Having recruited a full team, but one that widely varies in terms of ability and experience, head coach Brynn Hurdus faces both great potential and unique challenges in her second season leading the Linfield women’s golf program.
The 2013-14 roster boasts 11 golfers – more than double the squad size from last season and by far the largest in recent memory – but only a handful have real tournament experience.
Linfield’s most seasoned golfer is three-year veteran Alexandria Smith. The senior is also the Wildcats’ top returner, having registered an 87.1-stroke average and five top-10 finishes last season.
Maggie Harlow is also back for another season of Linfield golf after a freshman campaign in which she averaged fewer than 90 strokes per round and thrice finished in the top 10.
This season, Hurdus expects her most experienced duo to shoot consistently in the 70s, something that Smith achieved in a medalist performance at the PLU Invitational and Harlow came close to accomplishing in her victory at the Linfield Invitational.
Among the newcomers, freshman Abigail Heringer stands out as one of the most promising talents. The Salem, Ore., native was a four-time state tournament participant in high school, placing a career-high eighth at the Oregon Class 6A level this past spring.
Erin Crofcheck, a former Wildcat tennis student-athlete who also grew up playing golf, possesses a great deal raw talent and therefore has perhaps the greatest opportunity for improvement.
Beyond the top four, the remainder of the roster is fairly green. But what the Wildcats lack in tournament experience, they make up for in competitive nature; several golfers previously competed in other sports at Linfield, including basketball, lacrosse, tennis and volleyball.
“Everyone is self-dedicated and motivated to get out there, no matter how long they’ve been playing,” Hurdus said.
For Hurdus, the goal is to spread her time and training around in a way that helps all 11 golfers significantly show improvement over the course of the season. This requires keen observation of each Wildcat’s specific needs.
“The younger players need more guidance in terms of course management and what to do on the course,” Hurdus said. At the other end of the spectrum, she wants “to be there for the more experienced players to bring them to the next level and bridge the gap between practice and tournament play.”
Individualized instruction comes standard in golf, a sport in which every player has her own unique stroke. There are some facets of the game, however, can be similarly taught to all.
“No matter the player, short game is absolutely important,” Hurdus said. “It’s important for every player to have a solid foundation. We can all work on that together and do similar drills for putting and chipping.”
A full slate awaits the Wildcats this fall, beginning with the Pacific Invitational Sept. 21-22. Five more tournaments dot the schedule before the NWC Fall Classic, one of three tournaments that determine the conference champion. The spring season, which includes the other two major events, kicks off in March.