Junior Ashley Johnson and the Wildcat women's golf team showed their teeth by placing well in their first two tournaments, starting them on their way to reaching the national tournament in May.
The team played on tough courses Sept. 7 and 8 in Nebraska during the Fall Invitational hosted by Hastings College and York College and then traveled to Missouri Sept. 21 and 22 for a tournament hosted by Missouri Baptist University. The team took fourth place out of 10 teams in Nebraska after battling back from a first day that put the 'Cats in sixth place. In the second tournament, the team bettered its previous finish by placing second.
Johnson was the standout for the team, shooting 90-81 the first tournament, which earned her sixth place, and shooting 86-84 in Missouri, which put her into fourth place. For the first tournament, the team comprised the returning players.
Seniors Laura Baker and Beth Taylor showed their leadership abilities by contributing scores both rounds in both tournaments. Senior Cindy Wierman offered scores to the team in the first tournament along with sophomore Alicia Kortz. Transfer sophomore Melissa Brown and Kortz finished out the top five in the second tournament.
Head coach Karen Exon said she was happy with Johnson's performance and could count on Baker and Taylor.
"Ashley Johnson is our No. 1 golfer, and she deserves to be there," Exon said. "Beth Taylor has been playing really well. She is solid. She doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
On top of being satisfied with the returners, Exon was impressed by freshmen Shelby Collier, Amelia Harshfield, Jaime McArthur and Jessica Porter. Exon said playing the first course was not easy.
"There is one hole, number 17, and I know whoever designed it was smoking something funny," she said. "The new kids and the freshman played the course without seeing it. I am really pleased."
On the second day in York, Neb., three players tied their personal best single round scores. Johnson posted her personal best with an 81, Taylor tied hers with a 90 and Kortz caught it with a 92.
"It was a great tournament to start us out," Exon said. "We saw competition from the North and the West that we don't normally see. They are starting to develop a team chemistry. That was really important."
The team is scheduled to play three more tournaments this fall. Johnson said these tournaments serve a dual purpose - to help golfers gain experience for the important tournaments in the spring and to help boost the team's national ranking.
"We gained a whole bunch of girls, who I think are going to just be phenomenal in the spring," Johnson said. "We will have girls that aren't starting nervous ... they'll be good."
The team continues its fall season Oct. 2 in Fulton, Mo., at the William Woods Invitational.