Fall and great winter weather have prepared a youthful Eagle team for its final four tournaments, including the Big Sky Championships in April
There's nothing like great winter weather and video to aid in preparation.
The youthful Eastern Washington University golf team, under the direction of first-year head coach Brenda Howe, has utilized the mild winter thus far to gain a great deal of additional education and experience as they prepare for EWU's final four tournaments of the 2009-10 season.
After a fall in which Eastern had mixed results in four tournaments, Eastern is gearing up for the spring portion which begins March 1-2 at the Fresno State Lexus Invitational in Fresno, Calif. The season concludes with the Big Sky Conference Championships in Chandler, Ariz., on April 19-21.
Winters the last two seasons have included near-record snowfalls in the Inland Northwest. But this year, snow has been minimal and courses are wet at worst.
"We've been fortunate that the weather has allowed us to practice outside since the middle of January," said Howe, who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors in 1995 and 1996 for EWU under her maiden name, Brenda Hall. "For the first time in a long time, our first tournament of the spring won't be our first time on the course for the season."
Videotape analysis has also helped the Eagles, whose roster includes no seniors, just two letter winners and four freshmen. In its four tournaments last fall, Eastern's best placing was 12th in a tournament with 14 teams. A year ago Eastern was eighth in the league championships, but one year earlier finished third.
"We did some video work in January and are fine tuning swings to make them more consistent," Howe said. "Video has provided each player a better understanding of their own individual swing. Because of that analysis, I'm confident that we'll start to see lower scores in tournaments."
Eastern is setting its sights on the league tournament at the Octotillo Golf Resort in Arizona, but will also have the opportunity to play on that course on April 5-6 in the Cowgirl Classic hosted by the University of Wyoming.
"We'll get an opportunity to play the same course that the conference tournament is being played," she said. "By the time the conference tournament begins, we will have already played two practice rounds as well as three tournament rounds on that course. I'm hoping that experience will take away some of the added pressure that a conference tournament can create."
Eastern's lone returning letter winners from last year are junior Kellie Holmstedt and sophomore Kylie Ray. Holmstedt, who is from North Bend, Ore., had an 80.7 average per round last season and has a team-leading 80.0 average in 11 rounds this season thus far.
She has 54 rounds of collegiate experience in her career (79.5 average), including a 15th-place finish at the 2009 Big Sky Championships, which was second-best on the team. As a freshman in 2007-08, Holmstedt placed seventh in the league -- also second-best on the team -- and had a 79.0 average for the season.
Ray, who is from Roseburg, Ore., and regularly competed against Holmstedt in high school, had an 85.1 average last fall. She had an 85.4 average as a freshman when she placed 41st at the Big Sky Championships.
The remainder of the team consists of freshmen playing at the collegiate level for the first time. Dana Stapleton from Scottsdale, Ariz., had the second-best average on the team last fall at 83.5 strokes per round. Others included Morgan Lee from Great Falls, Mont., Jayme Carbon from Auburn, Wash., and Neddy Martinez from Pasco, Wash. Their per-round averages last fall were 85.1, 85.2 and 87.7, respectively.