Saturday, August 22, 2009

Return of whole roster has O’Neil optimistic

Seniors Powers, Gockel expected to lead way, but should be pushed by juniors Bal, Thiry, Clark, Wilson, Rainbolt


Expectations are high for the Kansas University women’s golf team this season, as head coach Erin O’Neil returns nine golfers from last year’s roster and hopes that her team’s savvy will lead the Jayhawks to new heights during 2009-10.

“I’m pretty excited about this coming year,” said O’Neil, who enters her sixth season in charge of the KU program. “It is definitely our best opportunity to have a really successful year. We didn’t graduate anyone, and we finally have some age and experience.”

Leading the way for the Jayhawks this season will be senior standout Emily Powers. Powers has recorded 18 top-20 finishes during her college career, including a first-place showing at last year’s Marilyn Smith Sunflower Invitational.

Fellow-senior Meghan Gockel also returns, having logged six career top-20 finishes and an average score of 79.42 last season.

Although O’Neil says she expects her two seniors to lead in numerous ways, Powers and Gockel will have the support of a deep and talented junior class behind them.

Junior Meghan Bal, a native of New Delhi, India, who competed in all 10 events and earned three top-20 finishes a season ago, joins juniors Grace Thiry (6 career top-20 finishes), Jennifer Clark (2), Sydney Wilson (1) and Alyssa Rainbolt as upperclassmen on this year’s team.

Rounding out the roster are: sophomores Kalynd Carson and Maria Jackson as well as freshmen Thanuttra Boonraksasat, of Thailand, and Audrey Yowell, of McPherson.

In all, this year’s group has combined to compete in 131 college tournaments and has snagged 38 top-20 finishes along the way.

That alone, O’Neil said, figures to make each week’s competition for varsity spots one that’s full of intensity.

“I know that they all want to travel and compete and be successful and make history,” O’Neil said. “And that can be hard in the respect that we can only travel five to each tournament. But, at the same time, they can all use that as a motivator, and I know that they’re all going to work hard to make those things happen and make the program better.”

Last season, the Jayhawks finished fifth at the Big 12 Championship. Closing the season with another strong finish is, once again, the goal for O’Neil’s squad. In golf, unlike in other sports, success isn’t always measured by wins and losses. O’Neil knows that and is hoping for her golfers to do enough of the little things along the way to ensure that success can be attained in the end.

“I don’t like to put a limit on it,” O’Neil said. “I just really want them to go out every day and strive to be their best and get better and create an atmosphere that allows them all to be the best they can. I really want them all to support each other and make each other better. They see where they want to be and they know what to do on a day-to-day basis to get there.

“Hopefully, at the end of the year, we’ll have made some noise.”


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