Change is inevitable, especially in college athletics. But the Minnesota women’s golf team faces the dual tasks of bringing in a new head coach and replacing four starters from last season.
The Gophers were in town this weekend for their first and only home meet of the season, at the Minnesota Invitational at Les Bolstad University Golf Course. The Gophers were up against a host of lesser-known golf talents, headed by Eastern Michigan.
Trailing the Eagles after two rounds, the Gophers made up seven shots to force a playoff with Eastern Michigan after the third round. Minnesota got the better of Eastern Michigan for the team title, while the Gophers’ Megan Stier tied for the individual title before losing in a playoff.
Minnesota is helmed by first-year coach Melissa Arthur, who was hired in August. Arthur comes from the University of Washington where she served as assistant coach for the men’s and women’s golf teams.
Arthur is helming a team that has few places to go but up.
“I think we have a lot of talent and it should come out over our nerves,” said junior Katie Bakken.
This year’s team will be much younger than last season’s veteran lineup which featured four seniors. Only one regular starter from the last season, junior Jenny Bruun, returns to the team. The team consists of three juniors, eight sophomores and three freshmen — most of whom haven’t competed in collegiate tournaments.
But despite the age problems, Arthur also feels she has reason to be optimistic about the depth on the team.
“We have 14 on our team, and all 14 are capable of playing well any given week,” Arthur said.
Arthur replaces outgoing coach Kathy Williams. Williams left the team to take her women’s golf school to the national level.
As any other coach, Arthur’s goals for this year’s team are high, despite the lack of college-level experience.
“There is really no reason why Minnesota should be placing in the lower end of the conference with the talent I have here,” Arthur said.
Last season the Gophers placed eighth in the Big Ten tournament. This year they hope to move into the upper echelon of the conference.
Sophomore Kristin Dooley says the age factor might actually benefit the team. While the team lacks experience, in the long run the Gophers are betting this season — even if it’s a losing one — will be helpful in the future.