Golf is a deceptively simple sport — put the ball in the hole with as few hits as possible.
Yet the game’s demand of mental focus and athletic finesse makes it one of the most challenging skills to master, something that sophomore Jenn Paul and the Western women’s golf team has acquired.
Paul was recently named Great Northwest Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Golfers who win the award are recognized for impressive tournament scores throughout the season, and Paul currently leads the GNAC averaging 75.2 strokes in 16 rounds.
Paul attributes her success to spending time practicing on the course.
“I’ve been trying to play every day as much as I can,” Paul said. She focuses on practicing specific parts of her game, like her short-range shots, which she said pays off in tournaments.
The whole team has been performing well this spring, placing inside the top five teams at five different tournaments. The team’s success is now earning the Vikings individual accolades. Five golfers were named to the GNAC all-star team, including Paul, junior Brooke Branigan, junior Audrey Orem, freshman Stephanie Sewell and senior Kristen Hansen who has been named a GNAC all-star for the fourth year in a row.
“One of the keys to this year’s success is this huge push to be a part of the top five. We’re always qualifying for those spots and I think that competitiveness within the team helps each other push and work hard in practice.”
Head coach Bo Stephan
In addition, Paul and Branigan were both named to the GNAC All-Academic Team as well. The award is given to players who maintain high grade-point averages throughout the season while dominating on the course.
“I was pretty excited when I found out,” Branigan said. “It was good to see the hard work both on the golf course and in school pay off. Last quarter was tough so I was glad it all worked out.”
Head coach Bo Stephan couldn’t be happier for his team.
“I’ve watched them as they have pushed each other a lot and based on the work they put in and the goals they set this fall, I wasn’t surprised,” Stephan said. “I was very proud that they were able to accomplish it.”
While the team is celebrating its successes, they understand the importance of the upcoming regional competition in Stockton, California, on May 2 and 3.
“Everyone is very grateful to be recognized, but we all still have goals ahead of us,” Branigan said. “So we’re happy about that, but we’re also refocusing and zoning in for the next tournament.”
Throughout the season each player has been required to qualify for upcoming matches, amping up the competitive nature amongst the team members. The Vikings can only take five players to a match. With seven women on the team, each player must shoot well during practices to secure a space for each match.
“One of the keys to this year’s success is this huge push to be a part of the top five,” Stephan said. “We’re always qualifying for those spots and I think that competitiveness within the team helps each other push and work hard in practice.”
With the largest tournaments of the season right around the corner, the all-star Vikings are ready any obstacle the championship tournaments can throw at them.