This year marks a historical change for what golfing means at Olivet. Now, as Coach Bill Johnson walks down the driving range to the thwack of golf balls, he will see players like Matt Winkelmann and MacKenzie Mehaffey swinging alongside each other, with the merging of the men’s and women’s ONU golf teams.
Instead of operating independently, the golf team is organized in a way similar to swimming and track and cross country teams, with a single head coach over both the men’s and women’s programs. While most tournaments will be separate, practices will incorporate both teams.
“Both teams have always shared the Elks CC, but practiced separately,” said women’s assistant coach Bill Golyshko. “Practices have changed in that we share a lot of the same drills and sometimes ‘compete’ with or against each other. This fall, we will also travel to two tournaments together.” Golyshko is the one who will be present for all the women’s tournaments, as Coach Johnson splits his time between the men’s and women’s tournaments.
“I was nervous at first…I thought it would be awkward integrating the guys into our team,” Mehaffey said. She was worried about how the team dynamics would be affected with the merging, and losing one-on-one time with the coaches. As practice went went on, her fears were soon dispelled. In fact, the practice environment has been improved, as there are now more sources for advice and encouragement. Instead of operating as two entirely separate units that rarely interact, they “actually know each other’s names now,” agree both Mehaffey and Winkelmann.
“The level of play from both teams has improved. The men and women learn from each other when we practice together because they can see how each uses its strengths to play and score,” says Golyshko
“We get to know more people, know who the girls really are,” says Winklemann, who strongly believes that co-opting and practicing together has brought great benefits to the team as a whole, not only in improving the technical skills of the players, but socially as well. Different drills incorporate both teams, including one that many enjoyed: a best-ball tournament which had guy-girl pairs competing with each other.
The golfers have already participated in tournaments early in the school year. The men’s team competed at the Governor’s State University Jaguar Invitational. They took an early six stroke the first day, and were able to extend their lead the second day to an eventual decisive victory on the tournament. Winklemann had an especially good weekend, becoming the Low Medalist, and ONU freshman Jake Butterfield proving himself, and placing just behind Winklemann with his overall score.
For the women’s team, they competed at the Indiana Wesleyan University Invitational, and finished second overall at the weekend’s end. Mehaffey led the Tigers, also scoring well enough to be declared the Low Medalist, scoring 155, which is a personal record in her college career.
The strong performances in their opening tournaments have served to strengthen the idea of merging the two teams, and built a lot of faith in the new coaching structure. Coach Johnson, Coach Golyshko, Coach Mike Lucas, and Coach Dwyer have adapted well to their new responsibilities, and have formed two teams that have a strong chance of competing in the national tournament this fall.
— Connor Pestka, Online Editor