Ten months removed from its first NCAA national championship in program history, the CMS women’s golf team is excited to embark on its bid to defend it.
“There’s no other feeling like it,” head coach Jodie Burton said, referring to last year’s title run.
CMS took home the Division III championship in May by defeating Williams College in a hotly contested final round. The Ephs overcame a four-stroke deficit on the final day of the tournament, and the Athenas won the title in dramatic fashion, defeating Williams in a second playoff hole.
“The championship win last year was very surreal,” said team captain Kelly Ransom CM ’19. “It was such a fun ending to a dream season.”
The team returns four out of five golfers from the national championship squad, having only graduated 2018 individual national champion Margaret Loncki CM ’18. The team also got an infusion of six first-year athletes, and expects to compete for a repeat title.
“We definitely have a goal in mind,” Ransom said. “I feel a little bit of internal pressure to perform well on the national stage, but I think that the team has a lot of good positive energy moving forward.”
Burton has been coaching at CMS for more than 40 years — including 31 years of basketball, with stints in volleyball and tennis — and started the golf program 12 years ago. At the time, she was looking for something different in her career.
Burton admitted that she never expected to produce a national championship team. But as she looks back at the talent, energy and strong team chemistry last year, she said she isn’t surprised that the Athenas were able to pull it off.
“Your teammates are the only ones who understand exactly how difficult golf really is,” she said. “You are always out there by yourself, but at the same time you really aren’t, because you can feel the support from the team.”
And the surprising key to the Athenas’ success? Having more fun than their opponents, Ransom said.
“Every other team was always so serious, but we were always listening to music, laughing and having fun,” she said.
Both Ransom and Burton agreed that the team has the pieces to defend its title but just needs to maintain focus. The Athenas’ focus was certainly put to the test during their first spring competition Feb. 9 and 10 against conference rival and nationally ranked Redlands.
The team rose to the occasion, pulling off a comeback win 625-640. The Athenas will next compete Feb. 16 and 17 at the Los Serranos golf course.