Cranky golfers fed up with unseasonably cold days are easy to find. They check forecasts and slam their computers shut in frustration. And then there is Kansas University women’s golf coach Erin O’Neil. A Friday forecast that calls for a chance of snow and strong winds in Rhodes, Iowa, puts a great big smile on her face.
“I don’t think it’s going to faze us,” O’Neil said. “I think it’s made us tougher mentally. We’ll feel that much more prepared for it. I’m kind of glad there is going to be a little bit of weather Friday.”
That will be opening day of the Big 12 women’s golf championship, a three-day event at The Harvester. O’Neil hopes her team’s performance will be strong enough to earn an invitation to the 72-team NCAA championship field. It would be a first at KU for the ninth-year coach.
“I think it will definitely be an advantage for us,” senior Audrey Yowell said of the lousy weather. “We had a long winter, so we had to get out and qualify in the cold and in the wind. We’re used to playing with a lot of layers on. We’re used to playing with cold hands, not-warmed-up muscles. I think we’ll have an advantage. Having the confidence of having done that before will help us.”
Kansas is ranked 67th nationally by Golf Week, and since some of the teams ranked behind it will earn automatic qualifiers in conference tournaments, it would behoove the Jayhawks to perform well in Iowa.
“If we can finish sixth or seventh, we would move up a little, and if we can finish right in that 60 range, we would have a good chance of getting in,” O’Neil said.
Thanuttra Boonraksasat of Thailand is the team’s No. 1 player. She has finished in the top five in her last three events. Teammate Meghan Potee said if she could steal one thing from her game it would be “her drives. She’s consistent, and she swings pretty hard at it with no fear. She’s probably the longest off the tee on the team and very accurate.”
The players will familiarize themselves with The Harvester today in a practice round. They will take notes in the yardage booklets they will carry with them during the tournament. The coaches will measure the breaks of the green, and the players will store that information in their yardage booklets. They also will note which is the less harmful side of the green to miss.
So it’s an open-book test?
“Yes, so you shouldn’t ever miss a putt,” Yowell joked. “But it happens.”