in completely awful conditions and still have a chance. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it.”
Arbisi said that the team receives limited campus support at meets, although she admitted that it’s not something she expects of her classmates.
“We should probably advertise more,” she said. “Like, ‘Go on a nature walk with the golf team.’”
“Pat Piepkorn ’12 and some of his friends came to watch once,” Caird said. “But they came on the wrong day. They drove all the way up to Bunker Hills and couldn’t see us. [Pat] got a bunch of signs. He was waiting by the first tee, and it was just a bunch of old men playing there.”
“I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends and a lot of them have promised me that they’re going to come and watch at least one meet in my collegiate career,” Dufault said. “I’m looking forward to that. I enjoy playing for people.”
If Macalester’s young talent continues to grow, crowds will likely follow. Adalsteinsson said that although the Scots lack experience in top level competition, the team also shows great potential. “We’ve seen Jessica Stone ’16 (Granada Hills, CA) come in during her first-year and be the second lowest scorer on the team,” he said. “That’s always great when you can get someone who can acclimate so quickly.”
Stone finished her fall campaign right behind Caird, averaging 90.9 strokes per round. “This team shows the most promise,” Caird said. “[Stone] has the potential to carry this program.”
“It’s not like we’re going to be national contenders right away,” Adalsteinsson said. “We need to use the spring to get those changes and adjustments to prepare us for the fall.”
Arbisi said that she’s confident that the team is in good hands for the future. “When I look back five years from ago, I think I’ll see a national champion somewhere in there.”
As for now, the team is focused on finishing out their spring campaign with improved games. “We all have the potential to golf around the same score,” Dufault said. “I think this spring we’d like to continue pushing each other and count on good scores from everyone.”
After earning Academic All-Conference honors in the fall, Dufault said her primarily individual goal for the spring is becoming an Academic All-American. “That means that I’ll have to shoot low 90s, preferably 80s, and then I have to keep my grades up, but those look pretty good,” she said.
Dufault follows in the footsteps of Caird, who was named Academic All-Conference from 2011-2012. “Being a Division III program, the academics are hugely important to me and the players,” Adalsteinsson said. “I’ve been very impressed with how they’ve been balancing school and golf.”
“The strengths definitely are how focused they are, how hard they’ve been working, how coachable they’ve been,” Adalsteinsson continued. “Really it’s just a great group. We’re bringing in a couple more talented golfers for the fall. So I think for the spring and moving on we’ll have a great competitive women’s team in the conference.”