Women’s golf looks to stay on course


App State athletics

Appalachian State Savanna Wood during the 2015 Sunbelt Conference Women’s Golf Championship at Steelwood Country Club, Loxley, AL on Tuesday. Photo courtesy App State Athletics.

Lee Sanderlin

In golf, players often talk about being close. Close to finding their game, close to putting it all together or close to finally breaking through. For the Appalachian State women’s golf team, the general belief is that they’re all close to putting it together for a breakthrough win in a spring season full of close calls.

“We’ve improved every tournament, and there’s still room for improvement,” Savanna Wood, sophomore from Boone, said. “I think we are very close to peaking at the right time.”

Prior to their last tournament, the 2016 John Kirk Panther Intercollegiate, which saw the team finish a disappointing 11th out of 15 teams, the Mountaineers had recorded three straight top-5 finishes at the Seminole Spring Break Tournament, the Bulldog Invitational and the Low Country Intercollegiate to start their spring season. Wood, along with juniors Emily Stinson and Hannah Craver have used their strong individual performances to help propel the team forward this spring.

Wood’s strong play began at the Seminole State Spring Break tournament where she finished in a tie for eighth place after rounds of 81 and 77. Wood continued her strong play, posting a sixth place finish at the Bull Dog Invitational.

Emily Stinson had her best finish of the spring season to date at the Bulldog Invitational where she finished in third place with a two day total of 3-over par 147. Stinson also posted a top-10 finish at the Low Country Intercollegiate where she placed ninth. She has attributed the team’s success to their well balanced roster as well as the ability to learn from event to event.

“I think we have a strong team and I think we are learning new things every tournament,” Stinson said. “Having two juniors, two sophomores, a senior and a freshman gives us a lot of different perspectives.”

For head coach Heather Brown, the progress has been visible as the team works towards hitting their peak in time for season’s end.

“We’ve been progressing at each tournament, taking advantage of what we learn at each tournament and applying it to the next one,” Brown said. “This past tournament [2016 John Kirk Panther Intercollegiate] on paper doesn’t look like we did very well, but we were only a few shots from finishing a spot higher. It was our first time meeting up with other Sun Belt teams and I think we did okay. If you did a contact sport comparison we would be 1-3 against Sun Belt teams. Our last round score was competitive with the other Sun Belt teams.”

For the season, the Mountaineers have two tournaments remaining, the 2016 Mimosa Hills Invitational and the Sun Belt Championship. The Apps host the 2016 Mimosa Hills Invitational which is played at Mimosa Hills Country Club in Morganton, North Carolina. The event is one the team feels strongly about, knowing that it’s their best chance to peak before heading into the Sun Belt Championship.

“We’re going into our home tournament this weekend, it’s exciting playing on a familiar course that we all like,” Wood said.

App State has traditionally faired well at Mimosa Hills, with two wins and a second place finish in three of the last four seasons.

As far as the Sun Belt Championship is concerned, the course figures to be a new test for every team in the conference as this season will be the first time that the women in the Sun Belt Conference have played the course in competition. The Raven Golf Club, at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar, Florida will be hosting the women’s championship for the first time. The club held the men’s championship last season and will hold it again this year. Despite the lack of course knowledge, the expectations remain high for the Mountaineers.

“Well, we finished fourth in the Sun Belt last year and our expectation is to do better than we’ve done,” Brown said. “Ultimately we’d like to win it and that’s not something that’s out of our reach. We have to go in there ready.”

Coach Brown is ready for the team to peak, and knows it’s her job to help them get to the summit.

“It’s my job to get them not only to talk the talk, but to walk the walk,” Brown said.

The Mountaineers play the Mimosa Intercollegiate April 3-4 and the Sun Belt Championship April 17-19.