On a day when most people were inside trying to stay warm, the women golfers of the Big Ten were participating in the 37th annual Big Ten Championship.
The tournament was held at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, and with a temperature of 45 degrees and winds up to 16 mph, conditions were far from ideal.
“It was a very challenging day,” Wisconsin head coach Todd Oehrlein said. “The tough conditions made it difficult, but it boils down to character and mental toughness, the willingness to go out there and compete the whole round.”
Coach Oehrlein has preached this all year to his team and today was a prime example of why. His players seemed to get the memo.
“I don’t mind the bad weather for the most part, because I tend to concentrate on my game more,” UW junior Carly Werwie said. “You just have to make sure not to get frustrated too easily or else you’ll be in for a long day.”
Of the 66 participants, Werwie finished tied for seventh with an eight over par. Her teammate, senior Molly Schemm, came into the tournament playing extremely well, finishing the previous two weekends as the top scorer for UW. Schemm ended the fourth round with a 76 and shot 14 over par for the entire tournament, good for 20th place.
For the third year in a row, the nation’s eighth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers won the Big Ten Tournament as a team. The winning didn’t stop there, as freshman Boilermaker Laura Gonzalez took first in individuals with an eight under par. It was quite an accomplishment considering the expectations of her prior to the tournament. Without a tournament victory to her name at the collegiate level, not many people felt confident or even considered the idea of Gonzalez having a chance at winning the biggest tournament of the year. This didn’t seem to matter to Gonzalez though, who wasn’t focused on those around her.
“I didn’t even realize exactly where I was on the leader board,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t even want to know.”
What made her accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that she shot the rounds low score of 69 on a day where everyone was struggling with the treacherous conditions. In fact, Gonzalez’s three under par was the only sub-par score of the round. In a situation where everyone else seemed to struggle in the bleak weather, Gonzalez shined, which she attributes to her hometown of La Hulpe, Belgium.
“Being from Belgium, I’m used to the bad weather,” Gonzalez said.
The last round did not go as smoothly for other golfers, including freshman and Madison-native Alyssa Elliot, who finished the tournament 21 over par. When everyone opens up the newspaper and glances at the results, some may chalk up Elliot’s weekend as a struggle, but look further. Until Sunday, Elliot was only nine over par with nine birdies in the first 54 holes.
By finishing 48 over par as a team the Badgers placed fourth in the tournament. With this, UW is on the verge of a NCAA Tournament bid. Fans and players can’t help but get excited, but Oehrlein wants to take a more subtle approach.
“Let’s just get in first,” he said.
But tomorrow’s decision of whether UW will make the tournament will not determine success for the Badgers.
“Just to play for Wisconsin is an honor in itself,” Schemm said. “I couldn’t be happier.”