UW-Stout is in position to become the first WIAC women’s golf team to win back-to-back conference since UW-Eau Claire won three straight titles from 2009-11.
The 2017 WIAC Women’s Golf Championship is scheduled for Reedsburg Country Club, Oct. 6-8. UW-Stout is the host institution.
The young Blue Devils last season quietly and methodically captured the 2016 title, coming from behind to win the title by five strokes, preventing UW-Oshkosh from repeating as conference champions.
With then-junior captain Rachel Hernandez (Sr, Madison) leading the way with a second place finish, the Blue Devils fielded a team that was made up of Hernandez, three freshmen and a transfer. The team went on to finish 14th at the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship.
With their entire tournament team returning, the Blue Devils could be considered a favorite to repeat, but 10th-year UW-Stout coach Howie Samb isn’t going to rely on recent history to give his team an edge.
“Every team, every year, is different,” Samb said. “The depth of the conference has greatly improved, making it very difficult to repeat. Many teams recently, including us, just haven’t played well enough to get it done in back-to-back years.”
Led by Hernandez’s second place conference finish, Madison McCambridge (So, Boulder, Colo) placed fourth, Alexa Filipiak (So, Elk River, Minn) and Trystin Kluess (So, Greenleaf) were 11th and Marie Allo (Jr, Newington, Conn) was 15th.
“Experience is always a good thing,” Samb said. “The experience they gained at the conference tournament last year and at the NCAA national tournament is extremely valuable. On the flip side, those tournaments seem like they were a really long time ago, so I think most recent positive experiences are just as valuable from a confidence stand point.”
The Blue Devils have battled through some inconsistencies this season, a point of emphasis the team has been working on.
“We have spent a lot of time working on everyone becoming more consistent individually in every facet of their game,” Samb said. “Hopefully this will translate into more consistent team scores. But overall, I think the team has made great strides in this area since our first couple of tournament rounds.”
This is the second consecutive year the tournament will be played at the Reedsburg Country Club, so all teams will have some familiarity with the course.
“It’s a great course and a great test for all teams,” Samb said. “It is the type of venue that will, in my opinion, identify the best team in the conference. It’s very difficult in spots and gettable in other areas. Being able to stick to the game plan and avoiding big numbers will be the key.
“I think the conference tournament being three rounds is a good thing and favors the team that is patient and plays with confidence. I like where we are at right now.”
All seven WIAC teams played in the Mad Dawg Invitational at the Stevens Point Country Club last weekend, with Stout holding off UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh to take the top spot. Only three strokes separated the three teams.
“For us, or any team for that matter, to be successful, they are going to have to play smart, focus on the shot at hand, every shot, every day, and lastly, just be patient,” Samb said.