The Idaho women’s golf team found themselves in an unfamiliar position after the first two rounds of the WAC Championships — they were in a position to win a conference championship.
“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to close out that final round at the WAC,” coach Lisa Johnson said. “However, we learned a lot from it. We realized that we need to put ourselves in a position to win more often, so we’re more comfortable playing under that sort of pressure.”
Even though Idaho didn’t win any tournaments this season, the team still had individuals who enjoyed success. Highlights included Kaitlyn Oster with two top-10 finishes and a hole-in-one, and Leilanie Kim with three top-10 finishes including, first place and the individual WAC championship.
“I’m very proud of Leilanie,” Johnson said. “She finally won her first college tournament, which was a long time coming because she’s such a talented golfer.”
Johnson said she was encouraged how the team competed at the WAC Championships, because they put themselves in a position to win. It was good for players to be in that position, she said, and get the feeling of adrenalin. That’s why her team plays the game, Johnson said.
Idaho ended the season ranked 111th on golfweek.com, with its best finish coming at the WAC Championships. In the 10 tournaments this season, the Vandals only managed three top-five finishes.
“Our season was filled with a lot of learning experiences,” Johnson said. “We didn’t perform as well as I know we’re capable of. We had several opportunities to finish high as a team in regular season events, and obviously we had an opportunity to win the conference championship. So all of that was positive.”
Rachel Choi, the sole senior, is the only player Idaho will lose heading into next season.
Choi, who hails from Mukilteo, Washington, came to Idaho back in 2010 and contributed to the team all of the four years she was here. Johnson said Choi contributed both on and off the golf course, and even helped recruit fellow Western Washington native, Cassie McKinley.
“She’ll be a huge loss, we’ll miss her greatly,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be extremely hard to say goodbye, but we know she has a lot of great things ahead of her.”
Taking Choi’s spot on the roster will be Kendall Gray, who also hails from Western Washington, where she was a four-year letter winner at Fife High School.
Next year, Idaho will move to the Big Sky Conference. Johnson said she fully expects to be one of the best teams and win conference championships for years to come.
During the summer, Idaho will look to improve its game and get ready for the upcoming season. Johnson said along with working on their short game, she wants to see players win some tournaments.
“We need to enter tournaments this summer with the mindset of going out to win, as oppose to just play well — there’s a big difference,” Johnson said. “I felt like we got into this mode of trying to do the best we can, instead of going out and trying to win … I’m hoping players will win tournaments this summer, and to get use to the feeling of winning.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org