After second-place season, women’s golf renews championship chase

The Oakland women’s golf team began its spring season Feb. 8-9 with a trip to the quarter finals at the Women’s Mid American Match Play Challenge in Florida at the Lakewood Ranch Golf Country Club.

The team won its first match 3-2 against Ohio in a best-of-five match play format, which allowed the team to play No. 7 in the country, Kent State. Oakland ended up with a five-match loss to Kent State.

The team dropped its final matches, 3-2 to Bowling Green and 4-1 against Western Michigan, but had some individual player wins.

“We had some tough matches at the [Bowling Green State University] event,” head coach Alyssa Gaudio said. “Every team we played was ranked better than us and it was great to learn where we need to keep improving to be able to sharpen our games.”

 “We got to see first-hand what it takes to have such a high ranking and are looking forward to putting some work in over the next couple months,” she added.

Spring season

The spring season will run until April 11 before the Horizon League Championship begins on April 22.

Last season the team finished runner-up at the Horizon League Tournament. This season, they were picked along with Youngstown State to win the Horizon League in the preseason poll.

Gaudio said that it is more about the team’s process throughout the season rather than the end goal.

“We are using every tournament and every practice to help us prepare and focus on our game and what we can keep improving on,” she said. “We can only control the controllables and put in the hard work this spring to help us prepare for the Horizon League Championships.”  

The team will be without graduates Alyssa Albright and Haylee Zyber this fall season. However, they will play this spring.  

“It is always hard to lose your seniors, but it is great when you have a strong team with a lot of depth, which we have,” Gaudio said.

The Golden Grizzlies will welcome one newcomer to the team in the fall. Her name cannot be mentioned at this time as she has only verbally committed to Oakland.

Gaudio said the new player will fit right in with the team chemistry and will be a strong addition to the program.

“[She] is a strong player with some great scores and accolades,” Gaudio added.

Last season at the Cardinal Classic on Sept. 21-22, Morgan Smith shot under par two rounds in a row, a program first.

“This was very humbling to me because it showed that hard work and dedication can help you score low numbers,” Smith said. “I had no idea of the record of ‘back to back rounds under par’ or ‘the second lowest round,’ so it was rewarding to hear that I was able to achieve that.”

“I would love to be able to break a few more records before being done here at Oakland University,” Smith added.

She also wants her records broken as a token of program improvement.

Sophomore Elle Nichols also had a rewarding season last year. She was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, the first in league history to get both in the same season.

“(It) was a very humbling experience,” Nichols said. “It would not have been possible without the help of Coach Gaudio, as well as the support of my teammates.”

“It also shows me that hard work pays off,” she said.

Nichols mentioned that the team’s goal of winning the Horizon League Championship and moving on to Regionals are possible with hard work and determination.

“If we continue putting the time in at practice and pushing each other to work hard, we can go out there and accomplish our goal at the end of April,” she said.

“We will [no doubt] be looking at Youngstown as our main rival, but you never want to count anyone out,” Gaudio said.

“Golf is a great game in that regard, anyone can have their best day and you can’t control that,” she said. “We can only keep working hard and preparing how we need to, to have our best rounds.”

Smith thinks the team is going in the right direction to win the Horizon League Championship. 

“After losing last year and the year prior I feel that we are determined to win, and will work hard to do so,” she said. “We know that we need four great scores for three days straight, and each of us girls are pushing one another so we are able to do this.”

The team will move on to play at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate in Sevierville, Tennessee, from March 20-22, before traveling to Sugarland, Texas, for the Houston Baptist University Husky Invitational, March 28-29.

“We have a group of players who are all leaders among themselves,” Gaudio said. “I know they all challenge and support each other, while holding each other accountable on a day-to-day basis.”