Eight Iowa Conference championships
2011 Iowa Conference finish: Second
Starters lost: 3 (Sarah Paulson, Ali Miller, Kaurie Kincaid)
Starters returning: 2 (Ashley Smith, Kelsey Van Tasell)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 3/2
Returning all-Iowa Conference players: 0
2012-13 co-captains: Taylor Hill, Ashley Smith, Kelsey Van Tasell
There will be no attempt to replace the best player in school history, yet coach Tim Wilkinson thinks the Central College women’s golf team could be deeper than before, thanks to a large and promising freshman class.
Three-time Iowa Conference MVP and two-time all-America honoree Sarah Paulson has graduated. She tied for second place at the NCAA Division III championships last spring. Her 76.7 season scoring average record set in 2009 isn’t likely to be approached soon, but Wilkinson brought in seven freshmen and also picked up a promising sophomore who didn’t compete last year.
“One thing that really helps is that it’s a more competitive team from top to bottom,” he said. “Every player on the team is capable of contributing.”
The Dutch also have some returning firepower from a squad that placed second in the Iowa Conference last fall for the fourth straight year, plus sophomore Taylor Hill, who transferred to Central at semester break and was impressive in spring season action. Hill even took medalist honors at the Central Spring Invitational April 20-21, carding a 79-85—164 at the demanding Bos Landen Golf Club. She averaged 83.9 in seven tournament rounds.
“Taylor is the most likely to take Sarah’s spot in the lineup,” Wilkinson said. “She had a pretty good spring for us. She should be able to provide a pretty consistent scoring average in the No. 1 spot.”
The team’s lone senior is Ashley Smith, a three-time letterwinner who placed 16th at the league tourney the past two years. She averaged 86.5 in the spring and 87.1 overall and was named the team’s most improved player.
“Ashley had a pretty good spring,” Wilkinson said. “She’s right on the verge of consistently scoring in the low 80s and could even break into the 70s. A lot depends on how much she improved over the summer. Consistency will be her biggest challenge, which is true of all of our players.”
The only other returnee is sophomore Kelsey Van Tasell. She tied for 25th in the conference tourney as a freshman. She lowered her scoring average from 96.8 in the fall to 93.6 in the spring.
“We’re hoping Kelsey can move up from No. 5,” Wilkinson said.
The freshmen are unproven, yet bring some credentials. Abbie Zimmerman of Williamsburg has state tournament experience.
“Abbie really wants to play and wants to get better,” Wilkinson said. “She’s one of the more ready freshmen.”
Emily Fisher of Wapello is the daughter of former Dutch golf standout Sue Weber Fisher, the team’s 1981 MVP.
“Emily has a really nice putting stroke and some good tournament experience,” Wilkinson said.
Rachel Cassens of Stockton, Ill. was an Illinois state high school tourney qualifier.
“Rachel’s a good athlete with a pretty good head on her shoulders,” Wilkinson said. “She should be in the mix.”
Chelsey Shuey of Ames also has potential.
“Chelsey played on some good high school teams and just missed going to state,” Wilkinson said.
But all the lineup battles will be determined on the course.
“All the freshmen are fairly similar,” Wilkinson said. “What will determine their success is what they’ve done over the summer and what they put into it when they get here.”
While Wartburg is again the pick in the conference tourney, the Dutch gain an advantage by playing host to the final 36 holes of the 72-hole meet at Bos Landen Oct. 5-6. That should also help boost the size of the field for the Central Fall Invitational Sept. 7-8.
“We hope to take advantage of our local knowledge and being comfortable at Bos Landen and turn that into two good days of golf at the conference tournament,” Wilkinson said.
With just three returnees on an 11-player roster, the Dutch will obviously depend heavily on the newcomers, but Wilkinson has high expectations, not only for this season but in building a consistent title contender in the years ahead.
“The thing I like most about these freshmen is that they’re players who want to play golf,” he said. “As we look to the future, if we can find a couple more key pieces to add and also continue to develop the players who are here, we could really do well. We’ve got some players we’re going to be able to build on.”