By KIMBERLY CONROY
The women’s golf team will head to Lakeland to compete in the annual Florida Southern Invitational February 19-21. Florida Southern, UT’s rival, will be hosting the event at Grasslands Country Club.
According to head coach Missey Jones, the team has been getting better every tournament. For this upcoming tournament, four freshmen will be competing, like in the last tournament, and have been practicing hard.
Upperclassman have also been trying to improve their game before the weekend. “For our next tournament, I’ve been working on all aspects of my game. My short game this past tournament was better than it’s ever been, but I still want it to be more consistent,” junior Jessica Wild said.
Jones says that freshman Kira Riihijarvi along with Wild will be key players on the green. “[Wild] has grown every year, her work ethic is phenomenal,” Jones said.
The next three tournaments are going to be different than normal. They will be competing from before dawn to dusk, with no practices in between the games like they normally do. Normally, the team competes during the first day, has a practice right after and then competes again the next day. This tournament, they will be playing from dusk until dawn, something the freshman have never done.
“The hard part is trying to get in shape mentally,” Jones said.
Not only are the freshmen preparing for, but even veteran players need to get ready for the exhausting weekend.
“The mental preparation of golf is probably one of the hardest things to do,” Wild said. “36 holes in one day is exhausting, both physically and mentally, but for me it takes a bigger toll mentally. You start preparing for your round as soon as the sun is up and you’re out on the course until the sun goes down.”
After breaking a team record and completing a decent overall season, the team ended on a high note in the fall. After winter break, however, they didn’t have much practice time before their first invitational.
On Feb. 5-6, the team competed in the Flagler World Golf Invitational in St. Augustine. Riihijarvi led the Spartans with a score of 154, followed by Wild with 160, and freshmen Katelin Lawson with 162, Sofia Cadavid with 163, Kensi Olson with 168. UT shot an overall score of 646 and finished 15th out of 18 schools.
Wild, who was the top finisher in the first two tournaments, finished second among the Spartans.
“It feels really great to be one of the top finishers not only this past tournament but last semester. My hard work is really paying off. I definitely still have a long way to go, but I’m really happy with how consistent I’ve been” Wild said.
But a long winter break changes the game. Each player practiced individually, but when you are from areas where there’s snow, it makes practicing difficult.
“When you’re gone away for winter break you don’t have the ability to practice, practicing in a dome is not the same as on grass,” said Jones. “We are very fortunate because of how supportive people in the city of Tampa are for the team,” about local courses allowing the team practice time before the big event.
Other Sunshine State Conference (SSC) competitors present were Barry University, who took the team champion, as well as Florida Technical College (No. 2), Saint Leo University (No. 3), Lynn University (No. 4) and Nova Southeastern University (No. 5).
The team’s goal this tournament is to break their one day record of 308. “All 10 of my girls are working hard, they practice under pressure, they are super coachable, and they play because they love it,” Jones said. “We are going to surprise a lot of people.”