Clint Wallman uses a fitting analogy to describe the beginning of the offseason for his Indiana team.
“We just completed nine holes of the season, you’re standing on the 10th tee,” he said of his players. “Whether you get a sandwich or whether you go hit golf balls is going to determine what you do the rest of the season.”
Indiana is a team that found success at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown on Oct. 23 after a hard lesson in paying attention to every detail. The team had wrapped up the title at its own Hoosier Invitational a week earlier, only to hand over that trophy nearly an hour later. Freshman Marissa Decola had signed for an incorrect score, and when she was disqualified, the team total grew by four shots. It left Wisconsin with the victory.
Wallman took it as an opportunity to teach his players the importance of every detail, on and off the golf course.
“He just told us to pay attention to the details. We need to respect every single shot,” graduate student Kristen Schelling said. “I think we all got a little lost in the moment, kind of took the game for granted.”
Wallman made it clear that teams win and lose as a unit, and then asked his players to put it behind them.
“We agreed collectively that when we left that meeting after the scorecard, we committed to paying attention to every detail,” he said.
In Las Vegas, Indiana posted its worst score of the tournament in the second round. But just three shots off the lead entering the final round, Indiana showed up the next day and put together a late-round rally. Most of that charge came courtesy of Schelling and sophomore Elizabeth Tong. They went a collective 4 under in the final nine holes. Decola, meanwhile, took a 9 on the par-3 third, but went 1 over in the next 15 holes to salvage a 79.
“The whole fall season, they had been teetering on really good things,” Wallman said of the victory.
Wallman says Tong (affectionately dubbed E.T. by the rest of the team) and Schelling have made an impression on the underclassmen. They help take the pressure off the rest of the team.
Schelling’s story is an especially inspiring one. After playing for UNLV for two years, Schelling suffered a hip injury at the beginning of 2010 that ended her junior season. After a year away from the sport dealing with the injury – and undergoing double-hip surgery – she returned to competitive golf this summer at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and has emerged as a team leader for the Hoosiers. In order to play another year, Schelling must be granted a medical hardship by the NCAA for the season that she lost due to injury.
It’s one reason why the Las Vegas event was especially meaningful.
“For me personally, I wanted to leave Vegas on a high note,” Schelling said. “I was pretty excited for that event.”
But most of all, it just feels good to be competing again.
“It’s been fabulous,” she said.
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Clutch freshman: Kyung Kim is a woman of few words. But when, as a freshman, she is able to take home one of the biggest regular-season titles of the fall, it doesn’t require too many words to explain.
Kim, who last made headlines in June as the winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, won the first title of her college career on Oct. 21 in a loaded Stanford Intercollegiate field. Nine of the 17 teams were ranked among the top 20 in the Golfweek/ Sagarin College Rankings. Only 47 strokes separated the top of the leaderboard from the bottom.
Said Kim of going 8 under in the final two rounds (66-68): “I just putted really well.”
After winning the Public Links and earning a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open (she missed the cut), Kim took some time away from golf to visit her family’s native South Korea. She said it left her game a little rusty.
“I had a little trouble with my swing,” she said. “My first two tournaments didn’t go too well. I wasn’t hitting the ball as well. So it took me a lot of time to get my swing back.”
In nine competitive rounds since arriving at USC, Kim has averaged a team-best 71.44. Her second-round 66 at Stanford is the lowest this fall, and it helped USC stay ahead of the field at Stanford. The Trojans’ roster is only five players long this fall, which is something Kim says contributes to team morale.
“Being a small team, it’s really good, because we all got close to each other so we know that when we are at at tournaments, everyone is really depending on each other,” she said.
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Optimistic for spring: UCLA senior leader Tiffany Lua will close out the fall season on the bench as the Bruins make their final trip before the offseason, to the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational. Lua, a familiar face at college and amateur events the past three years, used the first half of the season to rest a sore wrist.
UCLA head coach Carrie Forsyth remains optimistic that Lua will return in the spring. Lua recently returned to making full swings but is limited to 15 full shots per day.
“She is working hard to rebuild the strength in her wrist and taking it slowly right now,” Forsyth said in an email.
Lua, a member of the past two U.S. Curtis Cup teams, was Golfweek‘s No. 10 preseason player.
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Short shots: Two female college players have been named to the four-player team that will represent the United States at the Copa de las Americas in January. Duke senior Lindy Duncan and UCLA sophomore Erynne Lee will play on that team alongside Washington senior Chris Williams and Chattanooga senior Steven Fox. . . . Isabelle Lendl took the top spot in Golfweek‘s college rankings this week. The Florida senior has won twice in three starts this season, at the Dale McNamara Invitational and the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel.