Strong individual play matched with less desirable team scores has been the story of the spring season for the University of South Dakota men’s and women’s golf teams, head coach Nick Hovden said.
Despite strong scores from both men’s junior Sam Matthew and women’s junior Janice Baumberger, the men tied for eighth and the women placed 14th at the SDSU Jackrabbit Spring Invitational, which wrapped up March 18 in Primm, Nev.
“Matthew played good and (Baumberger) placed sixth, and that was a breakout tourney for her. Unfortunately the team scores weren’t there, and that’s been the story for us,” Hovden said. “We haven’t had that third or fourth strong scorer that could put us over the top.”
Matthew’s sixth place finish in Nevada earned him his second Summit League Golfer of the Week award, his first coming Feb. 27 after he placed 12th at the Snowman Getaway in Goodyear, Ariz.
Hovden said the individual play, not limited to Matthew, has been crucial to giving teams chances at winning tournaments.
“It says that we can compete,” he said. “It says we can get those players. On the guys’ side, we have a whole list of guys that can step into that role. For Baumberger, she is starting to play well and doing it more consistently now. Plus, (Brenna Lervick) has some top 10s under her belt from earlier this season, and she’s just a first-year. So, I’m optimistic.”
While each of the three tournaments USD has competed in thus far this season have been in warm climates, the climate back home in Vermillion has been less than ideal for golfing.
However, cold South Dakota winters are no excuse for the USD men’s and women’s golf teams, Hovden said.
“It does put us at a bit of a disadvantage, but the majority of the schools we compete with are in the same boat,” Hovden said. “The kids on our team are northern state kids and this is what they are used to, so they have to find ways.”
Hovden said while the cold weather does inhibit his player’s ability to practice out on the course, the time off from playing can be seen as a blessing.
“Going back out there is a rejuvenating,” he said.
The teams currently use the DakotaDome for hitting practice, and Hovden said an indoor putting and chipping facility is being added next year.
“We were separated from other teams around the greens,” Hovden said. “That was where we struggled the most. Hopefully next year that facility will help us out.”
The men and women will be traveling in opposite directions for their next tournaments. Matthew and the rest of the men’s team will be in Macomb, Ill., for the Western Illinois Beu Mussatto Invite while the women head farther south to Stockbridge, Ga., for the Georgia State Panther Intercollegiate.
“The women at GSU is a whole new experience,” Hovden said. “This is the first time we have been in that part of the country. Southern schools have been playing longer than we have, but we will be ready.”
With the end of the season quickly approaching, Hovden said the big picture shows the Summit League Tournament.
“We are gearing up for the Summit,” Hovden said. “So, we have to make the right moves, and put the golfers in a position that gives us the best shot at success come April.”