For the first time in three years, Kansas University's women's golf team didn't finish last in the Big 12 Conference. That's the good news.
They finished 11th. That's the bad news.
Luckily for the Jayhawks, second-year coach Megan Menzel now has a year in Lawrence. With a mixture of returnees and freshmen, she is looking to climb out of the conference cellar with a young but talented squad.
"They're not happy with being 11th in the Big 12," Menzel said. "They've been working hard, and I think they'll be giving it their full effort each day to improve on that ranking. I think we're going to be a young team, but I think you're going to see a lot of young players getting low scores."
Kansas lost four seniors from last year's club. Menzel said each of the quartet made valuable contributions that would be hard to replace.
"All four will be missed," she said. "They didn't always play at the same time, but they all had some great moments."
The departed senior with the biggest cleated shoes to fill will be Jill MacDonald who led the squad with a team-best 79.85 average score.
It appears lone returning senior, Jennifer Bawanan, is ready to take over.. Bawanan, a Modesto, Calif., native, won the Lady Aztec Invitational in February at San Diego State University. Bawanan also had two other Top 20 finishes last year.
"We look for her to only get better," Menzel said.
Menzel said she is looking for the sophomore class to carry some of the load, led by Chelsey Pryor from Washington, Pa. Pryor topped the freshmen class last season with an 81.11 average score.
"We look for her scores to drop dramatically in the next two years," Menzel said.
The coach also is counting on sophomores Tiffany Woods from Escondido, Calif., and Kendall Schwerman from Houston to provide additional help.
It seems a large part of the team will have to wear name tags this fall as five new faces join the squad: Jill Womble from Pleasanton, Calif.; Lauren Renz from St. Louis; Shelby White from Dodge City; Amanda Costner from Claremore, Okla.; and Kelly Birdsell from Mesa, Ariz.
Womble has made quite a name for herself on the Northern California golf scene with several Top 20 placings at national tournaments.
Renz was crowned the 2002 Gateway PGA Junior Champion and Player of the Year and a two-time selection to Missouri's All-State Team.
White, regarded as one of the top prep golfers in Kansas, won six tournaments during her senior year.
Costner won the 2002 Oklahoma 5A State Championship and has competed in the USGA Junior Girls Championship.
Birdsell was the 2001 PGA Junior Series Player of the Year.
Menzel said all five players possibly could see tournament playing time.
"We're very excited about the class we're bringing in this year," Menzel said. "We feel that they can step in right away and contribute to this team. We feel they're all contending for a spot in the lineup. We've left the door open for that."