Coming off national championship appearances in 2017, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s and men’s golf teams both hope to return to the tournament this season and compete for an NCAA title.
The Athenas seem on track to reach their goal after an outstanding victory at the competitive Jekyll Island Invitational. The March 18 invite was one of the most competitive tournaments CMS will attend before the national championship, and the Athenas took down the field of 23 teams. Of those teams, 17 are ranked in the top 35 nationally.
Margaret Loncki CM ’18 finished in second place and Emma Kang CM ’20 finished in eighth, leading the way for the Athenas at Jekyll Island. Last year was the first national championship appearance in CMS women’s golf history, and the Athenas currently hold their highest-ever national ranking, sitting at the No. 2 spot in the country.
“We have created a really solid base, and are looking to do some big things at nationals this year,” Loncki said.
The team’s camaraderie and spirit has been a major factor in the Athenas’ success thus far. Though golf is an individual sport, Kang said being part of a team has made golfing more enjoyable.
“I love the golf team and the relationships that I have made, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” she said.
Being on the golf team can be a huge time commitment for student athletes, as competitions and practices — which all take place off campus — can take more time than other sports. However, the CMS women have fun and make the most of their time together.
“We are usually the loudest team on the course,” Kang said. “At Jekyll Island, it was 6 a.m. and we could see the other teams getting out of their cars in sleep comas. Our team was the only one that had the van music turned all the way up, and we were all jamming out and getting excited to play.”
Added Loncki: “There are a lot of opportunities in golf to be salty, because luck plays into it a lot more than in other sports. The way that our team collectively handles that adversity is really cool. We find ourselves laughing at times that I think most other teams wouldn’t be laughing.”
The Stags have not been quite as successful as their female counterparts this season, but are still ranked No. 8 in the country and plan to be contenders in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2016, the Stags won the first national title in program history. The majority of that 2016 national championship team is still playing, and is squarely focused on another shot at a title.
For Jonathan Shaw CM ’18, a member of the 2016 team, winning an NCAA championship was an unforgettable experience.
“We had put a lot of time, energy, and emotion into our performance, and having it all pay off to win a national championship was unbelievable,” he said.
Shaw believes this year’s team can recreate the success that led to a national championship.
“On paper, we should be better than our national championship team. We just need to stick the pieces together,” Shaw said. “I don’t have any doubt in our ability to win nationals — we just need to stay focused throughout the season.”
Individually, Shaw is looking to clean up his game to help his team succeed.
“I think during every tournament I need to be really focused throughout every shot without any lapses in concentration,” he said. “In golf, all it takes [to mess up your score] is a couple small mistakes, [so] filtering those out is really important.”