Feb. 9, 2013
Missouri Women's golf resumes it's spring season on Sunday at the UCF Challenge in Sorrento, Fla. The three-day event hosted by the University of Central Florida will be held at the RedTail Golf Club.
Currently ranked No. 49 in the country following a very successful fall campaign, this year's women's golf team at the University of Missouri is poised for success. Up forty eight positions since the start of the season, the Tigers hard work is beginning to pay dividends. "We're a deep, talented and tough group" says head Coach Stephanie Priesmeyer - known affectionately as "Coach Coop".
Coach Coop, well-regarded for her fun and encouraging coaching style, is focused on instilling the attributes requisite for success into this year's youth-laden squad. From a family of coaches, Coach Coop has the pedigree of a natural competitor. "I spent some formative years competing against my older brother, and taking on the neighborhood boys in sports. It helped shape my competitive spirit", she
says. Coach Coop grew up playing golf with her Dad, and says what she enjoys most about the game are the relationships:
"As a coach, I love watching players grow. They become better golfers, and better people. The student athletes that join our program have a choice whether or not to take on our guidance, and to adapt our principles. When they do, some really good things can happen."
The strengths of this year's Tiger team are without question, its depth, and its work ethic. "Over the holiday break we had six girls head to either Florida or Arizona in order to improve their game. To me, that is a sign of dedication and commitment. You can see that dedication carry over in to other parts of their lives as well", says Priesmeyer, who cites the academic work ethic of her team as a major source of pride for the program. "Whenever we're on the road, you can usually find at least one girl who is skyping with a tutor, or has her nose buried in a textbook."
Leading the team in to the spring - known in collegiate golf as the "Championship season" - is freshman sensation, Katherine "Kat" Helper. Kat, a precocious talent, had a combined stroke average of 74 throughout the fall campaign. Simply put, "Kat is a stud", says Coach Coop. Helper, a native of Lincoln, Illinois, was a highly sought after recruit who went undefeated in her senior year of High School - setting numerous course records and leading her team to victory in the IHSA State competition.
Kat, described as both "vocal", and "intellectual" by Coach Coop, is as equally capable in the classroom as she is on the golf course. A Chemical Engineering major, Helper, a two year member of the her high school math team (earning individual honors in an Algebra II competition and being named co-captain) is also adept in numerous musical instruments including the saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet. Naturally hard-working, with ice in her veins, Kat will be counted on to lead this young, yet talented Tiger team in to the spring.
Another Tiger from whom big things are expected of this year is the talented sophomore from Toronto, Canada, Alina Rogers. Rogers is an attack-minded player whom Coach Coop describes as being, "a great girl, and a really strong competitor". Rogers, originally born in Neustadt, Germany (20 miles outside of Hannover) is also fluent
in German. A top recruit coming out of high school, Alina will look to make further improvements on her already very strong 75.67 fall stroke average.
A wildcard in this year's Mizzou squad is redshirt freshman, Michelle Butler. Butler, a National Honor Society member from Dunedin, FL, was, in 2011, the highest ranked recruit in the program's history. However, the 2011-2012 season would see Butler beset by both injury and illness, eventually forcing her to spend the spring recovering from both a fractured wrist as well as a case of mononucleosis. A tremendous striker of the ball with untapped potential, skies the limit in terms of what Butler can achieve on the course. The fall campaign saw her lead the nation in approach shots around the green as well as achieving a score average of 75.80.
"One of our real strengths this season is our depth", says Coach Coop. "While some other teams are very strong in their top positions, our stroke average is solid one through six.
Providing the aforementioned depth for this year's Tigers are Taylor Gohn, Laura Kraft and Ariana
Gohn, a junior from Columbus, Ind., is a "gamer", says Coach Coop. A hardworking player who averaged
75.93 in the fall (a 1.07 improvement over her 2011-2012 season average, good for fourth best on the team) is a finance major and member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Laura Kraft, a sophomore from Jamestown, N.D., is another multi-talented member of this year's Tiger team. A participant in both her high school orchestra, and choir, Laura played in two tournaments as a freshman - finishing 23rd in the Louisville Cardinal Cup. The fall season saw her improve her stroke average from 78.8 to 77.25.
Competing with Kraft for the fifth and final playing position is junior, Ariana Savich, a player who Coach
Coop describes as "tough, really tough." Ariana, who shot a season low 71 at the Johnie Imes
Invitational last season, had a combined stroke average of 77.67 this fall. Savich will need to improve on her consistency and course management if she's going to crack the top five - something she is more than capable of doing.
Helping the Tigers to achieve their goals this season is former Mizzou star, assistant coach, Mindy Coyle. Coyle, in her sixth year as a member of the coaching staff, is a short game guru and was a member of
the 2005 Tiger team - the only one in school history to have qualified for the NCAA championships as a team. Coach Coop describes her as "a loyal person, a tremendous competitor and a really good example for the girls. We have a saying in our program, "if you need a hug, come to Coach Coop, if you need something fixed, come to Mindy."
Adding the long term excitement surrounding the program is the recent news that a very generous donation to the Athletic Department (By Don and Audrey Walsworth of Marceline, MO) has been earmarked for a new clubhouse at Old Hawthorne (the home course of Tiger Golf). This funding will also allow for new golf offices at Old Hawthorne, team locker rooms, indoor-hitting bays and modern swing instruction technology.
Says Coach Coop of the recent financial support:
"The biggest thing we needed to do - being the most northern school in the SEC - is figure out what to do when it's cold. Previously, we were competing with other programs for time in the indoor facilities, but now we'll have everything we need at Old Hawthorne. For recruiting, it's huge".
With a promising spring campaign only days away, and the foundation of a bright future currently under construction, golf courses everywhere will soon hear the Tigers roar.