The weather in Madison may be freezing, but there�s nothing but sunshine ahead for the UW women�s golf team, as they migrate to the tropical weather of the Caribbean for the Lady Puerto Rico Classic this weekend.
In a field of 18 teams, six are in the top 25, and 14 are in the top 50 of the national rankings. With such a big tournament this early in the spring season, the Badgers have an opportunity to see where they stand in a tournament of strong competitors and make their mark on a national level.
Coming off a solid win against Indiana two weeks ago in Arizona (10-8), the Badgers look to continue their strong start to the spring season. Consistency was key in their last win as each of the six players shot in the low to mid 70s. For this trip, only five players are allowed to compete: Katie Elliot, Jeana Dahl, Natasha Lopez, Kelsey Verbeten, and Carly Werwie will each take their shot against the competition.
According to head coach Todd Oehrlein, ball striking, greens in regulation, and most importantly, putting are skills to improve upon this weekend. Heading to Puerto Rico also raises climate issues that the team will have to play through.
�Probably the biggest thing I would say that we have to be prepared for is, it tends to get pretty windy,� Oehrlein said. �From a preparation standpoint, we just have to make sure we control our ball flight and maybe try to keep our trajectory a little bit lower.�
As for team goals, the Badgers want to make advancements in their rankings as the bigger tournaments � such as the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments � loom in the coming months. Although it�s early in the season, the Badgers hope to use this tournament as a jumpstart to their future success.
�Really, it�s about trying to make sure we get some wins against some teams,� Oehrlein said. �We�d like to pick up ground in stroke differential, in our scoring, based on our season averages and things. And that�s going to move us forward in the rankings and put us in a better position as we move forward for regional considerations.�
With two weeks to prepare and nothing but snow and frigid temperatures at home, the women�s golf team has been forced to practice indoors. Despite the less-than-perfect conditions for training, the team practices harder than ever and is able to transfer the many facets of the game from fake grass mats to real grass outdoors.
�We have this putting surface inside [the Kohl Center].� Dahl said. �We have been working a lot on our short game and wedges in the McClain Center and [have been] doing the full swing stuff at Vitnese [golfing range].�
The conditions for practicing in Madison could pose a handicap, as other teams in the tournament like Tennessee or Georgia have great weather all year round. However, with the many indoor options available in Madison, Oehrlein feels the team will have no problem in making the transition. �
A vital aspect to a Badger win this weekend is the practice round, which the team gets before tournament play begins.
�It�s critical.� Oehrlein said. �You get a chance to see the golf course and pay attention where you want to leave it around the greens and what gives you the best chance from a scoring perspective too. And then it also is just really important for us to just get back outside again.�
Beyond fine tuning skills and making the move from turf to grass, the long breaks between tournaments � in this case, two weeks � is another challenge the team must deal with. But with a team composed of sound leaders, such as senior Elliot and junior Dahl � who scored a team low 72 to lead Wisconsin to victory in their last match against Indiana � the Badgers are poised to make their mark, despite having been dormant all winter long.�It�s going to be a challenging field.� There are going to be great teams there,� Dahl said. �So hopefully we can just take what we�ve been working on all winter long in the offseason and bring it out to the course. � Right now we�re just anxious to play.�