GVSU golfers finish 11th in NC at nationals
Inexperience plagues young Lakers in 12-team field
GVSU freshman Julie Guckian prepares to sink a putt during a regular season event.
An outstanding spring season concluded with a middling finish for the Grand Valley State University women’s golf team over the weekend at the NCAA Division II National Championship at Rock Barn Golf & Spa in Conover, N.C.
No. 23 GVSU had won four straight tournaments prior to nationals with first-place finishes in the GLIAC Tournament and NCAA Division II East Super Regional. Consistency was a strength for the team in its impressive spring run, but it was a series of sporadic scores early in the tournament that quickly took GVSU out of contention.
The Lakers gritted their way to a 31-over-par 315 on the first day, finding themselves in 10th place overall. Junior Kelly Hartigan was the silver lining for the team, as she fired a 2-over-par 73 to find herself in ninth place. Freshman teammate Julie Guckian, who shot a 74, was the only other Laker to avoid the early struggles on day one.
Although the national appearance was the 12th in program history, only two of GVSU’s top-five players had experience on such a stage. For Guckian, freshman Alex Taylor and sophomore Gabrielle Shipley, the territory was foreign. And each player responded differently.
“The first round taught me a lesson on how to manage the course wisely,” Shipley said. “I hit my driver terribly and I should have put it in my bag. Just because a hole is a par 4 or 5 does not mean you need a driver. After the first round I thought a few things over and didn’t hit my driver again.”
After a tough first day in which she shot a 14-over-par 85, Shipley made some tactical adjustments and played veteran golf over the next three rounds. With her driver in exile for the rest of the tournament, Shipley excelled. She shot a 75 and 73 to go with an even-par 71 on the final day of competition -- the lowest GVSU score on each day.
The team also seemed to improve as the tournament went on, as the Lakers posted a 27-over-par 311 on day two and a 24-over-par 308 on day three. Hartigan scored back-to-back rounds of 5-over-par 76 to join Shipley atop the GVSU scorecard, while senior Veronica Ryan notched her best day in the third round with a 9-over-par 80.
“The first and last days were not up to our best performance but we played well on the two middle days,” head coach Rebecca Mailloux said. “We took way too many penalty strokes and need to learn to minimize our mistakes.
“We’re still a young team and it’s all about the experience we got this weekend.”
Heading into the final day, GVSU was sitting in ninth place and was effectively out of contention for the title. Despite Shipley’s even-par round and Hartigan shooting just two over, the Lakers posted their worst score of the tournament with a 32-over-par 316 to drop into 11th place as the book slammed shut on a strong season.
“We played OK for a couple of days but there was plenty of room for improvement,” Hartigan said. “Overall, we had a great season and it just didn’t end the way we wanted. Next season we’ll be back and we know what the competition is like at nationals.”
Top-ranked Lynn University took home the title with a 28-over-par total of 1,164. The rest of the field was well behind, as runner-up Barry University shot a 57-over-par 1,193. Lynn’s Louise Manolo earned medalist honors with a 3-over total of 287.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have already begun to look ahead to next year and anticipate another strong season – but with a happier ending.