For both the CMS men’s and women’s golf teams, the pressure is high as they begin training for potential runs at the upcoming NCAA Division III national championships.
The Athenas are the defending national champions, but it hasn’t been a cakewalk to a second-straight NCAA title, according to Kelly Ransom CM ’19.
“I think after coming back off a national championship, there’s been a lot of pressure to always perform well,” she said.
On paper, the team has lived up to expectations so far. The Athenas won all of the SCIAC invitationals this year, as well as their third-straight SCIAC title.
Amy Xue CM ’22 was the individual SCIAC champion as the Athenas came back from a 12-shot deficit after the first round to win by 19 shots, securing an automatic bid to return to defend their NCAA title.
“We came back with a fire and played really well,” Ransom said.
The Stags last won the NCAA championship in 2016, and finished ninth a year ago. Armed with some promising young players, as well as veterans from the 2016 squad, coach Bim Jollymour says the team is capable of another national title.
“There’s no reason why this team can’t do it again if we play up to our potential,” he said.
Jollymour said that individual talent has carried the Stags at times this year, and mentioned some stellar performances by players during the SCIAC Championship.
“The 63 that Mason Chiu [CM ’21] shot just blew us all away; that was a fantastic round,” Jollymour said.
Chiu ended up winning the individual conference title, giving the team hope for an at-large national bid despite coming up third at the SCIAC tournament, Jollymour said. CMS will find out early next week if they qualified for the national competition, sports information director Jeremy Kniffin said.
The Stags were barely edged out of the first- and second-place spots in the SCIAC, with only a six-stroke difference between themselves (2063) and champion La Verne (2057), and just two strokes behind Redlands.
For the Athenas, Ransom said team chemistry has gone a long way, even in a predominantly individual sport.
“We dance around and have fun on the range before we go into our tournaments, so that keeps us really loose,” Ransom said. “I think that’s a big factor in helping us play so well.”
Jollymour was more hesitant to say that the team’s success is determined by camaraderie.
“I’m not sure there’s a relationship between that and how they play, [golf] is such an individual sport. They’re all pulling for each other, but they are all separate,” Jollymour said.
There is one glaring obstacle that the Athenas — and possibly the Stags — will face going forward: finals week. Both NCAA championships are scheduled for the last week of school.
“I know [I would have] to proctor one exam at the championship — the challenge is to get these weights off our shoulders before we compete,” Jollymour said.
Regardless, the Athenas and Stags — if they qualify — are both looking forward to the event, and both have high hopes.
“We’re really motivated right now to just try to win again,” Ransom said, “and to play some good golf.”