By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – While this scene has been three years in the making for seniors Sydney Kelly and Katelynn Kinley, the supporting cast in addition to the Capital University women's golf team's senior leadership will make the climax of this season one for the billboards.
LEADING TO THIS MOMENT
Over the last two years, the Crusaders have set records and posted new team and individual lows with the help of those that will hit the links for the Crusaders. The top six team 18-hole low scores belong to teams of the last two seasons, including the 18-hole team record low score of 329 posted by last year's squad in the OAC Championship. The top three 36-hole low scores also belong to the 2017-18 squad, comprised of two of this year's seniors.
In four tournaments this fall, Cap finished either second or third overall. The Crusaders started the season with a strong showing at the Yellow Jacket Invitational with team scores of 343 and 349, leading to a second-place finish. Their 693 team score is now the second-lowest team score in Cap program history.
The senior class has been most impressive to Head Coach Andy Garcia in both what can and cannot be measured. If you start with the intangibles, leadership is a trait that Katelynn Kinley (Sycamore, Ohio/Mohawk) brings to the table in addition to her abilities on the links.
"I've been really blown away by the senior leadership of Kate Kinley and her game has really stepped up," said Garcia. "When you look at golf and you look at a four to five shot improvement in somebody's average from year to year that is pretty significant of a swing and that just shows how hard she's worked."
Kinley ended her freshman season shooting an average of 94.6, but entering this spring season she is averaging 87.9 shots per round, showing nearly a seven-shot improvement from day one to today. She was an All-OAC honorable mention selection as a freshman and looks to return to the top of the leaderboard at this year's championship after showing such improvement.
Sydney Kelly (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) just barely missed out on an all-conference honor last year after placing 16th at the OAC Championships. Over the last two years, Kelly has overtaken the top two spots in the Crusaders' single-round record book. In her first action this fall, Kelly broke the 18-hole low and shooting a 78 and finishing second overall in the tournament, her best individual finish.
In just her second year with the program after spending her first two at Columbus State, Kelly has also shown improvements nearing two strokes from the end of her first season to the start of the 2019 spring season.
Sophomore Madison Harsh (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) has made a huge surge to jump into the third spot in the Capital lineup and entering the spring season has the second-lowest single round average (87.56). Her peak fall performance came at the OAC Fall Preview at River Greens Golf Course when she shot 88-87-175 to finish third overall on the leaderboard. She also posted the third-lowest single round low (80) in the second round of last year's OAC Championship.
The fourth and fifth positions in the Capital lineup seek consistency and it will be a healthy battle to find who will provide it and a major area to monitor as the spring unfolds.
"We are basically looking for consistency out of our four and five spot," said Garcia. "For us right now, it's finding that fourth and fifth scorer between really the rest of the girls on our roster, to give us something that we can really use moving forward and round out our team score in a low fashion."
After competing in four rounds last year, sophomore Molly Frey (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North) has become a regular in the Capital starting lineup. She did not break 90 last year, but has already done so twice in the fall and hit 90 twice, showing big-time improvement between years. Garcia cites that Frey may be one of the longest hitters in the entire conference and it is just about putting together and perfecting the other areas of her game. When that happens, it will make her a dangerous addition to the lineup and among the field in the OAC.
Freshman Megan Maschari (Sandusky, Ohio/St. Mary's Central Catholic) came on to compete in the final two tournaments of the fall and while the numbers were high, so is her upside. Coach Garcia talked about how the offseason has benefitted Maschari greatly, and if the progress she shows continues and shows on the links, her career will be fun to follow.
"She gets better every day," says Garcia. "I have never seen anybody like her. Every day at practice it's something new that we're working on. We're never working on something we worked on yesterday. She is always building upon something, which is an extreme rarity."
A LITTLE EXTRA HELP
For the first time in recent history, the Capital golf program will have an additional asset to help improve this spring. Coach Garcia procured unused space inside the Trinity Lutheran Seminary that has been converted into a new indoor golf training facility.
Varsity C, the alumni support group for Capital Athletics, helped Coach Garcia fund the transformation of the space, which was formerly a bookstore. Instead of shelves, desks and clothing racks there are now turf putting lanes, two driving cages, a chipping practice area, and full lockers that the team now calls 'home'.
Instead of ice cold temperatures on an outdoor practice range now the Crusaders have the luxury of an indoor practice facility with electronic simulation and distance gauges to track each player's progress.
Cap Women's Golf finished a respectable fourth place at last year's OAC Championship and three of its five starters will return to improve upon that mark this spring. Add in improvements across the board plus the play of Frey, Maschari and perhaps and a surprise impact player that may emerge and the Crusaders may be in place to make a move on any of the top three teams from last year's OAC Championship. The University of Mount Union took the top spot last year but only 10 strokes separate the top three spots which also included Otterbein University and John Carroll University.
"We only have one freshman this year so we all played together last year so we all already have that bond and we all have the same mindset. Going in we want to win and we're all on the same page about doing our best and working for each other."
The goal is to get there, to win the OAC Championship and the mere mention of the pinnacle OAC tournament to end the year puts a smile on the faces of the roster. Harsh's excitement is just a peek behind the curtain of the talk that engulfs the new locker room at the indoor golf facility.
"I think we definitely can (win). Everyone has the potential to go low. Individually, I hope that I am just a better player at the end of the season, that my scores show it, and my mental game shows it, and that everyone is there on the same page mentally at the end of the season."