Eight Iowa Conference championships
2015 Iowa Conference finish: Second
Iowa Conference Championshps: 8 (most recently in 1990)
Returning all-Iowa Conference players: 2 (Brittany Coppess, 5th; Cierra Pulse, 9th)
Starters lost: 3 (Christine Ausman, Rachel Cassens, Chelsey Shuey)
Starters returning: 2 (Brittany Coppess, Cierra Pulse)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 4/5
Despite a roster void of seniors, experience abounds for the Central College women’s golf program this fall as it vies to maintain its spot near the top of the Iowa Conference.
Last year’s second-place finish at the league tournament was the fifth runner-up finish in the last six years. Three returners have league tourney experience, leaving Central well-positioned to potentially leapfrog its way to an elusive title.
“We feel we’re going to be as competitive in regards to winning the conference as we have been since my first year here,” coach Tim Wilkinson said. “The prospect of really challenging for that top spot is what our team has in mind for this year.”
Central graduated five seniors from last season, including two starters, Yet, they return a pair of players back who earned all-conference distinction as freshmen, this year’s roster of five juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen is tournament-tested.
“Even though they’re all underclassmen, our juniors have been playing varsity for two years,” Wilkinson said. “With our youth, it’s not just this year that’s in front of us. This group has the potential for something that’s long-lasting and repeatable.”
Brittany Coppess burst onto the scene as a freshman with a top-five finish at the league meet. She set the pace in the fall with an 82.8 stroke average and with her strong work ethic thissummer, Wilkinson said she’s aiming for an even lower number.
“You never have to ask Brittany to go out and practice,” Wilkinson said. “Her expectations for herself are always going to be high. I think she’s learned how to be a collegiate golfer and that will surely benefit her this fall.”
Sophomore Cierra Pulse closed out the conference tournament with a round of 83, propelling herself to an all-conference spot with a ninth-place finish. Pulse has spent her summer working at Pella’s Bos Landen Golf Club, the team’s home course.
“Her performance at conference really helped her confidence,” Wilkinson said. “She’s getting a lot of exposure to golf this summer. I think she’ll take another step forward in the fall.”
Junior Molly Timmerman played two rounds of the conference tournament as a freshman. She also had a fall stroke average of 87.0 last year before spending the spring semester studying abroad.
“Molly’s excited about the opportunity in front of her,” Wilkinson said. “She can certainly help our team to be more consistent.”
Alison Kretzinger started her sophomore season strong with a 16th-place finish at the Sail Classic in Cedar Falls. She added a few more rounds in the 80s during the season but is still searching for consistency.
“I think Allison is yet to play her best golf,” Wilkinson said. “She’s shown a few glimpses of it, but if she can put it together, she’ll be big part of our team this fall.”
Juniors Kayla Forlin and Valorie Taylor saw some varsity action last spring and are hoping to parlay that into a spot in the lineup this fall.
“Val and Kayla were able to split time last year,” Wilkinson said. “Either one of them could work their way into our lineup.”
Carly Jacobs missed all of her freshman campaign with health concerns. Now healthy, Jacobs could provide a jolt to the roster.
“She’s excited to get back and play competitive golf,” Wilkinson said. “She was a really good player in high school and I think she has a ton of potential.”
Five freshmen join the program this fall to replace a large contingent of graduated players. With the talent the Dutch have returning on the roster, the newcomers won’t be pressed into action until they are ready.
“A few of the incomers contributed to some really good teams in high school,” Wilkinson said. “They will all benefit from a year of college golf practice and tournaments.”
The first two rounds of the league meet will be contested at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls once again with the final two rounds at Oneonta Golf & Country Club in Decorah. The Dutch have weekend tournaments scheduled at both of those courses to help their preparation for the conference tournament.
“Being able to play on those courses gives you some comfort with your surroundings before the conference meet,” Wilkinson said. “Hopefully we can play well in the invitational so when we go back for conference, we’ll be able to play a little bit better the second time.”
The Dutch have unlimited access to the Ryerson Range, an on-campus facility with 20 tee boxes, several target greens and two chipping greens and bunkers. Coupled with access to Bos Landen Golf Club, which received a four-star rating from Golf Digest, Central’s golf programs have resources not widely found at the collegiate level.
“Our facilities are second-to-none in Division III,” Wilkinson said. “For young women looking to improve their game and have an extremely successful college career, you really can’t beat Central College.”
Central tees off the 2016 season with the Mount Mercy Early Bird Classic on August 28 in Marion at Hunter Ridge’s Golf Course.